This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Relationship Between Alexithymia and Functional Somatization in College Students in the US




Petrova, Elena

Type of Degree



Counseling Psychology
Counselor Education
School Psychology


The study of functional somatization brings out the struggle of the Western scientific world, which rests of Decartian dualist grounds, to understand the body-mind relations. Individuals who experience functional somatic symptoms have a reduced quality of life because of their constant discomfort. Lack of emotional expressiveness, known as alexithymia, has traditionally been linked to functional somatization. Although the relationship between alexithymia and functional somatization has been studied in adult populations in the U.S., it has not been thoroughly studies among college-age students. The dissertation study focused on examining the relationship between alexithymia and functional somatization in a sample of college-age students in the U.S. Also, the relationship between functional somatization and each of three dimensions of alexithymia (difficulty identifying feelings, difficulty describing feelings and externally oriented thinking) was investigated. Additionally, the mediating effect of reported symptoms of depression and anxiety, and general emotional distress in the alexithymia-functional somatization relationship were examined. College-age students’ difficulty to identify and describe feelings was significantly related to experienced symptoms of somatization. Specifically, students who had difficulty identifying feelings were significantly more likely to experience symptoms of somatization. Also, students’ symptoms of depression and anxiety, and their general emotional distress, contributed significantly to their experience of symptoms of somatization. General emotional distress, anxiety and depression mediated the relationship between alexithymia and functional somatization. The results not only confirm a relationship between alexithymia and functional somatization in the sample of college-age students, but also demonstrate a significant level of somatic and emotional distress. The results emphasize the importance of mental health professionals attending to somatic and emotional distress of college-age students through holistic and integrative approaches of psychotherapy. The results also suggest that mental health professionals encourage college-age students to learn how to identify, describe and express their feelings to experience less functional somatization.