Date of Graduation

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Matthew T. Feldner

Committee Member

Denise R. Beike

Second Committee Member

Jeffrey M. Lohr

Abstract

Evidence suggests alexithymia is often relatively elevated among people suffering from posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Despite a growing body of research supporting this relation between alexithymia and PTSS, it is unclear whether alexithymia is a unique predictor of emotional reactivity relative to posttraumatic stress symptoms. Furthermore, existing literature is largely limited to retrospective, self-reported symptoms. Therefore, the current study employed a multimodal assessment strategy for measuring emotional reactivity in the context of posttraumatic stress. More specifically, self-report, behavioral, and physiological measures were used to measure emotional responding to a traumatic event-related stimulus among motor vehicle accident victims. It was hypothesized that behavioral and self-reported responding would evidence a negative relation to level of alexithymia, while physiological responding was not expected to relate to levels of alexithymia. Results replicated previous research demonstrating a strong correlation between self-reported PTSS and alexithymia. Also as expected, alexithymia did not predict physiological responding to the stimulus. However, alexithymia was not found to uniquely predict self-reported or behavioral responding above and beyond the influence of PTSS. These findings do not conclusively support alexithymia as a unique predictor of emotional responding relative to PTSS.

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