Alexithymia Is Common Among Adolescents With Severe Disruptive Behavior

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This study aimed to examine alexithymic features and associations between alexithymia and psychiatric symptoms among adolescents living in a closed institution because of severe behavioral problems. Forty-seven adolescents (29 boys and 18 girls) aged 15 to 18 years completed the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) Questionnaire and the Youth Self-Report, whereas their foster parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist. The TAS-20 scores of the participants were compared with those of an extensive population sample (N = 6000) matched by age and birth year. Reform school adolescents are significantly more alexithymic than the control group, and the TAS-20 scores are correlated with numerous psychiatric problems, mainly in the internalizing spectrum, but also with thought problems and self-reported aggression. Promoting abilities in identifying and describing feelings is important when treating delinquent adolescents.

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