Reductions in Alexithymia and Emotion Dysregulation After Training Emotional Self-Awareness Following Traumatic Brain Injury: A Phase I Trial

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Abstract

Objectives:

To examine the acceptability and initial efficacy of an emotional self-awareness treatment at reducing alexithymia and emotion dysregulation in participants with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Setting:

An outpatient rehabilitation hospital.

Participants:

Seventeen adults with moderate to severe TBI and alexithymia. Time postinjury ranged 1 to 33 years.

Design:

Within subject design, with 3 assessment times: baseline, posttest, and 2-month follow-up.

Intervention:

Eight lessons incorporated psychoeducational information and skill-building exercises teaching emotional vocabulary, labeling, and differentiating self-emotions; interoceptive awareness; and distinguishing emotions from thoughts, actions, and sensations.

Measures:

Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20 (TAS-20); Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS); Trait Anxiety Inventory (TAI); Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9); State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI); Difficulty With Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS); and Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS).

Results:

Thirteen participants completed the treatment. Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed changes on the TAS-20 (P = .003), LEAS (P < .001), TAI (P = .014), STAXI (P = .015), DERS (P = .020), and positive affect (P < .005). Paired t tests indicated significant baseline to posttest improvements on these measures. Gains were maintained at follow-up for the TAS, LEAS, and positive affect. Treatment satisfaction was high.

Conclusion:

This is the first study published on treating alexithymia post-TBI. Positive changes were identified for emotional self-awareness and emotion regulation; some changes were maintained several months posttreatment. Findings justify advancing to the next investigational phase for this novel intervention.

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