Alexithymia is highly prevalent and strongly related to adverse consequences in patients with schizophrenia. However, its associated factors remain largely unexplored. The present study aimed to determine the prevalence of alexithymia and its association with sociocultural characteristics, clinical symptoms, neurocognition, and empathy in 854 Chinese patients with schizophrenia.
Demographic information was collected through a self-designed questionnaire. Alexithymia was assessed by the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20). We assessed clinical symptoms, neurocognition, and empathy via the following instruments: Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status, and Interpersonal Reactivity Index. A multiple logistic regression model was conducted to determine the independent correlates of alexithymia.
Approximately one-third (n = 277, 32%) of patients with schizophrenia had alexithymia. Patients with alexithymia had significantly more severe negative symptoms, neurocognition, and empathy impairment than patients without alexithymia. Being male, negative symptoms, personal distress, empathic concern, and language functioning were independently associated with alexithymia.
Our findings demonstrate a high prevalence of alexithymia and its strong association with clinical symptoms, neurocognition, and empathy, which calls for timely screening and intervention for alexithymia in patients with schizophrenia. Targeting impaired language function, negative symptoms, and impaired affective empathy might help reduce alexithymia and its related negative consequences.