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Why is it Important to Assess and Treat Alexithymia in the Cardiologic Field? An Overview of the Literature



Federica Sancassiani1, *, Roberta Montisci1, Luigi Meloni1, Antonio Egidio Nardi2, Mauro Giovanni Carta1
1 Department of Medical Sciences and Public Health, University of Cagliari, Asse Didattico E, SS 554 bivio Sestu 09042 Monserrato (CA), Italy
2 Instituto de Psiquiatria (IPUB), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil


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Creative Commons License
© 2023 Sancassiani et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode. This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Medical Sciences and Public Health, University of Cagliari, Asse Didattico E, SS 554 bivio Sestu 09042 Monserrato (CA), Italy; Tel: 0039 3493119215; E-mail: federicasancassiani@yahoo.it


Abstract

Background:

Alexithymia has been found to be associated with several somatic illnesses, such as cardiovascular, indicating that it might be a risk factor for early death in the long-term course of post-myocardial infarction. From the cardiology perspective, the aim was to collect current evidence about the relationship between alexithymia and somatic illness.

Methods:

The literature was synthesized and summarized in a narrative format. The literature search was carried out in PubMed. Pertinent studies published in the last 50 years written in English were included and organized by three main topics (“The relation between alexithymia and somatic illness from the cardiology perspective”; “How do assess alexithymia?”; “Treating alexithymia”) to be discussed.

Results:

High alexithymia is a dimensional trait that affects around 10% of the general population and up to 55% of people with essential hypertension. Also, the link between alexithymia and cardiovascular activity has been pointed out. There are several validated tools to assess alexithymia, as well as treatment options.

Conclusion:

Knowledge about the main features of alexithymia, as well as its assessment and treatment, can promote a multifactorial approach to the primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention of cardiac diseases.

Keywords: Alexithymia, Cardiology, Assessment, Cardiovascular rehabilitation, Psychosomatics, Health psychology.