In this new paper, led by Hannah Hobson, we found that self-reported communication difficulties associated with higher scores of alexithymia.
Some people report that they struggle to identify and communicate their emotions after experiencing a stroke. Problems recognising your own feelings – sometimes called “alexithymia” – has been found to be a predictor of mental health difficulties in people who have not had a stroke, so understanding what causes this problem could be useful to supporting the mental health of stroke patients.
One idea is that disrupted language abilities might contribute to emotional problems: we might use language to help us make sense of, label, and communicate how we are feeling. If our language abilities are disrupted, our emotional abilities might suffer as a result.
This project examined the links between alexithymia and language problems in stroke survivors. Interestingly, while behavioural language abilities (those measured with a task, such as being able to give the right word for a picture) did not predict alexithymia. However, when patients were asked about how they felt their communication abilities had changed, these self-reported measures of language were associated with alexithymia.
These findings partly replicate previous results from studies with Traumatic Brain Injury patients. One reason that we see differences between the task-based and self-reported measures could be that the task-based measures only reflect quite severe language impairments, while asking patients might reflect more subtle impairments.
The full text (accepted author-version of the paper) can be accessed here.