Complex regional pain syndrome, alexithymia, and psychological distress

Daniella Margalit, Laura Ben Har, Silviu Brill, Jean Jacques Vatine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Objective: This study aims to elucidate the relationships between alexithymia, psychological distress, and pain in persons with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Methods: Participants were 60 Israeli adults ages 19-65. This is a cross sectional study with a comparison group. Alexithymia, psychological distress, and pain were assessed in 30 individuals with CRPS in comparison to 30 gender- and age-matched persons with lower back pain (LBP). Assessments included the Toronto Alexithymia Scale, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and two subscales of the McGill Pain Questionnaire. Results: Persons with CRPS had significantly higher ratings of psychological distress and of alexithymia when compared to LBP controls. Pain severity was significantly associated with higher levels of alexithymia and psychological distress among persons with CRPS, but not among controls. Alexithymia and pain severity correlations were significantly different between the two groups. In persons with CRPS, the relationships between alexithymia and pain severity and between difficulty identifying feelings and pain were not confounded by psychological distress. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first cross sectional study providing empirical evidence on the relationship between alexithymia and CRPS. From the perspective of conceptualizing alexithymia as an outcome of CRPS, findings highlight the importance of early CRPS diagnosis and support the provision of care that addresses pain-related psychological distress and alexithymia among CRPS patients. Also, findings underscore the need to generate alternative, non-physical avenues, such as learning to identify feelings for processing pain, in order to reduce pain among persons with CRPS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-277
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2014


  • Alexithymia
  • CRPS
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Pain
  • Psychological distress
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy


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