Alexithymia is a state of deficiency in understanding, processing or describing emotions and has been linked to major depression, eating disorders, panic disorder and substance abuse. However, alexithymia scores have been found to decrease as people's depression improves so it is unclear whether alexithymia is a cause or a symptom of depression. An Italian study of 149 women attending antenatal clinics in the Mantova region assessed them for alexithymia, major depression and anxious-depressive symptoms at monthly intervals throughout their pregnancy. The study found that the women who developed depression had similar alexithymia and depression/anxiety symptoms to other women before they developed depression, but raised alexithymia levels after they developed depression. When the women's depression remitted their alexithymia levels decreased suggesting that their alexithymia was a symptom, not a cause, of their depression.
Marchesi, C. ... [et al] - Is alexithymia a personality trait increasing the risk of depression? A prospective study evaluating alexithymia before, during and after a depressive episode Psychological Medicine December 2008, 38(12), 1717-1722