Alexithymia in Eating Disorders: a transcultural perspective

Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences 3 (1):8-16 (2010)
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The role of alexithymia in eating disorders has been exstensively studied in Western cultures. On the contrary, studies on alexithymia in the Far East are rare, and its possible role in eating disorders is yet unstudied. After discussing the history and the meaning of the concept of alexithymia in Western cultures, the present paper poses the anthropological question whether alexithymia has a different meaning in Western and Eastern cultures. The sinologist literature on the topic of emotions in China is fi rstly addressed, followed by a review of empirical studies on eating disorders in China. Finally, the results of a preliminary study that compared the role of alexithymia in Italian and Chinese eating disorders are discussed, stressing that the signifi cantly lower alexithymia scores in Chinese eating disorders might be interpreted as strictly connected with the native culture, that is the tendency of Chinese girls to give socially desirable answers. Accordingly, a relevant pathoplastic role of the native culture not only on symptoms, but even on basic traits like alexithymia is suggested.



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