Individual differences in response to stress have been linked to the development of stress-related disorders through the presence of a dissociation between physiological and subjective stress responses. It has been suggested that the presence of alexithymic characteristics may constitute a new source of individual response differences and thereby contribute to the development of a stress-related disorder. However, it is also possible that the presence of alexithymic characteristics is simply a new name for a preexisting construct. The present study examined subjective and physiological stress response patterns in normal individuals with high or low presence of alexithymic characteristics, and the relationship between alexithymia and potentially equivalent constructs. The results revealed that the presence of alexithymic characteristics is independent of repression, trait anxiety, and social desirability. As well, high alexithymics appear to manifest high levels of sympathetic activity, and a dissociation between subjective and physiological stress responses. These results are discussed in terms of the potential contribution of alexithymic characteristics to the development of stress-related disorders.

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