Recent research has demonstrated that males at high genetic risk for alcoholism are more cardiovascularly reactive to an unavoidable stressor than those at moderate and low genetic risk for the disorder. Alcohol has also been found to dramatically decrease this cardiovascular hyperreactivity in high risk subjects. The mechanisms underlying the cardiovascular hyperreactivity may reflect some deficit in autonomic nervous system modulation. This apparent deficit is similar to that associated with alexithymia. The present report is an investigation of the presence of alexithymic traits in these high-risk subjects. Nonalcoholic males at high, moderate and low genetic risk for alcoholism were administered the Schalling-Sifneos Personality Scale as a measure of alexithymia. The subjects at high genetic risk for alcoholism were found to be more alexithymic than both control groups. The potential role of alexithymic traits in the etiology of one form of alcoholism is discussed.

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