Physiological Responses to Induced Stress in Individuals Affected by Alcohol Use Disorder with Dual Diagnosis and Alexithymia
Alcohol use disorders (AUD) are among the most common and undertreated mental disorders in developed countries. The co-occurrence of psychiatric comorbidity and AUD has already been well documented. Moreover, alexithymia was found associated with heavy drinking and alcohol dependence. A large part of AUD individuals, between 45 and 67%, have been identified as alexithymics.
Both psychiatric comorbidity and alexithymia can negatively impact the course of recovery from alcohol. Alcohol consumption has also been shown to significantly influence autonomic responses. Chronic use of alcohol may induce significant changes in heart rate variability, respiratory frequency, electrodermal activity and skin temperature. To date, only a few studies have comprehensively investigated the comorbidity of alexithymia in AUD individuals with dual diagnosis. Thus, the aim and also the novelty of the present investigation were to disclose in individuals with AUD the emotional and cognitive stress responses to selected physiological parameters measured by ProComp5 Infiniti™ encoder in AUD patients suffering alexithymia with or without concomitant dual diagnosis.
Quite interestingly, in AUD subjects with concomitant dual diagnosis we found that the alexithymia elevated skin temperature, heart rate variability and decreased respiratory frequency. Alexithymia, if associated with the dual diagnosis condition in AUD individuals, can be considered as a further vulnerability factor to stressing factors, impacting psychosomatic processing and inducing alterations in physiological parameters. In this paper, we discuss the implications of these findings in the early treatment of alexithymic AUD individuals