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04-06-2018 | Uitgave 9/2018

Quality of Life Research 9/2018

The relationship between alexithymia and headache impact: the role of somatization and pain catastrophizing

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 9/2018
Eun-Jung Shim, Aram Park, Sung-Pa Park



The present study compared psychological factors (i.e., alexithymia, somatization, pain catastrophizing (PC), anxiety, and depression) and QOL for headache patients and headache-free individuals, and examined whether somatization and PC mediate the relationship between alexithymia and headache impact in headache patients.


Study participants consisted of 123 headache patients from an outpatient clinic at a university hospital and 124 headache-free individuals in Daegu, Korea. The survey employed the somatization and anxiety subscales of the Symptom Checklist-90-revised, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, Pain Catastrophizing Scale, Toronto Alexithymia Scale, Short-Form Health survey-8 (SF-8), and the Headache Impact Test-6.


Headache patients showed a higher level of all psychological factors and lower level of two summary scores (physical and mental health) as well as the seven dimensions of the SF-8 compared with headache-free individuals. Examination employing the SPSS Process macro found that the direct effect of alexithymia on headache impact was not significant after controlling for somatization and PC. The total indirect effects of alexithymia on headache impact were significant without anxiety and depression as covariates with the significant indirect effects of alexithymia on headache impact via somatization or via PC as well as via somatization and PC. However, after controlling for anxiety and depression, PC was the only significant pathway through which alexithymia was related to headache impact.


Headache patients may benefit from interventions aiming at improving psychological factors in order to improve the functioning and QOL of headache patients.

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