Bulgarian Journal of Psychiatry, 2022; 7(4):13-22
CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND ALEXITHYMIA AS RISK FACTORS FOR NEGATIVE MENTAL HEALTH OUTCOMES IN MEDICAL STUDENTS: A SEARCH FOR POTENTIALLY MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS
Desislava Ignatova, Petra Marinova-Djambazova, Georgi Onchev
Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Medical University – Sofia, Bulgaria
Abstract. The paper evaluates the relationship between childhood traumatic experiences, negative mental health outcomes, and alexithymia in medical students by use of odds ratios and linear regression analyses. This is an observational, retrospective, cross-sectional study with a non-clinical sample consisting of sixth-year medical students conducted between October 2021 and March 2022. The sample consists of 210 participants. Severe exposure to childhood trauma leads to a 5-fold increased risk for depression and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and 8-fold increased risk for anxiety (p<.001). Clinical outcome measures are significantly interrelated, with the most prominent link between depression and anxiety (55.2% variance of data explained, p<.001) and obsession and anxiety (26.6% of the variance explained, p<.001). Alexithymia explains between 22.0% and 29.4% of the variance of clinical outcome measures and appears to be closely related to depression, with participants with alexithymia having a 35.143 increased risk of being within the subgroup of clinical depression (p<.001). Childhood trauma explains only 9.8% of the variance of alexithymia and 11.6% of depression, while it explains higher percentages of the variance of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms (21.3% and 18.2% respectively, p<.001). While both childhood trauma and alexithymia are significant predictors of negative mental health outcomes, alexithymia is more closely related to clinical outcome measures with a higher percentage of variance explained, thus might be viewed as a potentially modifiable risk factor for psychopathology.
Key words: alexithymia, childhood traumа, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive symptoms
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