Authors: Astrid Bastiaens, Ashworth Research Centre, Mersey Care NHS Trust, Liverpool, UK; Nishant Krishnan, School of Psychology and Computer Science, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK and Ashworth Research Centre, Mersey Care NHS Trust, Liverpool, UK and Jane L. Ireland, School of Psychology and Computer Science, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK and Ashworth Research Centre, Mersey Care NHS Trust, Liverpool, UK.

Abstract

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This paper aims to consider the under-researched association between alexithymia and aggression perpetration, accounting for its raised prevalence in offender populations. Using a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA), a total of 37 papers were included. Five subordinate themes were identified; (1) Those with alexithymia are reactive but not primarily instrumentally/proactively aggressive; (2) Difficulties in identifying and distinguishing between feelings and somatic sensations, is particularly predictive of aggression; (3) Continuum-based measures are more sensitive than categorical-based measures of aggression in detecting an association between alexithymia and aggression; (4) Prison environments could exacerbate the manifestation of alexithymia and the association with aggression, and (5) The association between alexithymia and aggression in forensic and community mental health populations is understudied. Evidence was clear in indicating an association between alexithymia and aggression, thereby raising the value of this clinical concept to future aggression research and considerations for assessment and therapeutic engagement with those presenting with aggression who may otherwise be considered simply to ‘lack empathy’. It would appear such a conclusion would be too rudimentary and fail to acknowledge the complexity of what could be an alexithymia presentation.

 

Keywords: Alexithymia; Aggression; Forensic population; Emotional challenges; Reactive aggression; Planned aggression

Vol 3, Issue 1, April 2022