The continuing confrontation with the thoughts and feelings surrounding an unfulfilled wish for a child makes coping very difficult. There is empirical evidence that, in medical illnesses associated with stress and loss of quality of life, patients react with alexithymia, which means a difficulty to communicate emotions. In this study we compared 84 infertile men with a group of 96 healthy men and 43 male psychosomatic outpatients concerning their ability to communicate feelings, measured by the Twenty-Item Toronto Alexithymia Scale and the amount of psychopathologically relevant symptoms, especially somatization, measured by the Symptom Checklist 90-R and a List of Complaints (Beschwerden-Liste). The results showed a significantly higher alexithymia in infertile men compared with healthy men ( P < 0.05), but a significantly lower alexithymia compared with psychosomatic outpatients ( P < 0.05). Furthermore the study group showed significantly more somatic complaints in the List of Complaints compared with healthy men ( P < 0.05). The importance of alexithymia in male infertility is discussed on the basis of empirical results that it might play a defensive role as far as depression is concerned but on the other hand increases the possibility of somatic complaints. The need for prospective studies in further research is emphasized.
Copyright (C) 2001, European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology
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