Personality traits of alexithymia and perfectionism in impaired awareness of hypoglycemia in adults with type 1 diabetes – An exploratory study

Anna Naito, Munachiso Nwokolo, Emma L. Smith, Nicole de Zoysa, Christopher Garrett, Pratik Choudhary, Stephanie A. Amiel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: Severe hypoglycemia complicates insulin therapy for type 1 diabetes, with impaired awareness of hypoglycemia (IAH) being a major risk factor. We explored associations between the personality traits, alexithymia and perfectionism, and cognitive barriers to hypoglycemia avoidance described in IAH, and evaluated their prevalence in people with and without IAH. Methods: Cross-sectional exploratory study. Ninety adults with type 1 diabetes, 54 hypoglycemia aware and 36 with IAH, completed validated questionnaires exploring alexithymia (Total Alexithymia Scale [TAS-20]) and perfectionism (Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale [FMPS]); and cognitive barriers related to hypoglycemia avoidance (Attitudes to Awareness Questionnaire [A2A]. Results: Alexithymia and perfectionism scores correlated positively with cognitive barriers associated with IAH. Specifically, alexthymia scores correlated with the ‘Hyperglycaemia Avoidance Prioritised’ factor (r = 0.265; p =.02, n = 77) and the ‘Asymptomatic Hypoglycemia Normalised’ factor (r = 0.252–0.255; p =.03, n = 77). Perfectionism scores correlated with the ‘Hyperglycaemia Avoidance Prioritised’ factor (r = 0.525; p <.001, n = 66). Overall, IAH participants were significantly more likely to score at the high end for alexithymia (17.6% vs. 1.9%, p =.008, n = 87) and at the extreme ends (high and low) for perfectionism (69.0% vs. 40.0%, χ2 (1) = 6.24, p =.01, n = 77). Conclusion: These novel data showing associations between alexithymia and perfectionism scores and maladaptive health beliefs in IAH suggest the intriguing possibility that personality traits may contribute to the risk of IAH, perhaps through their influence on incentives to avoid hypoglycemia. If confirmed, measuring such traits may help tailor early adjunctive psychological intervention to reduce hypoglycemia burden for people with IAH.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110634
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Volume150
Early online date30 Sept 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Alexithymia
  • Diabetes
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Psychological aspects

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