Volume 24, Issue 3 (Autumn 2022)                   Advances in Cognitive Sciences 2022, 24(3): 41-56 | Back to browse issues page

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Mahmoudi M, Saberi H, Bashardoust S. Predicting psychological distress based on childhood trauma with the mediating role of alexithymia. Advances in Cognitive Sciences 2022; 24 (3) :41-56
URL: http://icssjournal.ir/article-1-1443-en.html
1- PhD Student in Psychology, Department of General Psychology, Rudehen Branch, Islamic Azad University, Rudehen, Iran
2- Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Rudehen Branch, Islamic Azad University, Rudehen, Iran
Abstract:   (293 Views)
Introduction
Psychological distress in the description of individual psychopathology refers to a set of symptoms of depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and maladaptive psychological functioning at the level of stressful life events. Anxiety, stress, and depression are some of the biggest problems in human life today, and having countless negative consequences can disrupt the ordinary course of life from various personal, social, occupational, family, economic, and other dimensions. Current studies show that early painful experiences make a person susceptible to various psychological damages in adulthood, including anxiety, stress, and depression. Trauma is an event or experience that is emotionally disturbing and destructive and interferes with a person's ability to cope. In the meantime, the issue that comes to mind is that alexithymia can play a mediating role in the relationship between childhood trauma and psychological distress. Alexithymia refers to the inability to self-regulate emotions and process cognitive information, emotional information, and emotion regulation. Based on this and considering the high prevalence of anxiety, depression, and stress among people and its role in reducing performance and the need to investigate the dimensions and factors involved in this problem, this study aimed to determine the mediating role of alexithymia in the relationship between psychological distress and childhood trauma in students.

Methods
The research method was descriptive correlational, in which the relationship between research variables is analyzed through path analysis. This model used psychological distress as independent variables, alexithymia as mediated variables, and childhood trauma as dependent variables. The statistical population included all students between the ages of 20 and 40 in Tehran, Iran, in the academic year 2019. The sample of this study included 305 students in Tehran who were voluntarily selected. The criteria for entering the research were: being a 20 and 40- years-old student in Tehran, signing informed consent to participate in the research, and having knowledge about the research goals. Besides, the criteria for exclusion were: having a history of psychiatric disorder, physical illness, and disability affecting a person's life. In order to observe the ethical principles of the research, all subjects received information about the research. Participants were assured that all information would remain confidential and only be used for research purposes. For privacy reasons, the subjects' details were not recorded. In the end, all of them received informed consent. The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (1988), the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (1995), and the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (1994) were used to measure the research variables. Data analysis was performed using descriptive statistical methods (mean, standard deviation, frequency, and percentage) and the Pearson correlation using SPSS software version 24. To evaluate the fit of the structural equation model (In the method of structural equations, multivariate normality is one of the essential assumptions that must be considered. In this study, the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was used to test the assumption of normality) several indicators include: Goodness of Fit Index (GFI), Root Mean Squared Error of Approximation (RMSEA), Comparative Fit Index (CFI), Tucker-Lewis (TLI), Bentler–Bonett normed fit index (NFI (were used by AMOS-26 software. In this study, a significance level of less than 0.01 was considered.
Results
The average age of the participant group was 32.19 (standard deviation=10.82). Fifty-four participants were 25 years old and younger. Approximately 48.2% of the participants (147 people) were in the age range of 26 to 35, and 23.6% were in the age range of 36 to 45 years (72 people). First, the normality of data distribution was checked and confirmed using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov statistical test (P<0.05). The results showed the correlation coefficient between childhood trauma with depression (0.51), anxiety (0.49) and stress (0.36), alexithymia with depression (0.47), anxiety (0.49) and stress (0.49), and the correlation coefficient between childhood trauma and alexithymia (0.29) is significant at the 0.01 level. According to the evaluation indicators of model Fit, especially the ratio of the Chi-square value to the degree of freedom equal to 1.87, GFI index equal to 0.92, AGFI index equal to 0.92, CFI index equal to 0.99, TLI index equal to with 0.86, IFI index equal to 0.93, NFI index equal to 0.94 and RMSEA index equal to 0.005, it can be said that the model has a good fit. The coefficient of the direct path of childhood trauma to anxiety (P≥0.001, β=0.38) and alexithymia to anxiety (P≥0.001, β=0.38) is significant at a level less than 0.001. The coefficient of the direct path of childhood trauma to depression (P≥0.001, β=0.41) and alexithymia to depression (P≥0.001, β=0.36) is significant at the level of 0.001. The coefficient of the direct path of childhood trauma to stress (P≥0.001, β=0.24) and alexithymia to stress (P≥0.001, β=0.41) is significant at the level of 0.001. Childhood trauma and alexithymia explain a total of 29% of the variance of the anxiety variable. Childhood trauma and alexithymia explain a total of 29% of the variance of the depression variable, childhood trauma, and alexithymia together explain 25% of the variance of the stress variable.
Conclusion
In general, the results of the present study showed that trauma experience could predict anxiety, depression, and stress in students through the mediation of alexithymia. Indeed, the results of the present study show that the experience of trauma, and emotional distress increases the prevalence of anxiety, stress, and depression in the studied students. In the end, two categories of theoretical and practical consequences can be mentioned in the current research. At the level of theoretical implications, the findings of this research can lead to the development of knowledge in the field of factors affecting the creation and continuation of anxiety, stress, and depression disorders. At the level of practical consequences, it is recommended to investigate alexithymia and trauma experience in people with anxiety, stress and depression disorders, because these psychological variables make the treatment and recovery process difficult for these people. Among   the research limitations, this study can mention the use of only the questionnaire, the limited population, and the cross-sectional statistical sample of the research. Therefore, using other assessment methods such as interviews and observations along with questionnaires, the expansion of the statistical population and sample, and longitudinal studies can more appropriately explain the reasons for psychological distress.
Ethical Considerations
Compliance with ethical guidelines
In order to comply with the ethical principles of the research, all subjects received information about the research. They were assured that all information would remain confidential and only be used for research purposes. In order to respect privacy, the details of the subjects were not recorded. In the end, informed consent was obtained from all of them. Notably, this research has the code of ethics IR.IAUBA.REC.1397.046 from the Ethics Committee of Islamic Azad University, Bandar Abbas Branch, Iran.
Authors’ contributions
Mahsa Mahmoudi & Haydeh Saberi: Defined the concepts in choosing the subject and designing the study. Haydeh Saberi: Performed a search of the research literature and background. Mahsa Mahmoudi: Collected and analyzed data. Simin Bashardoust. Writing and drafting: All authors discussed the results and participated in preparing and editing the article’s final version.
Funding
This research did not receive any specific grant from the public, commercial, or non- profit funding agencies. This research was extracted from the PhD Thesis of the first author, in the Department of Psychology, faculty of psychology, Rudehen Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran.
Acknowledgments
In the end, the authors are grateful to all participants in the research and all those who have facilitated the implementation of the research.
Conflict of Interest
The author declared no conflict of interest.
 
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Type of Study: Research |
Received: 2022/07/18 | Accepted: 2022/09/15 | Published: 2022/11/15

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