Although social withdrawal is becoming increasingly common among adolescents, there is still no consensus on its definition from the diagnostic and psychopathological standpoints. So far, research has focused mainly on social withdrawal as a symptom of specific diagnostic categories, such as depression, social phobia, or anxiety disorders, or in the setting of dependence or personality disorders. Few studies have dealt with social withdrawal in terms of its syndromic significance, also considering aspects of emotion control, such as alexithymia. The present case-control study aimed to further investigate the issue of social withdrawal, and try to clarify the part played by alexithymia in a sample of Italian adolescents diagnosed with psychological disorders (n
= 80; Average Ageg
= 15.2 years, SD = 1.49). Our patients with social withdrawal (cases) scored significantly higher than those without this type of behavior (controls) in every domain of alexithymia investigated, using the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) and with the scales in the Youth Self-Report (YSR) regarding internalizing problems, anxiety–depression, social problems, and total problems. Internalizing problems and total levels of alexithymia also emerged as predictors of social withdrawal. These variables may therefore precede and predispose adolescents to social withdrawal, while social problems may develop as a consequence of the latter.
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