Shame and guilt mediate the effects of alexithymia on distress and suicide-related behaviours among men Academic Article uri icon


  • Alexithymia has been hypothesised to elevate risk of negative mental health outcomes for men. The growing literature related to the role of men's experience of self-conscious emotions (i.e., shame and guilt) suggests that these aversive affective experiences may be important in the relationship between alexithymia and negative mental health outcomes. The present study used parallel mediation models to determine the mediating roles of shame and guilt in the relationships between alexithymia and psychological distress and suicide-related behaviours. Online self-report data was collected from a sample of Canadian men (N = 1,000; M age = 49.63, SD = 14.59). Participants completed measures of alexithymia, guilt, shame and depression. Adjusting for current depression symptoms, bias corrected bootstrapping (95% CIs) indicated that both shame and guilt were mediators between identification of feelings and distress (R2 = .67), and description of feelings and distress (R2 = .64). In contrast, guilt, but not shame, mediated the relationship between both identification of feelings and suicide-related behaviours (R2 = .38), and description of feelings and suicide-related behaviours (R2 = .39). Results indicate that men's difficulties identifying and describing their feelings and corresponding distress are particularly explained by shame - an aversive maladaptive emotion that promotes concealment of a perceived defective self. Conversely, guilt was more salient for men's suicide-related behaviours.

publication date

  • 2020