Emotional dysregulation and borderline personality disorder explaining the Link between secondary psychopathy and alexithymia

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Catherine L. Zois


While researchers have studied the fields of psychopathy and alexithymia for decades, research identifying and explaining the overlap between the two disorders is in its infancy. Past research has shown that alexithymia and psychopathy are positively correlated with each other (Kroner & Forth, 1995; Louth, Hare, & Linden, 1998). Further, a unique study by Lander, Zois, and Porco (2011) revealed a significant positive correlation between secondary psychopathy and alexithymia, but not primary psychopathy and alexithymia. However, little is known about what accounts for this differential association. Because both alexithymia (Webb & McMurran, 2008) and secondary psychopathy (Blackburn, 1996) have been linked to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), the current study sought to determine if emotional processing deficits which are characteristic of BPD could explain the link between secondary psychopathy and alexithymia. The results supported the hypothesis that alexithymia would be significantly positively associated with secondary, but not primary psychopathy. The results also supported the hypothesis that BPD and emotional dysregulation would both partially explain the relationship between secondary psychopathy and alexithymia, in that the relationship between secondary psychopathy and alexithymia diminished when BPD and emotional dysregulation were statistically controlled. Other related findings will be discussed. Implications, limitations, and future directions are also discussed.


Psychology, Pathological, Psychiatry Research, Alexithymia Research, Affective disorders Research, Borderline personality disorder Research

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2011, author