Rylands, Tom

Start date:
October 2018
Research Topic:
Processes that Underlie Pain and Emotion Regulation
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Prof Tim Woodman
Supervising school:
School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

Alexithymia is a complex personality dimension (Salminen, Rvi, Rel, Toikka, & Kauhanen, 1999). It is defined by the difficulty identifying and differentiating between different feelings and physical manifestations of emotion; and also difficulty in expressing these feelings in words (Taylor, Bagby & Parker, 1999). Alexithymic individuals have a tendency to internalise emotional responses due to their difficulty in expressing them (Infrasca, 1997).
There are several options to deal with internalised/unprocessed emotion, such as deliberate self-harm (Favazza, 1996; Suyemoto, 1998). High risk sports, such as skydiving (Woodman, Cazenave & Le Scanff, 2008) have also been identified as a means for alexithymic individuals to regulate their emotions. By deliberately taking unnecessary risks alexithymic individuals who participate in high-risk sport are deliberately exposing themselves to the possibility of self-harm or death.

Low-risk sports do not typically have a significant chance of life-threatening injury or death as an inherent part of the activity. Some low-risk sports, however, do involve some form of pain as a seemingly inherent part of engagement. The aim of this research is to investigate whether alexithymic individuals partaking in low-risk sports, such as long-distance running, may be further exposing themselves to or actively trying to induce pain as a means of emotion regulation.