Curtin University in Australia invites applications for a PhD Scholarship in Alexithymia and mental health in the 2020/21 academic session.
Alexithymia is a trait characterised by difficulties processing and describing one’s own emotions. It was first coined by psychiatrists in the 1970s, and is regarded as a key risk factor for a range of mental health disorders, including: depression, anxiety, substance use, eating, and personality disorders. Existing data suggest that alexithymia can also interfere with the effectiveness of some mental health disorder treatments, so is an important consideration for clinicians and researchers.
The overarching aim of this PhD research project is to further our theoretical understanding of alexithymia, and the mechanisms by which it relates to other key variables like poor mental health. Such insights are essential for facilitating confident use of the alexithymia construct in clinical and research settings.
The PhD will be developed with input from the candidate, but some example studies could be:
(1) Alexithymia and mental health
Whilst alexithymia has been associated, theoretically and empirically, with various mental health disorders, it remains unclear whether specific disorder categories might have characteristic alexithymia profiles. The exact mechanisms (e.g., emotion regulation difficulties) behind the associations between alexithymia and mental health symptoms also require further study.
(2) The role of ability deficits and avoidance
Researchers disagree about the causes of alexithymia. For example, some attribute alexithymia primarily to ability deficits (e.g., low ability to process emotions), whereas others attribute it primarily to avoidance (e.g., habitually regulating emotions by avoiding focusing on them). There are also questions about the stability of alexithymia over time, or the extent to which alexithymia levels might fluctuate during periods of distress. Our theoretical model proposes that both ability deficits and avoidance play an important role in determining overall levels of alexithymia. These predictions can be tested using self-report and experimental approaches.
(3) How should we assess alexithymia?
Alexithymia has traditionally been measured using self-report questionnaires, however, some researchers have argued that people with high levels of alexithymia may have difficulty accurately evaluating and reporting on their own emotion processing skills. More studies are needed to examine the relationships between self-report, structured interview, and lab-based or performance measures of alexithymia, and determine what set of approaches might be most effective.
Taken together, this PhD research program will, therefore, help to further our understanding of alexithymia, with potential implications for mental health disorder conceptualisation, assessment, and treatment.
Worth of Award
- Total value of the annual scholarships (stipend and fees) is approx. $60,000 – $70,000 p.a.
- Curtin PhD Stipends are valued at $28,092 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years.
- Successful applicants will receive a 100% Fee offset.
- English language IELTS level of 7 or above (or equivalent English proficiency)
- Undergraduate degree in Psychology, or another related field.
- A record of academic publication.
- Experience with quantitative research methods.
- Experiencing administering surveys/questionnaires.
- Experience with experimental/lab-based methodologies.
- A Master’s degree in Psychology, or another related field.
How to Apply
- To apply for this project opportunity applicants must submit an email to the contact Project lead listed below.
- The email must include their current curriculum vitae, a summary of their research skills and experience and the reason they are interested in this specific project.
- The Project Lead will select one preferred applicant for this project and complete a Primary reference on their behalf.
- After confirmation from the Project Lead that they will receive a primary reference for this project the applicant must submit an eApplication for admission into the applicable HDR course no later than 1st September 2020.
- All applicants must send an external referee template to their chosen external reference.
- All references are confidential and must be submitted by the referee directly to [email protected] no later than 1st September 2020.
- Scholarship applications submitted without a primary reference or a completed application for admission will be considered incomplete.
Deadline: deadline is September 1, 2020.