Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What is "Alexithymia"?

People who experience Alexithymia are unable to recognize emotions and their subtleties and to understand or describe thoughts and feelings. Sometimes Alexithymia makes it hard for them to tell a story or understand the emotional experience of others.

Alexithymia was coined from the Greek word LEXIS, (word) and THYMOS (feelings), and literally means "a lack of words for feelings". Alexithymia is not a disorder, but is seen as a trait. Some characteristics are:

*Difficulty identifying different types of feelings

*Difficulty distinguishing between emotional feelings and bodily feelings

* Limited understanding of what caused the feelings

* Difficulty verbalizing feelings

* Limited imagination

* Functional, constricted style of thinking

* Physical complaints

* Lack of enjoyment and pleasure-seeking

* Stiffened posture and/or facial expressions

Many individuals who have Alexithymia engage in counterproductive non-verbal activities to communicate their feelings. Activities like cutting, or breaking things, drinking or dabbling in drug use, for example. Learning to recognize feelings, verbalize and communicate them is the goal here. Alexithymia has a strong involvement in mental illness and personality development - but it's not something to be afraid of. If you experience Alexithymia, or know someone who does, there are ways to learn how to strengthen skills.

Psychotherapy can help to show you the way.

Lee, Y. et al. (2010). Direct and indirect effects of the temperament and character on alexithymia: A pathway analysis with mood and anxiety Comprehensive Psychiatry, 51 (2), 201-206 DOI: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2009.06.001


PTC said...

I just think that I don't have any feelings. I definitely can't identify them if and when I have them, unless I'm pissed. I'm good at being pissed.

Dr. Deb said...

Feelings can feel so intense sometimes that it's hard to differentiate the subtleties of them. Anger is a good start though.

PTC said...

Yeah, definitely good with the anger one. With that said, I am not often an angry person. The rest, well, I don't think they exist.

therapydoc said...

Thanks for this one. Love starting off the day learning something new.

STAG said...

Darn, that describes a friend of mine to a Tee! His name is Alex. Imagine my surprise to find a syndrome named after him! woo hoo!

Belizegial said...

I know someone who still struggles as an adult to verbalize his feelings. This post helps me to understand and I will read up more about it.

Thanks and have a great weekend.

jenji said...

Is this something that can be associated with a variety different conditions from Autism to Borderline Personality Disorder? Those two popped into my head, but I'm not sure whether I'm interpreting the condition right.

Interesting post. I hope you are doing well.


tracy said...

Interesting because some of the features sound like Aspergers (which my son has) and some sound Border (which i have)...or am i reading too much in to this?
Thank you, Dr, Deb, for the very interesting post.

Casdok said...

I have learnt a new word! :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting, Deb. I wasn't really aware of this condition before.

Raine said...

That was interesting

Sheila said...

I am one (diagnosed by a psychologist). This is true, I do have difficulty understanding emotions and empathising properly (though I try). It's not that I don't have feelings, but I think about the information involved so much and the emotions of the situation so little that I draw a blank when someone asks me how I feel. Now it is so difficult to try to think of what other people are feeling that I give up in frustration. I try to find more conventional ways of being nice, like sending someone a card or flowers. I pretend to have emotions I don't actually feel to express concern for others. Though I AM concerned for others, but the emotions of concern are not there. My racing thoughts of concern for others can get obsessive.

Anonymous said...

I was diagnosed with Alexithymia over 5 years ago by a Mental Health Professional, knowing that I have this disorder has helped me in some ways,however this only eases my guilt in not being able to tell the women I Love how I really feel about her, my question is how do I ease this guilt!
Lost in Life

jess said...

Hi im jess im 21 and have a partner who ive been with for 14 months hes totally in love and at forst i was so happy now i cant seenm to find my emotions im never happy, my minds goes black when someone asks how i feel , and a few night ago he asked if i was inlove and i had no answer i can seem to think it like im empty and my hearts stop feeling and i dont no why what do i do