Not all people are able to access their deepest emotions. Some have great difficulty with it. These people have a disorder called alexithymia. In this article, we’re going to look at the symptoms associated with it.
The symptoms of alexithymia are due to the difficulty some people have in identifying their own emotions and expressing them verbally. The term was first coined in 1973 by Peter Sifneos, a professor of psychiatry. He did so after observing this impairment in some of his patients at the Massachusetts General Hospital Mental Hospital.
The Spanish Society of Neurology estimates that 10% of the world’s population suffers from this disorder. However, it is important to note that not all people are affected by alexithymia to the same extent .
Types of alexithymia
Patients with symptoms of alexithymia can have these for a variety of reasons. These causes determine what type of disorder you have; either primary or secondary:
- Primary. In these cases there is a neurological deficit that affects communication between the limbic system and the neocortex or between the hemispheres of the brain. This can be due to hereditary causes or the existence of a neurological disorder.
- Secondary. Secondary alexithymia, on the other hand, is the result of an emotional disorder. The cause of this can be a repeated lack of affection during childhood. In addition, this form can develop in adults who have been exposed to traumatic situations.
The inability to express feelings can lead to social isolation for these people.
Who can suffer from alexithymia?
Professor Sifneos originally identified these symptoms in patients suffering from psychosomatic disorders. However, over the years these have also been linked to other medical conditions, such as drug or medication addiction and antisocial personality disorders.
In addition, there are also various physical illnesses that have been linked to the symptoms of alexithymia. These include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, head injuries, strokes and brain tumors. In addition, various disorders such as eating disorders, autism spectrum disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder can also be responsible.
The main symptoms of alexithymia
According to Pedinielli (1992), there are four basic symptoms of alexithymia:
- The inability to verbally express emotions or feelings.
- A lack of or limited imagination.
- The propensity to act to avoid and resolve conflict.
- A high level of thoughts related to specific worries.
Pedinielli attributes these characteristics to problems of those affected with symbolic function or their inability to express their unconscious dimensions. Hence, these people often express their emotional state through somatization.
More symptoms of alexithymia
Regardless of whether the alexithymia is due to somatic or neurological causes, people who suffer from it also show a whole range of other characteristics, which can be differently pronounced:
- Lack of emotional empathy: People with alexithymia find it extremely difficult to empathize with other people’s situations. Since they cannot recognize and understand their own emotions, it is much more difficult for them to understand other people’s emotions.
- Limited verbal communication skills: Generally speaking, these are people who speak little. In addition, they tend to be serious and reserved when dealing with other people.
- Little developed non-verbal communication: In terms of communication, they are very rigid. They are not very expressive and show little physical movement.
- Excessive rationality: Since their emotional world is very limited, they tend to act and behave very rationally and pragmatically.
- Lack of introspection: In addition, these are people who do not analyze what they are feeling because they can neither identify nor describe their emotions. Therefore, it is much easier for them to concentrate on external aspects.
- Affective Attachment Problems: People with alexithymia show very little affection and have great difficulty expressing it to others. As a result, their relationships are usually not fulfilling and they are prone to social isolation.
Is there any treatment to relieve the symptoms?
These patients can benefit from therapy in a number of ways. For example, individual therapy based on cognitive development of emotional awareness (Lane & Schwartz, 1987) has given good results.
In addition, group therapy is also suitable for working on the main symptoms. However, the combination of individual and group therapy appears to be the most effective method of treating this disorder.
Although people with symptoms of alexithymia may seem like they have no feelings, it is not at all. Because they too feel fear, joy, sadness and all other basic and secondary emotions. However, the way they experience these emotions is different from that of most other people. And that can lead to conflicts in communication.
For this reason , psychotherapy is recommended and necessary. You will likely never experience emotions in the same way as other people who do not have this disorder. Still, the therapeutic approach will certainly be of great benefit to those affected. Ultimately, it can help to significantly improve their quality of life and their relationships.