Alexithymia: signs, diagnosis and cure (2023)


Alexithymia: Do you have words for your feelings?

Alexithymia is something that can be cured. Trapped under an alexithymic exterior is an unbearably sensitive and empathetic soul. When you take the risk and courageously embark on a journey to regain your sensitivity and emotional intensity, the reserve of vitality is within your grasp.

Being able to feel and express feelings is your birthright. From the moment you come into this world, you feel a variety of emotions in response to life's circumstances. Some of these feelings are pleasant, some are uncomfortable, some are confusing, and some are terrifying. When he has emotionally available and attuned caregivers, he will learn to regulate and grow into an adult capable of tolerating a wide range of emotions. Ideally, even emotions that are often considered "negative" or taboo by our culture and society, such as anger, sadness, and regret, are given healthy channels of expression. Ultimately, only when you are honest with yourself about your feelings can you have strong self-esteem, and only when you have the space to express yourself authentically, can a relationship be sustainably fulfilling.

So what happens when the channel through which you feel and express feelings is blocked? You may end up feeling empty, confused, disconnected, and alone. This is the world in which someone with "alexithymia" lives. Don't be surprised if you've never heard this term before, as even many mental health professionals are unaware of this condition and don't understand the invisible pain it produces.

It may seem paradoxical that someone who isnaturally emotionally sensitive and intenseYou may also be emotionally “blocked”, but the situation is more common than you think. An understanding of the trauma pathway will help us understand the relationship between alexithymia and emotional intensity.

Alexithymia: signs, diagnosis and cure (1)

"He who has a smile on his face hides an almost terrifying toughness."
Greta Garbo

What is alexithymia?

Alexithymia literally means "emotionless for words" in Greek. When you have alexithymia, you have difficulty identifying and describing feelings and must rely on what is known as "outward-oriented thinking" (Nemiah & Sifneos 1970, Taylor et al., 1997), which means that you use external cues to understand the world. instead of following your inner guidance.

What could have happened is that you were unconsciously deprived of your feelings by an early trauma that was too painful to bear. This "trauma" may not be typical "shock trauma" but rather "cumulative developmental trauma" (CDT), also known as early relationship trauma (Isobel et al., 2017) orcomplex trauma.This type of trauma occurs when you are trapped in a situation where your boundaries have been violated repeatedly and cumulatively over a period of time in which you have no way out (Sar, 2011).

It also may not be what your supervisors did, but what you lacked. All children need to be cared for, showing that they are important and that they are cared for. Prolonged neglect in childhood or dealing with emotionally unstable, empty, or cold people can be just as (if not more) traumatic than physical beatings.

As a result of the trauma of their relationship, the emotional world has become terrifying; Instead, they focus on “external facts” that appear to be more tangible, predictable, and reliable (Chung et al., 2016; Kupchik et al., 2007). This was a strategy you chose to feel more secure and gain some sense of control in a precarious world where you were vulnerable. Unfortunately, this is not a sustainable strategy. Unprocessed feelings will inevitably build up in your body, causing physical and neurological symptoms that seem disconnected from their sources (Pennebaker & Beall, 1986; Martino et al., 2019). You may have frequent headaches, fatigue, and panic attacks without knowing why.

Alexithymia: signs, diagnosis and cure (2)

"My feelings are too high for words and too shy for the world."
Dejan Stojanovic

Alexithymia test: what it is like to live in a world without emotions

Alexithymia can make you appear socially awkward to others because you don't automatically appear cheerful. "happy" occasions. Your difference may cause you social anxiety and you may find gatherings unappealing. When unfortunate events occur, you can seem extraordinarily stoic and not receive the sympathy and empathy that others show. However, that doesn't mean you don't feel anything, at least physiologically, you do. You may have physical symptoms or even suicidal thoughts, but the causes of your suffering remain a mystery to you.To check if you have alexithymia, see if you identify with the following:

Some internal signs of alexithymia:

(Video) What if I Can't Tell What I'm Feeling? (Alexithymia)

You are not in touch with your feelings. When you try to feel your heart, you feel blocked.

Most of the time you don't get any emotional nuance. You can only know if you feel "good" or "bad", "happy" or "unhappy" and not much else.

They can't just tell what others are thinking or feeling based on their body language and facial expressions.

In interactions, you don't feel connected to other people, it's like there's a wall blocking you.

You feel alienated from your own body; You may have physical symptoms of panic attacks that seem to come out of nowhere.

You usually don't feel emotional, but you may suddenly feel overwhelmed with fear or explode with anger.

Although you yearn for intimacy, the prospect of intimate relationships seems daunting. They make you feel out of control and take you too far out of your comfort zone.

You may have lost drive and motivation. They hesitate at work and do not find much pleasure in hobbies. Every day feels like a routine, just getting through the day is hard.

They are not interested in things that have to do with imagination or fantasy, preferring the concrete and practical.

You are confused about your identity and lack self-confidence.

You feel empty and numb as if you are just an observer of your own life. You know you are missing out on life, but you don't know how to live any other way.

External signs of alexithymia

They have a blank expression and do not smile or frown when it is "socially appropriate".

You can't find words when you try to express feelings. When someone asks "How are you?" you respond with general terms like "fine" or "fine." If someone specifically asks you how you feel, fill in the blank.

You seem cold and insensitive. Others may see you as arrogant or aloof.

Others may think you don't have a sense of humor.

(Video) Alexithymia // What it's like to not know how you feel #alexithymia

You use nervous laughter to fill in the blanks because you're uncomfortable with silence.

As you struggle to express your needs and desires, others cannot understand what you want and become frustrated.

When you speak, go into endless descriptive details without personal feelings. Your speech can be monotonous, dry, and hard to follow.

It is important to note that having alexithymia does not mean that you are apathetic. You may still feel things deep down, but find it difficult to connect with your feelings or express them to others.

While not inherently dangerous, alexithymia can lead to a variety of relationship and interpersonal problems. He feels left out at school and at work. In relationships and marriages, you are misconstrued as aloof and aloof. The people you love cannot feel your affection. They may also suffer from a lack of sexual desire. Unfortunately, the inability to express affection also means that you are more likely to end up in a broken relationship. Being left out and misunderstood on all fronts can make for a very lonely existence.

On the surface, alexithymia may seem like a "convenient" strategy for coping with life. They may be able to temporarily "erase" painful feelings, but throughWhen you clear the lows, you also leave the highs behind.Without emotion, you won't be able to build positive memories with loved ones, feel energized by passion, or connect intimately with someone. You remain a clinical observer of your life, watching it go by without enjoying it.

Alexithymia: signs, diagnosis and cure (3)

"Sometimes loneliness makes the loudest noise."
Aaron Ben Zeev

Alexithymie as Diagnose

Alexithymia is not recognized as a separate mental disorder. It was first added to the Lexicon of Psychiatry in 1976 by Peter E. Sifneos, a psychiatrist and professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. To date, information on the underlying causes and recommended therapies is lacking.

Complicating matters further is alexithym's inability to "tell their stories." He can act (through anger, self-harm, and even a suicide attempt) without being able to offer an explanation for his actions. In the absence of a firsthand account of what happened, diagnosis becomes difficult.

Certain sociodemographic factors put a person at higher risk of developing alexithymia. Although about 13% of the population suffers from alexithymia, the prevalence in men is almost double that in women.

Alexithymia can occur on two levels: as a primary trait or as a secondary condition. Primary alexithymia implies that the individual is born with a genetic defect that affects the ability to feel and express emotions and empathize. It is also associated with brain damage, particularly to the anterior insula (responsible for visceral sensory and motor responses and somatic sensory responses, particularly to the face, tongue, and upper extremities). This neurological defect may be a congenital condition or the result of an injury that occurs later in life.

However, much of the available research focuses on secondary alexithymia, which is often a reaction to traumatic life events in childhood or adulthood.

Alexithymia can be perpetuated by the presence of a variety of other conditions, such as:


· Binge eating disorder

(Video) What Causes Alexithymia?

· Schizophrenia

· Substance abuse

Child neglect and emotional abuse

Life changing diseases

· Autism

· Depressions

Alexithymia and autism

A stereotypical understanding of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is that it involves a lack of empathy, a theory that has been largely discredited. The fact that an alexithymic person does not recognize intense feelings (such as confusion or danger) in others and their lack of emotional expression means that alexithymia is often misinterpreted as autism.

Although people on the autism spectrum can also exhibit traits of alexithymia,Research on the correlation between the two conditions is inconclusive.. The existing consensus seems to be that alexithymia is common in autism and is not caused by autism. (Here it goeshigh functioning autism)

alexithymia and depression

People with major depressive disorders and postpartum disorders are more likely to have alexithymia. A person with alexithymia is twice as likely to suffer from depression. But at the same time, research shows that the symptoms of alexithymia decrease with the decrease in the symptoms of depression. Therefore, it is not possible to affirm whether alexithymia is a cause or a consequence of depression.

alexithymia is a trauma

People with PTSD are more likely to develop alexithymia. This was the result of a study of Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.41% of them were alexithymic.A similar survey of Holocaust survivors found that those with PTSD did well. significantly higher when alexithymia was assessed than those without PTSD.

Alexithymia and neurological diseases

Patients with neurological diseases and conditions.such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, dystonia, Huntington's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy are more likely to have alexithymia.

Alexithymia and emotional abuse and neglect in early childhood

(Video) What is Alexithymia? (Inability to Express or Recognize Emotions)

Alexithymia is likely caused by a combination of biology and the environment. In other words, some may be born more prone to alexithymia than others and then experience traumatic events or wounds in the relationship that serve as ultimate triggers.

Developmentally, alexithymia is the result of arrested emotional development in childhood. Can be yoursThe parents were depressed, cold and distant., and wereunable to reflect on or adjust to his feelings.Or they themselves may be afraid of emotions, so they punish you for expressing them. They may lack emotional language and therefore have it I never taught you what it means to be emotionally literate.

If they repeated you as a sensitive and intense childBelittled, blamed or scapegoated for your natural language, alexithymia would be a natural result. Maybe you never felt safe to express yourself. The message he received was that he risks being rejected, abandoned, or punished if he ever expresses something that is "uncomfortable" to adults, such as B. disappointment or anger. In some homes even joy and enthusiasm were discouraged. With its intensity, your natural exuberance can be seen as "too much" and therefore muted.

For a time it was thought thatPhysical neglect was the only child maltreatment clearly associated with alexithymia.. However, other research has shown that a history of abuse is also associated with alexithymia (Berenbaum, 1996; Joukamaa, et al., 2008). That makes sense: Imagine getting punished every time you express your feelings. Eventually, he will learn to stop crying or talking just to keep himself safe.

Various questionnaires are used to help patients and therapists identify alexithymia. The best known of these is the Toronto Alexithymia Scale 20 (TAS-20, Bagby, Parker & Taylor, 1994), which assesses alexithymia in adults. There is also a version that can be given to children. Depending on the initial evaluation, an MRI may be suggested to assess for damage to the brain islet.

Alexithymia: signs, diagnosis and cure (4)

"You can own what you do, but never what you feel."
Gustave Flaubert

get out of alexithymia

The treatment approach for alexithymia itself may differ from typical therapeutic approaches, as we are working with someone who cannot even identify or label their feelings. Research shows, for example, that a psychoanalysis in which the therapist"blank canvases"could be too confrontational or threatening and not well matched (Lesser, 1981; Sifneos, 1975; Taylor, 1984). However, because alexithymia often coexists with other mental disorders, treatment of these disorders can help reduce alexithymia.

As mentioned above, alexithymia doesn't mean you don't feel or are cold and don't need a human connection. It does not mean that you are a bad person or that you never like others. All it represents is a blockage in your emotional channel associated with a form of "emotional illiteracy'. So one of the most important milestones on your journey toward healing is finding a language for her feelings. This is called “emotional competence building”. A tool that can be useful in this process is the “emotional roll'. Developed by psychologist Robert Plutchik, this useful tool allows you to learn about emotions of varying degrees of complexity and nuance. Through training, you can slowly build a set of vocabulary and link it to your internal states. There are many online resources on the Emotional Wheel, such as:This one.

There are other tools that you can use to connect with your inner world. For example, researchers have found that expressive writing can help you develop inner awareness and put your feelings into words, especially if you practice it every day. Reading novels that contain personal narratives will help you get out of the rut of monotonous narratives.expressive art therapiesasMake art, dance and music can be great ways to express yourself non-verbally.

When it comes to alexithymia, in my experience, the greatest healing happens in relationships. Since the original wound likely occurred in a relational context, it must also be healed in a relational way. It could be a relationship with an enlightened friend or a therapist/coach. Ideally, your therapist or coach creates an environment in which you, both you as an adult and your inner child, truly feel safe enough to feel and express emotions. Where words fail, they can gently guide you, providing vocabulary or modeling authentic expressions of your own emotions. A level of self-disclosure on your part that shows they are feeling things too can help you feel more confident and empowered to do the same. Whenever appropriate, they will encourage him to name his feelings, although that doesn't mean forcing him to do things he can't do.

An important point in this process is when you need to feel or express feelings that are difficult for your therapist/coach to receive. If you have been disconnected in the past, feelings like anger or disappointment towards another person can be very difficult for you. It is critical that the therapist/coach not punish you for expressing these "negative" feelings because of your own fears or vulnerabilities. When they do, they are simply repeating what your first maintainers did to you. Therefore, it is important that you hire someone who has worked on themselves, is genuinely emotionally mature, and does not hide behind a "professional facade." It can be life-changing for you, perhaps for the first time in your life, to experience a genuine, trusting and long-lasting relationship where all forms of expression are allowed. The experience you have with a professional can then be generalized and applied to other aspects of your life, such as: B. Your friendships or an intimate relationship.

Alexithymia is not something that cannot be changed. This may be counterintuitive, but what is most likely trapped beneath an alexithymic exterior is an unbearably sensitive and empathetic soul. Shutting down emotionally was never a conscious choice; It was what they urged you to do to survive painful situations.

When you take the risk and courageously embark on a journey to regain your sensitivity and emotional intensity, the reserve of vitality is within your grasp.

Alexithymia: signs, diagnosis and cure (5)

"What happens when people open their hearts?"
"You're getting better."
Haruki Murakami,norway wood

(Video) What is Alexithymia and Why You Should Care? - Dr. Jim Collins


Can people with alexithymia be cured? ›

To date, there isn't a single individual treatment for alexithymia. The exact treatment approach depends on your overall health needs. For example, if you have depression or anxiety, taking certain medications for these conditions could also help mental health symptoms. Therapies may also be helpful for this condition.

How do you cure alexithymia? ›

Treating Alexithymia
  1. Group therapy.
  2. Daily journaling.
  3. Skill-based therapy.
  4. Engaging in the creative arts.
  5. Various relaxation techniques.
  6. Reading emotional books or stories.
Aug 22, 2015

Can alexithymia improve? ›

Mindfulness training may also be a critical component to incorporate in the treatment of alexithymia. For instance, mindfulness-based training has been linked to increased emotional effectiveness. So using mindfulness-based approaches may result in improved emotional awareness among clients experiencing alexithymia.

Does alexithymia need a diagnosis? ›

Alexithymia is not a diagnosis, but a construct useful for characterizing patients who seem not to understand the feelings they obviously experience, patients who seem to lack the words to describe these feelings to others.

What kind of trauma causes alexithymia? ›

The study made an interesting discovery: there was a significant association between the degree of alexithymia and the experience of emotional neglect during childhood; however, other childhood trauma dimensions such as physical or sexual abuse were not related to alexithymia.

How do people with alexithymia act? ›

Alexithymia is not a condition in its own right, but rather an inability to identify and describe emotions. People with alexithymia have difficulties recognizing and communicating their own emotions, and they also struggle to recognize and respond to emotions in others.

What part of the brain controls alexithymia? ›

Meta-analyses of functional and structural imaging studies have identified the amygdala, the insula, the ACC, and regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) as key correlates of alexithymia in the brain (van der Velde et al., 2013; Xu et al., 2018).

Why do I have alexithymia? ›

Alexithymia is often associated with trauma and neglect from a young age, Geoff Bird explains. Twin studies have suggested a genetic component, too. And it's also linked to certain types of brain damage, particularly to the insula, the region that receives interoceptive signals.

How do you live with alexithymia? ›

Treatments for Alexithymia

Don't punish, shame or mock their emotional unresponsiveness. Instead, practice patience. Consider explaining your needs in briefer terms, “I'm feeling tired, I don't want to cook. Let's get take-out for dinner.” Or helping them label emotions, “You look angry.

How can I feel my emotions again? ›

To start getting more immediate relief from emotional numbness, you can also try several treatment options:
  1. Make an appointment with a mental health professional. A mental health professional can offer coping techniques to help you regain your feelings. ...
  2. Rely on your support system. ...
  3. Exercise. ...
  4. Get plenty of sleep.

Why can't I explain how I feel? ›

Alexithymia is when an individual has difficulty identifying, describing, and expressing emotions. This term was coined by Peter Sifneos in 1972, and it comes from the roots of Greek words that literally mean, “lack of words for emotion.”

How does alexithymia develop? ›

Several subsequent studies suggested that alexithymia might develop in response to overwhelming stress to avoid experiencing agonizing and unbearable emotions[97,98]. During the previous two decades, this “state or trait” issue has been assessed in several studies discussed in the next section.

Can alexithymia be self diagnosed? ›

The Online Alexithymia Questionnaire (OAQ-G2) is a self-administered questionnaire to measure difficulty in identifying and describing emotions and feelings, and distinguishing between the accompanying bodily sensations.

Are there levels of alexithymia? ›

There are three subscales as follows: Difficulty in Identifying Feelings (TAS-1), Difficulty in Describing Feelings (TAS-2), and Externally Oriented Thinking (TAS-3). It is considered that the higher the total score, the more the alexithymic level.

Can alexithymia be reversed? ›

Conclusions: Alexithymia and associated high disease burden may be reversible in patients with effective treatment of psoriasis. Proactive recognition of patients who are unable to identify and express their feelings is important.

How do you get diagnosed with alexithymia? ›

Several questionnaires are used to help patients and therapists identify Alexithymia. The most popular among them is the Toronto Alexithymia Scale 20 (TAS-20, Bagby, Parker & Taylor, 1994) that assesses Alexithymia in adults. There is also a version that can be administered to children.

How many types of alexithymia are there? ›

It is thought that there are two distinct types of alexithymia: primary (or trait) alexithymia and secondary (or state) alexithymia.

What is alexithymic personality traits? ›

Alexithymia is a personality trait in which an individual experiences problems in identifying their own feelings, describing them to others, showing external-oriented cognitive style and little ability for introspection.

Can alexithymia people love? ›

Can alexithymic people feel love? People with alexithymia can feel love when it's strong enough. They just can't describe or express it in a way that provides others with emotional validation. Instead, they may express their love through action, rather than words or affection.

Can a person with alexithymia cry? ›

Some alexithymic individuals may appear to contradict the above-mentioned characteristics because they can experience chronic dysphoria or manifest outbursts of crying or rage.

Does alexithymia affect memory? ›

Alexithymia is a personality trait characterised by difficulties identifying feelings (DIF), describing feelings (DDF), and externally oriented thinking (EOT). Alexithymia has been associated with poorer memory, at least for emotive materials, and recently, with executive and neural dysfunction.

Is alexithymia a neurological? ›

Results: Alexithymia seems to be a common feature of neurological disease, with most evidence available for patients with traumatic brain injury, stroke, and epilepsy.

What are the effects of alexithymia on the brain? ›

Individuals with alexithymia may work on the IGT impulsively rather than by using emotion-based signals. This IGT study suggests that individuals with alexithymia may be unable to use feelings to guide their behavior appropriately, in addition to being unable to recognize emotions, which supports previous findings.

Is alexithymia a disability? ›

Alexithymia has been closely associated with a variety of mental health and somatic problems. However, the construct of alexithymia has not been considered in respect to people with learning disabilities.

Can a person regain feelings? ›

It is possible to rekindle feelings of love with someone who has been distant. Even though you can't force anyone's feelings for you, you can take steps to improve yourself and the relationship. Focus on who you are and being your best self. Spend time together and be thoughtful and kind.

What is a person without emotions called? ›

Apathetic means uncaring. It's an adjective form of apathy—the state of not caring. It can also mean the absence or suppression of emotion or passion. Apathetic is especially used to describe people with a lack of interest or concern about things, especially those that others find important or exciting.

How does alexithymia affect relationships? ›

The effect on relationships

Alexithymia is linked with poor quality marital relations and high rates of divorce, with partners typically becoming angry, sad, lonely, and desperate when continually denied emotional validation and support.

What is person with no empathy called? ›

Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow affect, glibness, manipulation and callousness. Previous research indicates that the rate of psychopathy in prisons is around 23%, greater than the average population which is around 1%.

Is alexithymia a trauma response? ›

Traumatization has often been investigated as an environmental factor for alexithymia. To date, traumatization, occurring both in childhood and in adulthood, has been identified as the most important known risk factor for developing alexithymia.

Does anxiety cause alexithymia? ›

Alexithymia may result from the difficulty associated with expressing emotions caused by anxiety disorders. Undergoing treatment for anxiety disorders may contribute to reduced exacerbation of urticaria.

Can people with alexithymia have empathy? ›

In the multivariate analysis, highly alexithymic individuals appeared to report subjective deficits in emotion recognition and regulation as well as increased impulsivity; however, their empathy skills were intact, and even the proneness to experiencing empathic distress with others' suffering was increased among ...

What part of the brain causes alexithymia? ›

Meta-analyses of functional and structural imaging studies have identified the amygdala, the insula, the ACC, and regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) as key correlates of alexithymia in the brain (van der Velde et al., 2013; Xu et al., 2018).

What are alexithymic personality traits? ›

Alexithymia, or “no words for feelings”, is a personality trait characterized by difficulties in emotion regulation, difficulties in identifying, describing and communicating feelings, difficulties in differentiating feelings from bodily sensations and diminished affect-related fantasy [1], [2].

What are the stages of alexithymia? ›

There are three subscales as follows: Difficulty in Identifying Feelings (TAS-1), Difficulty in Describing Feelings (TAS-2), and Externally Oriented Thinking (TAS-3). It is considered that the higher the total score, the more the alexithymic level.

What are the 2 types of alexithymia? ›

It is thought that there are two distinct types of alexithymia: primary (or trait) alexithymia and secondary (or state) alexithymia.


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