Alexithymia: the emotional veil

Alexithymia: the emotional veil


  • 1 What is Alexithymia?
  • 2 Historical Background of Alexithymia
  • 3 Main causes of Alexithymia
  • 4 How to treat Alexithymia?

What is alexithymia?

Alexithymia is a disorder of the personality that consists in the inability to identify and describe one's own emotions and those of others. The main characteristic of Alexithymia consists in a lack of emotional awareness and a poor or even null social and interpersonal attachment. In addition, those who suffer from Alexithymia have difficulty recognizing and understanding the emotions of others.

The main characteristics of Alexithymia are:

  1. Difficulty identifying the different types of emotions and feelings
  2. Limited understanding of what causes these emotions
  3. Difficulty expressing one's feelings
  4. Difficulty recognizing facial cues from others
  5. Limited and / or rigid imagination
  6. Constrained Thinking Style
  7. Hypersensitivity to physical sensations

People suffering from Alexithymia are limited in their ability to experience fantasies or dreams or think in an imaginative way. On the contrary, they present a way of thinking that is very focused on the outside, based on facts and details that they observe directly. People with this disorder are often described by others, including their loved ones, such as cold and distant. Lack skills empathic and have great difficulty understanding and responding to other people's feelings effectively.

This does not mean that a person with Alexithymia can be pleasant and even very intelligent, but he will lack a sense of humor, imagination and his priorities in decision making will be quite unusual or different from those of most people.

Historical background of Alexithymia

Alexithymia was first mentioned in psychology in 1976 and was described as a deficit in emotional awareness. Research suggests that approximately 8% of men and 2% of women experience Alexithymia, either with mild, moderate or severe intensity. Studies also show that Alexithymia has two dimensions: a cognitive dimension, where the individual strives in their thinking to identify, interpret and verbalize feelings, and an affective dimension, which consists in the difficulty of reacting, expressing, feeling and imagining. Emotional experiences

Main causes of Alexithymia

Alexithymia is mainly associated with a series of pre-existing psychological disorders such as autism, depression, schizophrenia and somatomorphic disorders, among others. It is very difficult for those struggling with Alexithymia to coexist with coexisting psychological disorders due to their innate vulnerability to the understanding of themselves and others, which complicates their recovery.

Other cases of Alexithymia are neurological, which means that it is caused by a deficiency in the brain pathways that process emotion. But it has also been seen that some people develop psychological Alexithymia as self-defense measure against a severe emotional stress disorder such as post-traumatic stress or even a terminal illness. Thus, as a defense mechanism, the mind "shuts down" the pathways that process emotions, which leads to a state of complete stoicity devoid of emotions. This type of Alexithymia is generally reversible through psychotherapeutic means, and sometimes with the help of antidepressants.

How to treat Alexithymia?

The first step is to realize if the signs of loss of recognition of emotions have a neurobiological or psychological origin.

Do not punish, embarrass or make fun of the lack of emotional response. Instead, we should practice patience. They can be encouraged to try to explain their needs in brief terms such as: "I feel tired, I don't want to go for a walk, etc." We can also help them label emotions: "I see you angry, is there anything that bothers you? ? "The important thing is to help increase awareness of the triggers or stressors that are surfacing.

If you suffer from Alexithymia, the goal is strengthen your ability to identify and understand feelings. Teaching oneself about the subjective experiences of others will also be very important. Learning emotional awareness can be a very difficult journey. Here are some ways to expand your skills:

  • Read novels: The novels use abundant language to describe feelings, emotions, thoughts and experiences of all kinds. Studies suggest that this is a good way to learn expressive language, develop receptive language and gain greater mastery in the way of describing a personal story or story.
  • To write a diary: Expressive writing can be very useful to enhance the ability to detect emotions. In general, it is recommended to write every day in a diary, describing more than just the events of the day. In the beginning this is very difficult for those who have Alexithymia, but the long-term goal is to expand the range of their observations inside and outside oneself.
  • Psychotherapy treatments that enhance skills: The objective of these therapies is to enhance the development of skills. Treatments such as behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy and interpersonal therapy can help these people to be more attentive to the states of personal feelings, as well as how to better identify emotions in others.
  • Group psychotherapy: The interactive aspect of group therapy can offer these people new ways to explore their own thoughts and feelings, as well as the exchange of meaningful experiences with others. This mode of psychotherapy also deepens the feeling of connection with others.
  • Do theater or go to drama therapy: Performing acting, dance, music or drama therapy classes has been shown to help people with Alexithymia to recognize and externalize their feelings.
  • Hypnosis and relaxation: Hypnosis and guided relaxation techniques help improve emotional understanding through imagination.