Alexithymia is an emotion-processing condition that leads to difficulties recognizing or reacting to emotions both in oneself and others, but symptoms of alexithymia are not as pronounced as emotional difficulties associated with conditions such as autism.

What is Alexithymia?

People with alexithymia often have other mental health conditions or developmental delays, particularly autism-spectrum diagnoses. The defining characteristic of alexithymia is difficulty in naming, noticing, or reacting to emotions. This can lead to problems with empathy, and many people with alexithymia struggle in relationships with spouses, friends, and family. People with alexithymia are especially likely to struggle with conflict resolution and avoidance because of their difficulties in recognizing the effects their words and deeds have on others.

Symptoms of alexithymia include:

  • The inability to verbalize one’s own emotions or the emotions of others
  • Limited fantasy life and, among children, little pretend play
  • Difficulty reacting appropriately to other people’s emotions
  • Struggling with empathy

Causes of Alexithymia

Researchers are not sure what causes alexithymia. It is likely that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to alexithymia. Children whose parents have alexithymia are more likely to have it themselves, and children who do not regularly interact with others or learn about feelings may later struggle with alexithymia.

Treatment for Alexithymia

Because alexithymia often co-occurs with other mental health conditions, treatment such as therapy, social skills training, and lifestyle changes that address those conditions can sometimes help the alexithymia as well. People who learn to recognize, describe, and react to emotions may greatly lessen symptoms of alexithymia and experience fewer problems with interpersonal relationships.


  1. Fitzgerald, M. (2004). Overlap Between Alexithymia and Asperger’s Syndrome. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(11), 2134-2135. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.161.11.2134
  2. Roedema, T. M., & Simons, R. F. (1999, November 30). Emotion-processing deficit in alexithymia. University of Delaware. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

  • Leave a Comment
  • nessa3


    April 23rd, 2016 at 3:37 PM

    How do you recover from Alexithimia…when you have so many blocks to allowing emotional vulnerability do to abuse. When every time you have let your guard down, tried to trust, you have been severally wounded? When you feel its better to be numb and safe than to be hurt and betrayed ?

  • Rasek


    May 3rd, 2017 at 2:33 AM

    You keep changeing people in life until you settle with one and no option. you keep changing country and people around you.

  • Love


    August 4th, 2017 at 3:02 PM

    Alexithymia is when you have trouble identifying and describing your feelings as well as others, and struggle with empathy and NPD (Narcissistic personality disorder) is an overinflation of self importance.

  • Pete


    April 7th, 2017 at 4:40 PM

    Can you please tell me, how great is the difference between alexithymia and narcissistic personality disorder?

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