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.
- 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
- Roedema, T. M., & Simons, R. F. (1999, November 30). Emotion-processing deficit in alexithymia. University of Delaware. Retrieved from http://rsimons.psych.udel.edu/tomrev.htm
Last Updated: 08-4-2015
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nessa3April 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 ?
RasekMay 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.
LoveAugust 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.
PeteApril 7th, 2017 at 4:40 PM
Can you please tell me, how great is the difference between alexithymia and narcissistic personality disorder?
Rosa C.April 1st, 2018 at 3:10 PM
I agree and understand that therapy is a great tool to deal with Alexithymia, but a self discipline can help as well. I am a survivor of a conventional war and a civil war, and as a 60 year old I am still dealing Alexithymia. I am aware of that, so I pay more attention when people are struggling with any kind of concern.
JackApril 7th, 2018 at 7:43 AM
Is it possible for gender dysphoria to cause alexithymia?
Or at least… to be a factor in causing it?
OmarJuly 6th, 2018 at 1:14 PM
Hello my name is Omar and I did a lot of research on alexithymia and I honestly feel this is something I heavily experience every single day of my life. A little background on me is that when I was 7 years old my mom left me out of nowhere and I can’t really fully remember what I was feeling in that moment. I am now 19 years old now and I have a great difficulty in expressing my emotions and knowing what they are when its most needed. It is so difficult to sustain friendships and I get intense loneliness frequently usually occurring at night. I am very insecure and I live in personas and I don’t know who I am. If you read about alexithmia most of if not all the symptoms listed is everything I have. It’s so difficult to get through a day. I was out of school for the entire year. I used to play basketball on a team but that changed. It’s like I want to have deep conversations with people and form great relationships but I just can’t . I don’t know life is so hard rn, I don’t want my life to be like this forever it’s so scary and exhausting. I’ve had therapy, and I’m actively receiving that through in home services and it’s not helping. I feel like I’m numb and frozen and I can’t do anything to help myself. The only things I feel are fear and anger. I have also been on so many different medications such as: All of SSRI medications and a couple antisicotics which scared the hell out of me. None seemed to help, also I’ve been hospitalized a lot. If anyone has feedback in what I should do next please do, it will help a great deal thank you.
catAugust 10th, 2018 at 5:12 AM
i know how you feel, just try to stop caring what people think of you and find friends who understand your struggle. also dont ever think you are dumb because people will treat you like that.
CindyAugust 11th, 2018 at 5:56 PM
I think you just did a great job of expressing your emotions! Do not live in fear of fear. As fear is everywhere everyday. We all have fear. Every single person on this universe has experienced fear. Trust the outcome. Trust that whatever comes is just part of a huge plan to get you where you will be in life one day. Those conversations will come with the right people. I think you just need to surround yourself with others who have interests and goals like yourself. You will find them. Until then trust the process of life. Yes it can be damn hard. Just tell yourself over and over I got this…I can do this. Don’t let the fear take over. You just expressed some deep emotions right now in your writing. Keep a journal…put those thoughts on paper. Get them out. Don’t keep them locked inside…they are building a volcano which I believe is the cause of your anger. Be ok with who you are. For you are not alone…there are many many others like you…and they just wear that happy look face. I wish you the best…because I believe the best is yet to come for you. Thankyou for sharing your story…
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