What is Alexithymia?
In the recent era, a large number of people face emotional problems which cause depression and anxiety and lead towards other psychological problems. People although face emotional problems but they cannot understand it as a problem because they are not aware of it. The emotional problem could be like a person may not have the ability to express his aggression, difficulty in identifying different feelings, limited understanding of the things or events which cause feelings, limited imagination.
Signs of alexithymia
Attributes of people who show signs of alexithymia include:
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Difficulty finding the correct words to describe what they are feeling
- Difficulty distinguishing feelings from their associated body sensations
- Restricted imagination–having few fantasies and very realistic dreams
- Focused mostly on the external world and factual information
- Highly logical thinking
- Low levels of empathy (K. Laura, 2010)
Alexithymia is a relatively a term which means the inability to express, feel emotions or feelings with words. The term was used by Dr Peter Sifneos for the first time; it is used to describe a situation where an individual is incapable to put his feelings and emotions into words. Nemiah, Freiberger, and sifneos (1977) define the alexithymia as follows: the difficulty in identifying and describing personal feeling; difficulty in the distinction between thoughts and physical manner of emotional stimulation; lack of fantasy and extremely defected cognitive style (Nemiah, Freiberger, & sifneos, 1977).
Alexithymia is a deficit in an individual’s ability to recognize, label, and depict his or her emotional status. While sometimes people with alexithymia do have disturbing responses and are often conscious about their emotional reaction, they feel difficulty in describing the emotion they are having. Some people with alexithymia experience emotional responses as bodily feelings or bodily troubles, such as pain or fatigue (Salters, 2009).
Alexithymia might also originate with early emotional neglect that is too mild to cause psychological disorders, nevertheless is enough to strain the flow and interpretation of feelings for developing alexithymia. Sabine Aust examined the role of early attachment and emotional regulation by using questionnaires, early life stress, emotional functioning, as well as alexithymia was assessed. But their study also showed some with alexithymia lack histories of emotional neglect. Furthermore, they confirmed alexithymic people with histories of emotional neglect could also be psychologically and physically healthy (Sabine Aust,2012).
In Berlin Alexithymia Conference 2010, it was told that there are many causes, and while genetic factors seem to be implicated, alexithymia may also stem from being raised in an emotionally deprived family or in an excessively regimented fashion, or from a traumatic experience.
If a patient has no story to tell a clinician, even at a time when emotions are stirred high enough to prompt an ER visit, it seems a good bet that person has no story to tell themselves either. Having no story almost certainly implies an impaired identity: Who we know ourselves to depend heavily on the story we tell ourselves about who we are. The inability to express emotions verbally implies a deficient interior life. Inevitably, those who cannot match words to feelings will live out that deficit in their contacts with others as well. To have no words for one’s inner experience is to live marginally, for oneself and for others ( René J. Muller,2000).
Alexithymia could be treated by
- Reading novels
- The expressive art
- Skill-based psychotherapy
- Group therapy
- Hypnosis and relaxation therapy
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