Alexithymia or emotional illiteracy. Are there people without feelings?


Everyone has feelings and emotions. But not everyone is able to recognize them, understand them and express them correctly. This is what happens to people who suffer from alexithymia or emotional illiteracy, and who as a result of this disorder can seem cold, emotionless, overly practical and rational.

But how to recognize that it is alexithymia? Is alexithymia innate or do we become alexithymic following traumatic events? How to help people who feel these emotional gaps? Is it possible for those suffering from alexithymia to have a romantic relationship? The experts of Guidapsicologi.it explain it to us.

What it means to suffer from alexithymia

All of us, to a greater or lesser extent, have feelings and emotions. Another thing, quite different, is being able to recognize such feelings or emotions, and then understand and express them correctly.

Alexithymia is a pay-off disorder impossible to the person suffering from detect their emotions or feelings and express them verbally. That is, it is the inability to translate emotions into words. This is why these people can often seem cold, emotionless and overly practical and rational. But no it is.

How to recognize if it is alexithymia

We can recognize several symptoms that indicate the presence of this disorder, such as:

  1. People with alexithymia have a distant and cold aspect due to the fact that they show poor communication, both verbal and non-verbal, which makes them little talkative and rigid
  2. They reveal one lack of empathy towards other people, not being able to recognize the emotions of others
  3. They can have impulsive and disproportionate reactions because of this difficulty in identifying their emotions
  4. When we talk to a person suffering from alexithymia, it is usual to note that he is unable to grasp the jokes, the irony or the double entenders. This is due to theinability to use fantasy O think abstract
  5. In the interpersonal sphere they have few social skills and many difficulty establishing and maintaining emotional bonds
  6. Furthermore, it has been shown that they can show one lack of sexual desire
  7. They are often indecise because of lack of introspection that makes them difficult to identify their motives

There are various levels of this disorder and people are more likely to suffer from it

As in other types of disorders, there are people who will have all the symptoms and there will be cases where those with alexithymia show only a slight difficulty in identifying their emotions.

The appearance of this ailment can be caused by some neurological deficits O adverse situations. Furthermore, another determining factor is l‘absence of sufficient verbal indications regarding the emotions experienced by the person in childhood.

Alexithymia is innate or a consequence of traumatic events

Both conditions exist. We can find cases, called primary alexithymia, which respond to biological causes, such as some neurological deficits, hereditary factors or appearing as a result of illnesses such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s.

Then there is the so-called secondary alexithymia, which occurs when a person has undergone some traumatic experience over the course of his life, he suffers from it as part of a post-traumatic stress disorder. Furthermore, secondary alexithymia can also appear in conjunction with other disorders, such as depression, eating disorders and addictions. Likewise, it could be due to a person’s emotional learning disorder.

How to help a person who feels these emotional gaps

The support of the family and the immediate environment it is essential to help these patients, both during therapy and during treatment. As we have already mentioned, people with alexithymia have no shortage of emotions. They feel them, they just have to learn to express and develop them.

This inability to outsource leads to somatization, which is reflected in their physical state, and generates high emotional suffering which they do not know how to define, and which prevents self-regulation. For this it is essential and necessary that they can count on a support.

Having a romantic relationship with alexithymic subjects is possible

Although it can be frustrating at times since, as we have said, alexithymia is a disorder that makes interpersonal relationships extremely difficult, it is possible for those suffering from alexithymia to have a romantic relationship. However, it is possible that while feeling emotions and falling in love, they are not aware of their own feelings and need help with identify them e develop them correctly.

If I realize that I am suffering from alexithymia, what can I do?

In this case, the first thing to do is to turn to one professional psychologist to establish a correct diagnosis. Treatment is based on the cognitive development of emotional awareness. The main goal of the will be to help you recognize and name your emotions, and at the same time provide you with strategies for grading your emotions based on the magnitude of the events, reviewing the style of approach e reaction so far put in place.


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