Alexithymia, Difficulty Identifying and Expressing Emotions


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Alexithymia, affect the deficit, is a difficulty in identifying, differentiating, and expressing one’s emotions, or sometimes those of others. Find out more about this pathology…

Sifneos, in 1972, defined alexithymia as a deficit of effect. Etymologically, alexithymia can be broken down as follows: a which means “to deprive”, lexis which means “action of speaking”, and finally thymos which represents the soul. Sifneos further wrote: “a poor fantasy life resulting in a form of utilitarian thought, a tendency to use an action to avoid conflicts and stressful situations, a marked restriction in the expression of emotions and particularly a difficulty in finding the right ones. Words to describe his feelings”.

Alexithymia explained

This pathology is therefore defined by the inability to link bodily expressions with words, images, ideas, or representations. We can conceptualize this notion around 4 axes:

A deficit in the recognition or identification of the emotional component;

The poverty of imaginary life (their dreams are often factual);

A pragmatic and outward-looking cognition;

An inability to verbalize the emotional component (name it for example).

Sifneos distinguished two types of alexithymia: a primary type which could be of neurological origin and a secondary type which would follow a devastating traumatic experience undergone by the child at a preverbal age. About 15% of the population is said to suffer from it today. This multifactorial phenomenon can be understood by neurobiology, phenomenology, cognitive, behavioral, or psychoanalytic sciences.

So the alexithymia never consult the psychologist?

Of course, it does, but her request is not about listening to her emotions. It will concern the consequence of this lack of listening. An addiction, eating disorder or somatization, or other physical repercussions, sometimes very annoying, for which he may need to consult a doctor or a psychologist.

The repercussions on physical or psychological well-being are far from minimalist. These people are not in demand around their emotions because they seek to avoid them, but their complaints signify this lack of adequacy. He can also come to see a sophrologist to learn how to manage his stress or to work on his self-confidence where “narrow and contained” emotions are there waiting to be discovered.

The consequences of this pathology are therefore many and disabling for those who experience it.

Can we say the person suffers from it?

The cleavage that is eventually established does not allow him to say that he suffers from it but to identify his lack because of his lack of connection in daily situations, especially relational ones. Establishing links with others is a difficult thing when the patient cannot understand what his interlocutors may experience.

When situations are confrontational, there may be a tendency to avoid or run away from situations. Sometimes, when he can’t, he may burst into tears or explode with anger, which are the only emotional manifestations that his brain can allow him to experience. They cannot introspect on their effective life, which can make it superficial in its exchanges, especially with us, professionals of the human being.

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