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Are You or Someone You Know Emotionless? It May Be Alexithymia

There's a name for people who have problems expressing they're feelings.

Do you or someone you know finds it difficult to reveal they're emotions? There are many people who have trouble identifying their own feelings and the clinical name for this is "Alexithymia" Pronounced Alex-ee-time-eeya

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Wikipedia defines Alexithymia as:

A term coined by Peter Sifneos in 1973 to describe people who appeared to have deficiencies in understanding, processing, or describing their emotions.

Deficiencies may include:

  • Problems identifying, describing, and working with one's own feelings, often marked by a lack of understanding of the feelings of others;
  • Difficulty distinguishing between feelings and emotional bodily sensations
  • Confusion of physical sensations often associated with emotions
  • Few dreams or fantasies due to restricted imagination
  • Concrete, realistic, logical thinking, often to the exclusion of emotional responses to problems.

People who experience Alexithymia are unable to recognize or describe they're emotions and they sometimes misunderstand or interpret the emotions of others. Questioning usually reveals that an individual are incapable of describing their feelings and may appear to be confused when questioned about the specifics of they're feelings. Clinical experience suggests it is the structural features of dreams more than the ability to recall them that best characterizes alexithymia. Those who have alexithymia have reported having very logical and realistic dreams, about mundane tasks such as eating supper.

Alexithymia is not a mental disorder, but is seen as a trait that differs in severity from person to person. Unfortunately, Alexithymia hasn't been a well publicized issue and most professionals know little or nothing about it. Even so, several articles have been published in medical journals as well as the occasional mention of the hypothesis in science books. Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence and Rita Carter's Mapping the Mind are just two books that mention Alexithymia.

Many individuals who have Alexithymia can sometimes find themselves doing counterproductive non-verbal activities to communicate their feelings. Activities like cutting, breaking things, drinking heavily or involvement in drug use are some of the signs. Learning to recognize feelings to effectively communicate should be the goal for people who experience Alexithymia. In addition, those who experience Alexithymia should discover constructive non-verbal activities such as art or sports to assist them in fulfilling significant experiences in life.

According to Alexithymia FAQ

Alexithymia should not be confused with:


  • Sociopathy (a lack of concern for others)
  • Stoicism (deliberate resistance of emotional impulses)
  • Apathy (a lack of emotional reactivity or motivation)
  • Emotional repression (subconscious but motivated denial of emotion)

If you suspect that you or someone you care about is suffering from Alexithymia, be patient. You can also take a Alexithymia self test»» or read more about Alexithymia.

Tips for those who suffer from Alexithymia.

  • Recognize Alexithymia: Don't ignore it.
  • If you have Alexithymia, negotiate a co-supportive relationship with someone who doesn't have Alexithymia such as a therapist, a friend or a family member.
  • Develop a sense of other people's emotional needs by listening to what they say and what they do.
  • Memorize a collection of suitable feeling responses based on verbal and or physical cues from others. Use them even if they feel false.
  • Take time and patience to learn how to recognize and name your own emotional/feeling states.
  • If you have difficulty doing this on your own, a mental health professional can help.

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