What is alexithymia?

As I continue my profound studies into the nature of the emotion and the mind, I stumble across a condition called alexithymia. It’s a bit hard to find a consistent definition for it; people who have it seem to be out of touch with their own emotions. Wise Geek provides details:

Alexithymia is a maladaptive psychological disorder characterized by the inability to identify and verbally describe emotions and feelings in oneself as well as in others.

People who suffer from alexithymia are limited in their ability to experience fantasies or dreams or to think in an imaginative way. Rather, they portray an externally focused way of thinking, relying on facts and specifics. People with alexithymia are often described by others, including their loved ones, as cold and aloof.

It’s unclear whether they are actually not experiencing the emotions, or are experiencing them but cannot describe them. (It’s also unclear, to my mind, exactly what the difference between those two emotional states would be.)

The theory I’m always putting forth is that emotions are simply physical sensations, often subtle, combined with a kind of intellectualization. For example, “I feel slightly nauseous and have body aches, and I just slept with my neighbor’s wife, therefore I am feeling guilt.” Are alexithymics not feeling the physical sensations? Or are they feeling the sensations, but having difficulty correlating the feeling with the intellectualization? (“I feel slightly nauseous and have body aches. On an unrelated topic, I also just slept with my neighbor’s wife.”)

Wise geek continues its definition noting that alexithymics can have emotional physical sensations, but they are abnormal.

In the past, alexithymia was classified and limited to psychosomatic disorders, which are disorders that involve physical symptoms of the body that are created or exacerbated by the mind. For example, someone who is very angry but does not express his or her anger may develop a stomachache. Alexithymia as a psychosomatic disorder manifests in the form of bodily complaints and symptoms of an individual who can not effectively express emotion.

The comments section on the page is filled with testimonials from various people who have such symptoms, or know people who have. This one stands out to me.

My older sister told me today she has alexithymia. I had no idea what it was, but she described it in one sentence, “i can’t explain my emotions and don’t really know what it’s like to feel.”
I sat there with my mouth wide open and had no idea what to say. I then had to run to my room and began to cry. Not only does alexithymia affect my sister but me as well. That one sentence put me into a state of shock.

I have always been such a passive person. Ever since i was younger i didn’t know what it felt to be happy. To this day i still don’t, or at least i dont think i do. If i was feeling hurt at a young age, i would not talk for hours or days on end, because i simply didn’t know how to deal with it.

I struggle to make an emotional connection to anyone, and have none whatsoever with my dad, mum or brothers and sisters.

Recently i was in my first relationship, where my boyfriend would constantly complain about how i was so “emotionally distant” and he would be the one showing all the affection. I would try to show him affection too, but only how i had learnt it was “supposed” to be done, not because it felt right.

I’ve tried to explain to close friends how i don’t “feel here” or feel numb, but I’m so lost for words i end up confusing myself and dismissing the idea.

If something huge happens in my life, i won’t express any emotions until maybe weeks later. Or sometimes i will just let it all slide.

Most of the time i just don’t feel like I’m here simply. I’ve wanted to see a therapist to discuss it but wouldn’t know where to begin. Nothing is wrong in my life, and i wouldn’t know how to explain how i feel.

I could go on and on and on, but after researching this for hours on end today, it describes me to a tee. I’m only 18 and have been like this since i can remember.

2 Responses to “What is alexithymia?”

  1. John Saleeby

    Well, I don’t have that shit and I say that people who do SUCK!

    I think my article in the new issue RULES!

    Wil Forbis is full of SHIT!

    How’s that for EMOTIONS!?

    JOHN SALEEBY #1!!!

  2. Wil

    I sense a lot of repression within you John.