Alexithymia

Alexithymia (also called emotional blindness) is a condition where you have challenges identifying and describing emotions in the self. Essentially, alexithymia is a difference in emotion processing.

The alexithymia & autism guide » NeuroClastic

The term was introduced by Peter Emanuel Sifneos in 1972, from the Greek a for lack, lexis for word, and thymos for emotion, meaning lack of words for emotions or simply no words for emotions.[5]

More comprehensively though, alexithymia is defined by:

  1. Difficulty identifying feelings.
  2. Difficulty distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations(interoception) of emotional arousal.
  3. Difficulty describing feelings to other people.
  4. Difficulty identifying facial expressions.
  5. Difficulty identifying/remembering faces. (an extreme form of the latter is prosopagnosia/face blindness)
  6. Difficulty fantasizing.
  7. thinking style focused on external events (often avoiding inner experiences).

You don’t need to experience all or most of these to qualify for alexithymia, however. I will explain later in this post which of the 7 points above we tend to see in autistic people.

The alexithymia & autism guide » NeuroClastic

The three areas where I have difficulty–modulation, discrimination and determination–are actually core traits of alexithymia.

Alexithymia (literally: having no words for emotions) is impairment in identifying and describing emotions. Specifically, it’s characterized by:

  • difficulty identifying feelings
  • difficulty distinguishing between feelings and bodily sensations related to emotional arousal
  • difficulty describing feelings to others
  • impoverished imagination and fantasy life
  • a stimulus-dependent, externally oriented cognitive style

When I look at the list of alexithymic characteristics, I also realize that when I’m emotionally uncomfortable, I’m more likely to have physical complaints. I’ll be feeling frustrated or sad, but  complain that I’m uncomfortably cold or intolerably sleepy. This isn’t a connection I would make on my own, but once I see it described as part of alexithymia–like so much about my autistic self–it suddenly makes perfect sense.

Emotional Dysfunction: Alexithymia and ASD | Musings of an Aspie
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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic parent and retired tech worker. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

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