Let’s talk alexithymia

The official awareness ribbon for alexithymia, dark grey/gray

Alexithymia (pronounced: alex-ih-thigh-ma) is estimated to affect less than 10% of the population. Officially it’s known as the deficiency that means the person with this has the inability to identify and express or describe their own feelings on a "genuine" level (describing emotions in detail might feel like a "foreign concept" to them).

Below are some quick facts about it and anecdotal remarks:

  • Common symptoms involve: lack of empathy towards mass media characters (TV shows, movies, comic books, books, video games, etc), "creative" or "imaginative" tasks might be particularly difficult (creative writing, visual art, prefromance art, etc), have a difficult time distinguishing between emotions and bodily sensations, and see things from an extreme logical point of view (for example if a friend asked them for breakup advice, they might ask the friend how much money was invested into the relationship rather than addressing the feelings involved)
  • Some people report dissociative disorders as a co-morbid condition (derealization, depersonalization, etc.), as well as autism, PTSD, and eating disorders
  • Some people report having a great difficulty understanding the "emotional" side to artistic projects (for example, for an abstract painting, a person with alexithymia might say "a jagged line means anger normally, but I have no idea or understand why the author was really FEELING angry")
  • Their tendency to describe things from a purely logical / without feeling point of view often leads to problems with all types of relationships (platonic, family, romantic, etc), often being called "heartless"
  • There’s a spectrum to this deficiency. Some people with alexithymia for example might have an easy time empathizing with mass media characters but trouble really "feeling/describing" their own feelings
  • Many have reported "its the small gestures that really matter in relationships for me. I might squeeze my partners hand as a way of saying I love them, rather than do some big grand gesture to show I love them"
  • One way many with alexithymia have described their condition is "feeling feelings is a scary thought, I don’t feel comfortable really analyzing why I feel certain ways towards things"
  • Some have reported abstract artwork as particularly difficult to understand (such as abstract expressionism, an art movement known for its complex emotions from its artists)
  • Theres 2 known types of Alexithymia: "primary alexithymia" which is chronic alexithymia, and "secondary alexithymia" which typically only occurs after a stressful event and goes away on its own

I’m a queer adopted healthcare worker who writers in their spare time. I have a MPH degree.

I’m a queer adopted healthcare worker who writers in their spare time. I have a MPH degree.