More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder

Alexithymia is a manifestation of a deficit in emotional cognition. People with this problem are mostly unaware of their feelings, or don't know what they signify, and hence they rarely talk about their emotions or their emotional preferences; they operate in a very functional manner and rarely use imagination to focus their drives and motivations. Alexithymia refers to this distinctive cluster of characteristics.

Alexithymics have been described as human robots, or emotional illiterates. They score very low on measures of emotional intelligence and are likely to fare rather poorly in life, whatever their intellectual abilities. Their interpersonal relationships are frequently hampered by poor emotional communication. Many also suffer chronic medical problems, particularly psychosomatic or somatoform illnesses.

Although alexithymia is a clinical construct, it does not constitute a diagnostic illness in its own right. It is a clinical feature associated with a range of medical diagnoses, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa or Asperger's Syndrome. There is, however, a strong case for construing it (or more properly the associated psychological deficit) as an independent condition or cognitive-affective dysfunction. It is arguably inappropriate to say that alexithymics have a disorder or disability, although their inability to interpret their own emotional signals may have profoundly disruptive effect on their personal lives.

See also The Alexithymia FAQ.
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