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theexternvoid
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30 Nov 2010, 12:36 pm

Alexithymia refers to an inability or poor ability to understand and describe emotions. This is officially considered a personality trait, not its own disorder, and according to Wikipedia, alexithymia is very common with aspies (and probably other autisms).

Wikipedia says that a person with alexithymia could describe emotions but would likely do so very crudely. I have trouble picturing this. I'd love to see people familiar with this post examples of how an alexithymiac vs. a typical person would describe the same emotional experience to help illustrate the difference.



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30 Nov 2010, 3:05 pm

Well, I'll throw in. I think there's quite a range of inability to notice and describe emotions. Often when I talk to an alexithymia sufferer, they can't even get beyond knowing that there is an emotional sensation present. Sometimes they don't even know that emotions are present.

I guess a normal person can say something like, oh I feel really frustrated because Dave did blah blah blah.

An alexithymia sufferer might just say, I feel bad and I don't know why. Or they might be behaving in an emotionally affected way, but being unaware, and unable to say that they are feeling .

I suspect that some people with alexithymia just completely ignore their emotional life, as it's very difficult to grapple with. It can become a kind of shadow operating in the dark, making us feel bad and we not knowing why.

I once claimed to my therapist and group that I didn't have emotions. They still bring that up.


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melissa17b
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30 Nov 2010, 6:16 pm

Moog, this is a pretty good description of what it is like with alexithymia. To me, the most striking aspect is that I am not aware of most emotions in real time; at best there is only a general "positive" or "negative" feeling. Actual recognition of emotions, to a point where I can even begin to articulate them, is delayed. Sometimes the delay is only a few minutes; hours is more common; but it is not all that unusual for the delay to be much longer - months, years, or even decades. Frequently a triggered recollection of an event or situation (in exquisite detail, of course) will illuminate the emotions experienced at the time far more clearly and vividly than at the actual time the incident first occurred.



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30 Nov 2010, 7:57 pm

My daughter has this. If something happens such as she sees me crying, or if something bad happens, or if she gets really happy/excited about something, after a few moments she will say "I don't feel good". Even when she is tired, instead of realizing she is tired she says "I don't feel good". It seems every emotion/feeling that she experiences (I do believe she is feeling things) seems foreign to her and elicits a feeling of being uncomfortable for her. She doesn't understand emotions or feelings and other abstract concepts. We had a therapist try and try to get her to match pictures of faces (happy face, sad face, angry face) with the appropriate feeling. Even if she learned that one matched with the other she couldn't understand why or how it related to her. I don't know if this resolves over time. I just have gotten used to it.



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30 Nov 2010, 8:50 pm

I regularly look up definitions of emotions, and have trouble describing my own.



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30 Nov 2010, 9:09 pm

I had more trouble with this when I was younger.

I have more difficulty now pinpointing what in particular I am upset about. I will usually roll out a laundry list of complaints instead of saying something simple and too the point. Verbose to the end unfortunately.



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30 Nov 2010, 9:42 pm

@Moog - you described it very well.

My emotions are so confusing that I don't like to bother with them if I don't have to. I can't describe most of them and if I can it's usually just general concepts like sad or frustrated. i have no idea how to articulate them further than that.

I can have strong emotions but not know why or what they are. It's always been this way. I feel like there is very little dimension to my emotions. Usually I feel emotionally muted with the exception of anxiety. It took me a long time to learn what that was and that I have it in my mind almost all the time.



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30 Nov 2010, 9:48 pm

Mama_to_Grace wrote:
If something happens such as she sees me crying, or if something bad happens, or if she gets really happy/excited about something, after a few moments she will say "I don't feel good".

That's interesting. I can remember saying those exact words when I was a kid and my mother playing a guessing game as to what was wrong.

I do not know if I have this, and I am unaware of how "normal" people feel. XD But I definitely have that delay that Melissa mentioned. Sometimes it seems like I have to look at a situation objectively, while I'm not in it, to understand how I felt. There are plenty of times when I am quite irritable and I'm not really aware of what it is that's bothering me. There have even been times when I'd start crying and be completely baffled as to why. I guess it sounds like I do have it? XD



Baratos
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30 Nov 2010, 9:55 pm

I can't feel anything at all. I depend on how I am physically to figure out what my emotions are.



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01 Dec 2010, 2:13 am

To me emotions are the complex movements of a person's face when they are talking about everyday things. I saw incredible happiness in my face in pictures of myself as a toddler, In later pictures I had the blank stare, eventually the fake smile, and then the mimicking laugh. I know I have geniunely laughed and cried in my life, but can't remember what it felt like.

I also know that every experience, person, animal, and inanimate object used to have a unique feeling to it that felt good, extremely good, sometimes disturbing and sometimes overwhelming. I'm not sure if it was emotion, but it did feel like a wonderful connective feeling. I felt it for 23 years and know I was lucky to have it.

Eventually it felt like the world and people in it were attacking me with light, sound, smell and touch. The only way I could deal with it was through exercise and creating music on a piano.

When I told this to my diagnosing psychiatrist, he asked me if my music was happy or sad. I couldn't tell him and he turned to his assistant who was training, and with a spark in his eye said hum, alexithymia, this is unusual, we see it in people with Aspergers. I asked my wife what my music sounded like and she said "a tortured soul". Her, brother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, said it sounded like a sad ghost wandering the earth, not knowing he was dead. Once you have felt fully alive; I guess that is a pretty good description of what it is like to have alexithymia.



ParadoxalParadigm
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01 Dec 2010, 3:57 am

I actually did a public-speaking report on alexithymia when I was sophomore or junior in high school in my health class. I found out about it through my own research, and when the opportunity came up, I did the report. I thought it was so intriguing because, at times, I thought that I exhibited many of the symptoms. I thought, "Oh, okay, am I this...?"

It was almost a passive cry for help that I actually talked to my whole class and teacher about the subject, but alas, no one 'read in between the lines.'



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01 Dec 2010, 4:08 am

I think I must have this problem but I can't really explain why.

umm. on the weekend just passed I had a talk with my friend whom I no longer understood whether was my partner or not anymore. we talked and i really felt like we could just as easily be together or separated. I just didn't know what was happening. so I got clarity that we were separated but still good friends. at the time struggled to say how I felt. then later that night I start crying and I tell him I don't know why. talk about confusion!! ! then I see my sister who has all these emotions about her recent breakup and meanwhile I'm like hang on a minute maybe I just broke up or did I? what does this mean? maybe that's why I'm feeling like crying?

but another example would be when I was sick. I remember being in a really bad way - vomitting and so weak and floppy and hardly able to hold myself up just to vomit etc.- and I would just say 'I don't feel well" and everyone would laugh but with compassion of course.



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01 Dec 2010, 5:47 am

Quote:
umm. on the weekend just passed I had a talk with my friend whom I no longer understood whether was my partner or not anymore. we talked and i really felt like we could just as easily be together or separated. I just didn't know what was happening. so I got clarity that we were separated but still good friends. at the time struggled to say how I felt. then later that night I start crying and I tell him I don't know why. talk about confusion!! ! then I see my sister who has all these emotions about her recent breakup and meanwhile I'm like hang on a minute maybe I just broke up or did I? what does this mean? maybe that's why I'm feeling like crying?


This is exactly the kind of thing that I experience with relationships (not neccessarily romantic ones). Is this alexithymia? I've always had trouble communicating how I feel, which is at best an annoyance and at worst really damaging to my relationships with people. It's not so much that I have no idea how I am feeling, but often emotions tend to blur together within me and I'm not sure which one I am actually experiencing...for example, often I don't know whether I am sad, or "depressed", or angry, or frustrated, especially as I tend to react to all of these things in the same way. I find it really hard to separate anger from sadness; is this a pretty common thing amongst everyone (NTs included) or not? I don't really know as I have always been like this and I don't have anything to compare myself to. I think that most of my understanding of emotions comes from books and I don't really feel "connected" to them a lot of the time. Like, I know all the labels, and I've read descriptions of how they are supposed to feel and how they commonly manifest themselves, but I often have difficulty applying these theories to myself so that I can explain how I am feeling. Also, I have moments where I feel pretty down and I don't really know why... but then again, I have depression so isn't that common for somebody with depression?


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Moog
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02 Dec 2010, 11:20 am

I'd like to ask the alexithymics here whether they also experience muted awareness of pure physical, bodily states; for example; knowing when you are in physical pain or discomfort, hungry/thirsty, tired, need to use toilet etc.

I'm wondering if there's a term for this. I figure at least some of us are very bodily unaware, as well as emotionally unaware. I'm thinking clumsiness and things like dyspraxia are a symptom of this 'distance' or lack of connectivity between brain and body.


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happymusic
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02 Dec 2010, 12:14 pm

Moog wrote:
I'd like to ask the alexithymics here whether they also experience muted awareness of pure physical, bodily states; for example; knowing when you are in physical pain or discomfort, hungry/thirsty, tired, need to use toilet etc.

I'm wondering if there's a term for this. I figure at least some of us are very bodily unaware, as well as emotionally unaware. I'm thinking clumsiness and things like dyspraxia are a symptom of this 'distance' or lack of connectivity between brain and body.


Interesting. I hadn't made the connection. When I'm hungry it seems like it comes on very suddenly and that it's already very strong. I'll feel ok one moment and then the next I'm so hungry that I might get sick if I don't eat right away. I also don't notice heat and cold the same way others do. People will say it's cold or hot and then I have to bring my attention to it (unless it's extreme of course).