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The term alexithymia was coined in 1973 by psychotherapist Peter Emanuel Sifneos to describe patients with psychosomatic illnesses who had several symptoms in common: they had marked difficulties in identifying their feelings, finding words to describe them, and distinguishing feelings from bodily sensations. They also had little imagination, expressed in a lack of imagination, a style of thinking that focused on external events, and a striking avoidance of focusing on internal experiences.

Sifneos introduced the word “alexithymia” [from Greek. a (no) – lexis (words) – thymos (emotion); the literal meaning of “no words for emotions”] to describe “this specific difficulty, which is most likely due to a combination of neurophysiological and psychological defects rather than purely psychological ones”.

At the same time, some studies support the idea that alexithymia can also be a reaction of the state to various mental and physical conditions. Longitudinal studies have examined the stability of alexithymia in the context of different levels of stress.

However, this does not mean that everyone with these diseases has problems with expressing and identifying emotions. Instead, they may not have such strong emotions, but they may have difficulty feeling empathy.

There is a possibility that it may be genetic.

Link to autism

The symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are varied, but there are still some stereotypes associated with the condition. One of the main stereotypes is the lack of empathy, which is largely debunked.

At the same time, some studies show that up to half of people with autism also experience alexithymia. In other words, it is alexithymia that causes a lack of empathy, not autism itself.

Emotions and depression

Alexithymia is also possible in depression. Studies show that 32 to 51% of people with depressive disorders also have alexithymia.

Possible trauma

In addition, this condition has been reported in people who have been traumatized, especially in early childhood. Trauma and neglect at this stage can cause changes in the brain that can make it difficult to feel and identify emotions later in life.

Alexithymia is diagnosed by a mental health professionalist.