Alexithymia or Emotions Are Really Complicated

Posted: June 21st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Autism, Personal | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Alexithymia or Emotions Are Really Complicated

As I was reading and digesting information on autism, I stumbled across this blog post on Alexithymia by Cynthia Kim from several years ago. Alexithymia describes the condition in which a person has difficulty identifying and describing emotions. I had a profound reaction to her post. As I tweeted at the time, it never even occurred to me that there might be a name for it.

I hate the simple question, “How do you feel?” I have emotions. Lots of them. Much of the time they stay more or less orderly under the surface. Sometimes they erupt. But if I’m asked to identify and name them? I’m usually stumped. It’s different than the times I lose my words because in these situations I have no problem speaking. I simply have no idea what to say. And I don’t know what to say because I don’t know how I feel. Unfortunately, “I don’t know” isn’t usually considered an acceptable response. So my wife ends up complaining that I’m always “fine” because that’s often one of my stock answers to questions about how I’m feeling.

I also struggle to identify emotions in others. It’s like solving a mystery. For instance, I might notice that my wife seems to be upset, but when I ask she says she’s fine. I’ve learned over the years that I shouldn’t necessarily let it drop there. (And I did have to learn that, since when I answer that way I’m trying to discourage further questioning.) I usually start by trying to figure out if she’s upset at me. So I mentally run through everything I’ve said and done to see if I can identify a way I might have upset her. I also mentally run through what she’s told me about her day to see if something else might have upset her. I’ll try to probe with some (probably awkward) questions. In all honesty, I rarely solve the mystery. Usually, at some point she’ll tell me. When she doesn’t, I’ll often try to figure it out for several days before finally giving up.

Even when I can’t clearly identify them, I’ll also often take on the emotions of others around me. It’s difficult to describe how it feels to realize you’re angry for no reason except another person is angry. Or to have that fact pointed out to you by the other person.

In another post, Cynthia Kim discusses and takes an online Alexithymia test. Unsurprisingly, my results indicated high alexithymic traits. It’s not a diagnostic test, of course and has other caveats. Still, as I find a counselor experienced working with autistic adults, it’s definitely on the list of things I want to discuss.

Test Results: 119 Points

Alexithymia: You show high alexithymic traits. If you are interested in Alexithymia we would be happy to have you as a regular visitor on our pages.

Detailed Results

Your result is broken down into various factors to give you some insight into your result.

Category: Difficulty Identifying Feelings: 22 Points <15 – 18>
In this category you show high alexithymic traits.

Category: Difficulty Describing Feelings: 18 Points <10 – 12>
In this category you show high alexithymic traits.

Category: Vicarious Interpretation of Feelings: 9 Points <8 – 9>
In this category you show some alexithymic traits.

Category: Externally-Oriented Thinking: 22 Points <18 – 21>
In this category you show high alexithymic traits.

Category: Restricted Imaginative Processes: 12 Points <18 – 21>
In this category you show no alexithymic traits.

Category: Problematic Interpersonal Relationships: 24 Points <15 – 18>
In this category you show high alexithymic traits.

Category: Sexual Difficulties and Disinterest: 12 Points <10 – 12>
In this category you show some alexithymic traits.

 


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