The Language of Emotions: Understanding What Is Alexithymia

We live in a world that is almost always in the active mode. Simply put, we are continuously bombarded with stimuli that are directed to make us feel joy, anger, fear, love, hate, and a plethora of other emotions. From work, relationships, movies, news reports, social media, and even the weather – your everyday life is full of different forms of stimulation that inspire you as a human being to have an emotional response.

But what if the channel via which you understand and express these emotional responses is blocked? What if you have a characteristic personality trait that restricts your ability to feel emotions? 

Sounds difficult, right?

However, this inability to feel emotions is an everyday reality for people with Alexithymia. The language of emotions that comes naturally to us, remains elusive to them leaving an indescribable void in their lives. 

In this post, we are going to dive deeper into what is Alexithymia, its symptoms, causes, and ways to deal with it.


What Is Alexithymia?

The word Alexithymia is derived from the Greek language where it stands for ‘no emotions for words.’ People with Alexithymia have difficulty understanding and identifying their emotions. They constantly rely on outer signals to comprehend the world around them rather than their inner consciousness. 

Simply put, Alexithymia is essentially a form of emotional dysfunction that affects the regular processing of human emotions. This dysfunction makes it difficult for a person to understand what they are feeling and even more difficult to attest a name for that feeling. 

Think of how we constantly apply name tags to our internal states like happiness, doubtfulness, anger, joy, etc. For those with Alexithymia, they have a difficult time understanding and assigning names to their internal states.

Read more: Release Pent-Up Emotions – 3 Emotional Catharsis Techniques

Signs Of Alexithymia

The signs of Alexithymia include the following:

  • drawing a blank on being asked how you feel about something or someone,
  • having difficulty understanding what others are feeling,
  • having difficulty understanding the range of emotions, 
  • avoiding thinking about your emotions,
  • having occasional bursts of intense emotions,
  • avoiding emotional investment in relationships, etc.

Like most personality traits, Alexithymia occurs on a spectrum. Some psychologists even define the ranges of Alexithymia into two types – primary (having symptoms of Alexithymia all the time without relief) and secondary (having symptoms in episodes). 

Causes Of Alexithymia

As infants, all of us are born with the incapability to understand or name our emotions. We learn to develop this skill as we grow up in life by interacting with caregivers, family members, and friends. A school of thought believes Alexithymia arises when during these early stages of development, young children are subjected to unsafe and adverse circumstances that teach them to stay closed off about their emotions.

As per a study by Claire Williams, people with brain injuries are six times more likely to display signs of Alexithymia. Similarly, studies have also found veterans with PTSD showing signs of Alexithymia. However, a concrete reason for the development of the trait is yet to be found.

Read more: How To Control Your Emotions And Feelings? 

Is Alexithymia A Mental Disorder?

Alexithymia is not a diagnosable mental health condition and is studied as a personality trait currently. However, it is linked with conditions like:

  • post-partum depression,
  • autism spectrum disorder,
  • Alzheimer’s disease,
  • multiple sclerosis,
  • Parkinson’s disease, and
  • epilepsy.

Ways To Deal

If you or someone you love have been dealing with Alexithymia, here are some helpful tips to deal with it:

1. Connect your inner feelings to physical sensations – Try attaching and understanding your internal states with the physical signs that accompany them. This will make the process a lot easier.

2. Join therapy – Therapy is a powerful tool for those dealing with Alexithymia. It can help build and strengthen the understanding of your emotions and feelings. 

3. Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness or the practice of being aware of your present self and surroundings can go a long way in developing emotional awareness. 


Alexithymia is a personality trait defined by the inability to understand and name one’s emotions. It can significantly hamper a person’s life and devoid them of the ability to feel genuine emotions. Therapy and mindfulness can go a long way in building emotional awareness.

Access to therapy is now easier than ever with the advent of online therapy platforms. To know more about accessible online therapy platforms, click here.

To learn about mental health daily, subscribe to Your Mental Health Pal.

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *