Alexithymia and Autism

Alexithymia is a condition where the sufferer has no words for there feelings or emotions. This is a direct translation from Greek. It is a relatively recent term having only been coined in 1973. It has been found that it often occurs with other mental issues. For instance 85% of people with an ASD or autism spectrum disorder also have this. It is responsible for them being cold and distant frequently as they just don’t understand what is happening.

Therefore, they shy away from that which they do not know. This causes great problems in relationships as your either dependent, dominant or aloof. I am all 3 because I have noticed all of these traits. I’ve seen the lack of imagination and also a lack of fantasies or dreams that are not fact based like doing a specific task. A person with alexithymia will also struggle to tell the difference between feelings and states of emotional arousal in the body. The condition is stimulus bound and it has an externally oriented cognitive style ie something will make me talk but it won’t be a talk, it will be a lecture aka info dump. I also lack the high emotional quotient EQ that a non autistic has. This makes me seem unemotional or unempathic when I haven’t recognised how that particular person displays that emotion.

There are so many variables which are frequently not acknowledged but can be picked up on whether you are aware of this or not. I think a lot of problems stem from unconsciously knowing something but not actually being able to put that thoughts into words so you seem unsympathetic. Being unable to verbalise your feelings is a common problem I have. I often make up words to compensate for this lack in an attempt to explain myself but this creativity often doesn’t go down well.

I was also reading this morning about the smile is often not an indication of happiness. Many facial expression are complex and indicate a variety of moods all at once so to ask an autistic what is the expression displayed on a face is a more nuanced task then you would at first think. No wonder we struggle when you have tears of joy and happiness as well as many other conflicting states.

This could all be another reason for my inability to connect to others as we are all social creatures that like to talk about our emotional health to our closest friends. They have found however that the values of your culture strongly influence the prevalence of alexithymia. Since all children start off being unable to express themselves as well the values of your family are also a major contributor. This will be why then as in my family we never had conversations about our feelings and I denied I even had them until I couldn’t contain them any longer. I thought of myself as a machine since I acted like one, talked like one so I might as well be one.

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