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The Emotional Bankruptcy of Alexithymia

Article #23 • Written by Alan Bellows

Few people are familiar with the condition known as alexithymia, yet it is not so rare a thing. Alexithymia is condition where a person seems devoid of emotion because they are functionally unaware of their emotions. By extension, alexithymics are also unable to appreciate the emotional motivation of others, and generally find emotions of others to be perplexing and irrational. Such a person may be pleasant and highly intelligent, but will be humorless, unimaginative, and have some unusual priorities in decision-making.

Emotions have evolved as the mind's way of shooting from the hip when gauging priorities, in order to protect our own interests. Something that triggers little or no emotion is typically an unimportant event which requires little attention, while something that causes high emotions is just the opposite. Fear, anger, happiness, confusion... these and other emotions all originate as signals from the subconscious to separate the trivial from the important, and they make highly useful logical shortcuts in decision-making. When stripped of this ability, the mind loses much of its effectiveness in prioritizing, causing the relevant and irrelevant to be given incorrect relative importance. For this reason, persons with alexithymia tend to be highly indecisive and inconsiderate.

As a side effect of their condition, alexithymics have impaired senses of imagination and creativity. The mind usually combines emotional information with rational when imagining scenarios, but the alexithymics' will be missing any emotional content.

Some cases of alexithymia are neurological, meaning that it is caused by a deficiency in the brain pathways that process emotion. Others develop psychological alexithymia as a self-defense measure against the emotionally indigestible, such as terminal illness, or post-traumatic stress disorder. As a coping mechanism, the mind simply shuts down the pathways that process emotions, resulting in a stoic, emotionless state. This type of alexithymia is usually reversible through psychotherapeutic means, and sometimes with the help of anti-depressants.

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 04 October 2005. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

Article design by Alan Bellows.
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80 Comments
Dennbert
Posted 02 December 2005 at 04:00 pm

There is actually an entire planet of alexithymics... it's called Vulcan.
Interesting.


Triton
Posted 10 February 2006 at 06:30 am

This is a good simple description of Alexithymia. For those wanting more detailed info about alexithymia there is a forum at: http://groups.msn.com/ALEXITHYMIAEXCHANGE


Dementia
Posted 26 March 2006 at 02:42 pm

I know two guys named Alex, and they're both totally like this. Weird coincidence.


MM
Posted 07 April 2006 at 03:21 pm

I spent five years with this condition, and it is worse than hell. At the same time, it is NOT hell, because you really don't care. Yeah, that might sound laughable, but when you get right down to it, wouldn't most people agree that not caring - at all! - is worse than the deepest sadness or hatred? Well, now I have absolutetly no doubt about that whatsoever - and that is an emotional reaction! :-) With this condition - and neither do I have any doubt about its existence - you don't live, you just exist. You don't feel, you just function. It's like being in a coma in the sense that, the second you snap out of it, you can no longer imagine what it was like being in it. It's totally impossible for living, feeling people - myself included - to imagine this kind of existence. I just know it was awful. I snapped out of it one night while sitting around playing a boring computer game (Minesweeper), instead of celebrating Christmas.

P.S. If there are any others out there who want to know how I recovered, feel free to ask, but it won't help you much.


801210
Posted 22 April 2006 at 08:08 pm

my whole childhood was like this...it's hard to explain it's horrible not knowing happiness but at the same time you can't feel hatred or pain. You're just indifferent all the time and you don't care about anything, but not in a bad way yet not in a good way. you basically become neutral...it's weird.


Melon Head
Posted 29 May 2006 at 09:33 am

I CAN imagine what it would be like because I am quite the opposite. It must be horrible. I really appreciate being able to enjoy the beauty of a summer meadow, the communion of friends and relatives and even the elation that comes from surmounting a tough obstacle. Being without emotions would be like not being able to enjoy the taste of your food or to be able to use your other senses (ahhh! sweet music)

One may as well be an android like "Data".


Dido
Posted 22 July 2006 at 11:51 pm

Can someone explain to me if I'm Alexythimic? I try to always be reasonable rather than let my emotions control me. When people die I figure "People die all the time, so move one quickly" I am very logical and love math. Yet I still feel happiness and sadness. I long for a girlfriend to love.

Can someone please help me. I mean I'm scared here.


SkiCaradhras
Posted 23 July 2006 at 12:12 am

Dido, to me it sounds like you are not Alexythimic, especially because being scared of having it is a strong emotion. It's good to be able to be reasonable and logical, and not completely guided by emotions. The balance is different in every individual.


Kuz_Sam
Posted 23 July 2006 at 03:09 am

My old Maths teacher must've had this :D...great site this


Kafka
Posted 23 July 2006 at 04:09 am

An interesting condition, but unfortunate for the people who have it. However, I do know some crazy people who would actually prefer to have this condition, because it can help in a lot of jobs that come with a lot of emotional stress. I've heard that some companies and governments want to develop a drug which mimics the effects of alexythimic disorder, with some success. Of course, the ethical implications of such a drug would make it impossible to use in society. I'm very happy to hear that this disorder can be treated.

Hm. About that drug, I heard that Lithium Salt when used in excess can cause people to feel no emotions at all, or at least diminished emotions. Commonly used to treat maniacs, it is one of the few very effective and very safe mood stabilizers. I wonder if I could try some....

(I understand that some people have to take mood stabilizers to treat serious disorders, but I am curious to see what effect it has on someone with no disorder)


Mycroft
Posted 23 July 2006 at 06:22 am

As a child and as a teenager, my emotions were incredibly intense, and, as a result, I was usually depressed most of the time. The world was too much with me.

Around the seventh or eighth grade, I began the process of shutting down my emotions so that I would not feel the pain anymore.

In other words, it is almost as if I deliberately caused the condition within myself, but I did so for self-preservation. It was either that or suicide.

Today, I am 53, married, one 20-year-old son, and fairly happy. I don't think that I am enjoying life as much as I could, but I am still afraid to unleash my emotions completely.

Now that I think about it, I have no holds on my emotions at all when it comes to my son. He is my salvation. Fortunately, he knows nothing of what I have to do, and he has no traces of my condition.

I wish that my wife would just go to Hell. When we were young, she was astounding. Over the years, she has become the godmother of the Wicked Witch of the West. I suspect that I wouldn't have to worry about my emotions at all if it were not for her.

All of this has a point, and it's not that I enjoy talking about myself. Actually, I am very private.

Here's the point: I wonder if those persons who have the real condition either somehow exacerbate it or did they cause it all, and they did it all out of a need for self-preservation?

I welcome your opinions.


qhperson
Posted 23 July 2006 at 07:23 am

Mycroft:

Have you considered that your wife may as well be reacting to you? That she senses your emotional detachment and takes it personally?
Have you ever tried talking about this, especially with a trained, professional marriage counselor? It could make all the difference in your lives.


diacetylmorphine
Posted 23 July 2006 at 08:44 am

I was suffering from severe depression. I tried St. John's Wort (in very very high amounts. Maybe 8000mg a day) and this is exactly how it made me feel. I was no longer sad, but I wasn't happy.

While I was under that feeling, I didn't hate it, nor liked it. I didn't care about it. I only hate being in that state when I'm not in that state. Otherwise, if I am in that state, I don't really care.


FMZ
Posted 23 July 2006 at 08:47 am

Interesting... that the condition can be treated with anti-depressants.

The description of the condition matches exactly how I began to feel after a few months on anti-depressants. Everything was logic, no emotion. I spent hours looking at morbid sites with complete disregard, no emotions, no sadness. I saw those corpses as nothing but meat and bones, no different than a dead deer on the side of the road. I looked at them to figure it all out, to make sense of it all. I decided I couldn't live like that, and when I came off the anti-depressants and regained my emotions, I realized just how important it is to be able to cry.

It's just as important to cry than to smile.


chchatham
Posted 23 July 2006 at 09:50 am

FMZ - fascinating that you reached this state on anti-depressants. I wonder if the mechanism is similar to ADHD, in which reward signals (i.e., dopamine) are thought to be tonically lower, thus resulting in a lack of prolonged attention to any one object. Treatments for ADHD, such as ritalin, work by increasing tonic dopamine levels, so that the brain mechanisms responsible for prolonged attention are getting the correct signals to maintain attention. You can easily see why too much medication in the hands of non-ADHD users can result in distractibility - too many reward signals, coming from everywhere. Perhaps there is a similar "sweet spot" for emotional functioning and emotional diversity, based on the neurotransmitter changes induced by prolonged anti-depressant meds (SSRI's ?).

What about autism?

I keep wondering what the difference is between alexithymia and autism, or aspergers. is alexithymia merely a symptom of autism/aspergers, or are these truly separable conditions? What can their commonalities tell us about brain function?


denki
Posted 23 July 2006 at 11:02 am

If I were to undertake some kind of gargantuan task, say something that required a team of scientists in a James Bondish sort of way, I'd try to make sure that there was an alexithymic in the group, just to give an unemotional view from time to time. I think these kinds of people's contributions have been well received and proven invaluable...Spock, Data, Odo (to lesser extent), 7 of 9, T'Pol...


to-be-betrayed
Posted 23 July 2006 at 05:29 pm

hmmm....does that mean that the second type, the one due to stress, etc, is the same as when people just give up on emotion, e.g. that they decide it's just easier to *not* show emotion and through a decision stop listening to them? just a thought...


CptPicard
Posted 23 July 2006 at 05:45 pm

MM said: "I spent five years with this condition, and it is worse than hell. At the same time, it is NOT hell, because you really don't care. Yeah, that might sound laughable, but when you get right down to it, wouldn't most people agree that not caring - at all! - is worse than the deepest sadness or hatred? Well, now I have absolutetly no doubt about that whatsoever - and that is an emotional reaction! :-) With this condition - and neither do I have any doubt about its existence - you don't live, you just exist. You don't feel, you just function. It's like being in a coma in the sense that, the second you snap out of it, you can no longer imagine what it was like being in it. "

Actually this can be just regular depression too. It causes emotional apathy and makes you feel like a zombie that is emotionally disconnected from the rest of the world. I've had bouts of clinical depression for years, and it feels exactly like this -- you don't give a s**t about anything. The resulting extremes of alienation and detachment can be very disconcerting.

Fortunately, getting on Mirtazapine has always fixed it for me.


Nidis
Posted 23 July 2006 at 06:18 pm

Trust me CptPicard, it's not just depression. Depression means you're sad with the state of things, or at least feel sadness about anything. I... just feel nothing. I've tried so hard to explain whats wrong with me to people, but my description of "its like being half-asleep" all the time isn't that insightful. People just think I have sleep deprivation...though I'm wide awake. I see things, I just dont take them in. I dont overtly care what happens, but I -do- these outlandish things in the hopes that it'll spark something, so people tend to believe I do have feeling... but im just kidding myself. I know that how I am right now is...mind-numbingly depressing, I KNOW its horrible and disgusting, wasting the greatest years of your life because you find an empty bottle as equally important as a rock concert, but i'm just sitting here. *what-would-be-an-insurmountable-level-of-emotion-for-anyone-else* = "oh, cool." But im not sad. I'm not happy either. My music diet consists of Huey Lewis and the News and 80's glam rock like Motley Crue, I'm very content with how my life would be, if I just took -something- in. I'm not thrilled that my favourite guitarist is touring in a month, its like knowing that you should be excited when you arent, so you pretend to be just so everyone doesnt think you're weird. "But its Yngwie Malmsteen! You love that guy!" I know... I know. But at the same time, you have friends... and a girlfriend, and she wonders why you act stale sometimes... why I find myself repeating other people a lot. Things that I think are funny, I repeat them, so I sound comical, like I used to be. I haven't thought of something original in years. Does it say anything about -when- it comes about? Is it something you have from birth? Because...as I've read, this describes me to a tee (Heh, I promise I have nothing to be depressed about) but I've only noticed it slowly growing ever since...maybe 3 years ago? I'm 18 now. I'm worried that because I've put up with it for so long... I dont want to intergrate it with who I used to be. I know, it sounds like im feeling something there, but Im not, I just dont want to lose the chance of ever returning to normal.


twyls
Posted 23 July 2006 at 06:24 pm

Kafka,

Lithium is not a safe drug at all. Patients who are on it (I used to be) are indeed given it to stabalize their moods. However, blood tests must be done every week in the beginning (and every three months while on the drug) to ensure that there are no side effects. My mind is not at its best now, so I can't tell you exactly what they test for. There are some safer mood stabalizers, but most require blood tests.

Sorry to be so unhelpful with sources. I can tell you that for the eight months or so I took lithium, I had to have blood tests quite often. For those interested in my condition, I have schizo-affective disorder.

twyls


Nidis
Posted 23 July 2006 at 06:38 pm

In fact, interesting note, the only 'feeling' I seem to have would be unachieved inspiration, as though I -want- to be inspired. It's constantly on my mind, this unwavering determination to be 'kickstarted' and brought back to life. I do excessively outrageous things, create overdramatic situations with my friends (toying with them for the sake of creating a big siuation and, again, possibly provoking something) , go to incredible lengths without any 'reward' as such, all just in the name of possibly achieving. Achieving something that matters to me.


cornerpocket
Posted 23 July 2006 at 08:11 pm

Lithium is a metal, kinda like mercury, lead, etc. Therefore, in high enough doses, it can be poisonoust to the human system. Unlike the heavier metals named above, lithium will leach out of the body fairly quickly. The dangerous part about using it as a medicine is that the 'effective' dose is pretty close to the 'lethal' dose, so 'lithium levels' have to be monitored until it is discovered how much has to be added to compensate for the amount that is being leached out, this being somewhat variable in different people and changable in each individual such that periodic levels still have to be checked. The good news is that the 'lethal' aspect is not sudden and not without symptoms of overdose that can be detected by the user. By the way, since it is a metal, it has to be combined with carbonate or chlorate to make a 'salt' i.e. NaCl makes sodium salt, thus taking two elements that are poisonous and joining them into something that makes celery edible, barely.


PRiME
Posted 24 July 2006 at 01:29 am

I think we are referring to non-fictious charactors here ;). Good think about people suffering from this is that there unlikely to be plotting or tinking of revenge or betrayal type of things. In other words they make good workers/drones/slaves/henchmen/assasins :).. j/k


Lennes
Posted 24 July 2006 at 01:56 am

@diacetylmorphine and FMZ

That's really interesting. I'm not sure if I was in the same boat, but definatilly in a neighbouring one or something. I was given Lexapro, and after a short while of improvement from (strangely acute) depression, I began to feel much like described. Although, perhaps not completely because it was morsoe a disconnection with emotion rather than elimination. People with depression describe that aswell, but
this wasn't entirely the same. (Actually, it wasn't exclusivly that. Some days were completely different; but I still lacked an ability for deep thought and heavy emotion). What's more, the symptoms lifted when I stopped taking the drug (which rather confused the doctor). BTW, doctors say that Lexapro isn't really addictive and has no real withdrawel effects. Granted it has a short half life, but I call b/s.

And to add even more complexity to it, long after I had forgotten about this I thought I'd try taking fish oil. From what I heard I thought it would help me focus. Personally I didn't think it would do anything. To be safe I took the dosage described for athritics rather than for mental benifits. What happened was very similar, if not identical to the Lexapro; except much much more acute. If you can imagine thinking only in treble, it's much like that. You don't have the constant noise in your head of various thoughts being passed around. You simply have one consise thought you carry out with action. As a side effect, I turned from a very shy person to a well spoken extrovert. But things like music and day dreaming were lost on me. This happened in two days, and ended a few hours after I ditched the bottle.


space-monkey
Posted 24 July 2006 at 07:28 am

Slightly disappointed with this article. It feels like its copy/pasted from a textbook. It doesn't have the feeling like it was researched from multiple sources and brought together. There are no references to any person having this condition and how it affected their lives. It is a DI subject, but found the writing to be not. Sorry to offend, just my .02


mmmpopcorn
Posted 24 July 2006 at 08:25 am

FMZ said: "Interesting… that the condition can be treated with anti-depressants.

The description of the condition matches exactly how I began to feel after a few months on anti-depressants. Everything was logic, no emotion. I spent hours looking at morbid sites with complete disregard, no emotions, no sadness. I saw those corpses as nothing but meat and bones, no different than a dead deer on the side of the road. I looked at them to figure it all out, to make sense of it all. I decided I couldn't live like that, and when I came off the anti-depressants and regained my emotions, I realized just how important it is to be able to cry.

It's just as important to cry than to smile."

The same thing happened to me when I went on an anitidepressant. The thing I missed most was music. It became...pointless sound. I got not pleasure whatsoever from hearing it. After I finally stopped listening to people who thought I was being full of it and went off the meds, I would actually put myself in situations that would hurt me just so that I could know that I could feel pain again.

I later learned that the drug had been linked to an unusually high rate of suicide. I wonder why.


me09
Posted 24 July 2006 at 04:31 pm

How do you know if you have it?


Nidis
Posted 24 July 2006 at 07:28 pm

Hm... I think you can tell. Im assuming that this is what I have, because it directly and promptly describes a 'state' I've been in for years that came out of nowhere, that I had no explanation for it. I generally thought it was just me perhaps becoming a blank person through overstimulation or something, but its clearly not a healthy issue. I'm also going on the personal judgement that its not depression... because... there isn't much to be depressed about. Still, its not a professional diagnosis so; looks like I'm off to the psychiatrists!


fantasy
Posted 24 July 2006 at 09:39 pm

denki said: "If I were to undertake some kind of gargantuan task, say something that required a team of scientists in a James Bondish sort of way, I'd try to make sure that there was an alexithymic in the group, just to give an unemotional view from time to time. I think these kinds of people's contributions have been well received and proven invaluable…Spock, Data, Odo (to lesser extent), 7 of 9, T'Pol…"

Those characters would be at a disadvantage if they were real in the here and now. Captain Kirk and crew accept spock because he behaves the way they expect him to. (Because he's vulcan he's allowed to break all kinds of social norms) That, and he has really useful skills like being able to join his mind with another person and connect with their thoughts. He can knock out bad guys with his neck pinch move. And on top of all that he and his crewmates face death and yet live for next week in every episode. All the while he is never scared and routinely risks his own life to save his friends. In such a situation, it's not hard to understand why his crewmates are fond of him even if he is detached and emotionless. If Dr. Maccoy never showed emotion he wouldn't be a likeable character.

If you took away the unrealistic fantasy situation of travelling through space and getting into all kinds of adventures and put Mr. Spock in a normal environment that humans live in he would be isolated. Others would have a hard time feeling a connection with him and would avoid him. Being around the guy would just be awkward. He'd probably end up studying and copying peoples emotional responses to common situations just so they would feel more comfortable. Since humans are emotional beings it would be the other logical thing to do.

A lot of people posted comments saying "I think I had this when I was in grade 8..." or "I think I might have this". When I first read the article I thought maybe I had alexithymia. But when I really think honestly about it I know that I didn't. At that age my father died, and I went from elementary school to high school. Everyone knows what entering highschool is like: hard. I felt a lot of anguish and a lot of pressure. An easy way out was to convince myself that I don't feel anything. I was only trying not to show weakness. I even answered questions in English class relating to the emotions of characters in fiction with denial. If you're going to stomp out your emotions you gotta be CONSISTANT about it. You can't pick and choose emotions, you gotta attack them all. Maybe the story involved a man taking out anger on those around him because his wife decided to leave him. So the question would be "Do you feel sorry for John? Why or why not?"

My answer would always be something like "I don't feel sorry for John. He is a fictional character in a book." Great answer... the other benefit to denying I had emotions (besides not having to deal with them) is that it was possible to answer those annoying justify-how-you-feel questions with something terse. It made English homework easy.

Of course the teacher would get very concerned reading this kind of thing and try to talk to me about it. I would assure him that that is my opinion on the matter. I have nothing further to add. I'd point out that he asked for my opinion and that if he wants to be able to judge the rightness or wrongness of my answers he should stick to objective questions pertaining to the facts. And while I respect his "feelings" toward these characters, other people give different answers. My classmates gave different answers, and got marks, so it is only fair I get marks for my answer. Maybe we should ask the principal how she "feels" about it? By the way, what does this have to do with Enlgish again?

Once he figured out that my primary reason for saying stuff like that wasn't an excuse to be lazy with my homework he even insisted on discussing it with my mother. In retrospect he was really well meaning. He saw the consequences of my line of reasoning. But his efforts were futile. He had to debate this with me on a logical level because if he got emotional about it I could just make trouble for him with the administration by reframing the issue so that it was about marks and grades and that it's unprofessional for a teacher to be telling me what to feel.

For a while I thought I was so smart; that I could beat the system with god-like control over my emotions.

But I discovered that the problem with thinking like Mr. Spock is that if your life is common and you are not fighting Klingons in dramatic space battles and solving mysteries week in week out like is that there is no other reason for people to interact with you. If you can't find emotion within the mundane you can't gain much rapport with anyone. Don't get me wrong, if you are out saving lives or fighting wars or some James Bond like task as you put it, there is enough emotion in your environment to go around. You probably won't need to show any. But for realistic life showing emotions is a big, big part of communicating. Infact, communicating with emotion is the mode of the strong, the confident and the giving. Communicating without emotion is way of the timid and insecure.


Mycroft
Posted 25 July 2006 at 04:35 am

Basically, I don't trust emotions, and I especially don't trust emotional people of either sex.

"Hate emotions; love logic."


smokefoot
Posted 25 July 2006 at 09:12 am

Alexithymia and depression have some simularities. One way to tell tell the difference it the indecisiveness of alexithymia: someone with this condition will spend an hour trying to decide what color socks to wear, while someone with depression will put on anything. The person with alexithymia can't tell what is important, while the person with depression puts a low priority on nearly everything.

Alexithymia is different from just distrusting emotion and trying to minimize its effects. It shows that emotion forms a critical part of our decision making process, even if we are not aware of it.


frenchsnake
Posted 25 July 2006 at 01:11 pm

I think what Fantasy said was very insightful, and something that should definitely be considered after reading this article and before coming to any conclusions. My first thought was that this condition sounds like my life. Corpses and school dissections don't bother me at all; if you want to test yourself, a first step would be to check out the pictures on rotten.com . I'm very detached and find it hard to get excited about things, and I don't sympathize with other people's pain.

But then I realized that it annoys me greatly when people inevitably ask, "Aren't you excited about this?", and annoyance is an emotion, is it not? I might have had this condition throughout the last three years of high school, but what I have now isn't it. I'm regaining something of emotion now, though not much of the positive kind. (More than being feeling detached around corpses, I've found that I enjoy the blood... I might still need some help.) I'm not sure what it is that's making me feel again, but I suspect that it might be my boyfriend of a few months. He wants so much more feeling from me than I can give.


Chory
Posted 25 July 2006 at 07:58 pm

space-monkey said: "Slightly disappointed with this article. It feels like its copy/pasted from a textbook. It doesn't have the feeling like it was researched from multiple sources and brought together. There are no references to any person having this condition and how it affected their lives. It is a DI subject, but found the writing to be not. Sorry to offend, just my .02"

The writer was trying to espress the characteristics of Alexithymia :P


Joshua
Posted 25 July 2006 at 09:12 pm

On the positive side, Alexithymiatics would make great poker players. Without emotional responses they'd be damn near impossible to read, and they'd never go on tilt.


Floj
Posted 25 July 2006 at 11:01 pm

I've got the solution for those people... I need not say what I think...

Now I'll go have some pumpkin pie.


Mycroft
Posted 26 July 2006 at 04:46 am

I wonder how many persons who have this condition (or traces of it) are addicted to reading blogs and responding to others' comments in those blogs?


sulkykid
Posted 26 July 2006 at 06:55 am

Joshua said: "On the positive side, Alexithymiatics would make great poker players. Without emotional responses they'd be damn near impossible to read, and they'd never go on tilt."

I suspect just the opposite. They would have a difficult time reading other players and I am not sure that they could bluff. This would be darned interesting to find out.


Shandooga
Posted 26 July 2006 at 08:52 am

Dido said: "Can someone explain to me if I'm Alexythimic? I try to always be reasonable rather than let my emotions control me. When people die I figure "People die all the time, so move one quickly" I am very logical and love math. Yet I still feel happiness and sadness. I long for a girlfriend to love.


Can someone please help me. I mean I'm scared here."

Since you say you "love" math and "long for" a girlfriend, I'm inclined to think that you don't qualify as Alexythimic. I would hazzard a guess that, perhaps, you may spend too much time on role playing games and Star Trek conventions. :-)


Shandooga
Posted 26 July 2006 at 08:53 am

Joshua said: "On the positive side, Alexithymiatics would make great poker players. Without emotional responses they'd be damn near impossible to read, and they'd never go on tilt."

Perhaps, but then what would move them to play?


Shandooga
Posted 26 July 2006 at 08:56 am

mmmpopcorn said: "The same thing happened to me when I went on an anitidepressant. ...


I later learned that the drug had been linked to an unusually high rate of suicide. I wonder why."

I know exactly why there is a unusually high rate of suicide associated with anti-depressants, but you have already been told not to believe it.


HearWa
Posted 26 July 2006 at 05:45 pm

Everytime I read an article on a psychological condition I start to believe I have it. Perhaps I'm a bit of a hypocondriac. ;-)

Honestly though, I seem to go through a range of these mental "diseases" but I always manage to pull out of one for a while and eventually into another. I'm starting to deduct from my own [anecdotal] experiences that it's natural for humans go through a range of these conditions. Unfortunately some people have stronger doses of these conditions than others but for people like me I don't see what I have to worry about.

For example when I'm going through a particularly bad situation I often find myself in an alexithymia-like state, when I have to speak in front of a crowd I find I have a very agoraphobia-like tendancies and when my thoughts lean towards the negative things in my life I often become depressed and impartial to even my own appearance (neglecting to shave, not talking to people I like because I can't be bothered, wearing crappy clothes when I go to public places, being very blunt with my speech, etc.).


needles
Posted 27 July 2006 at 12:11 pm

I am on anti-depressants and sometimes have the feeling of complete apathy, but not often.


Spike
Posted 28 July 2006 at 06:58 pm

This would be tough. Without emotions, I agree you would loose some of your edge, gut feelings so to speak. There have been a number of times when an uneasy feeling has saved the day. Great article. Makes you think....


fantasy
Posted 30 July 2006 at 02:42 am

frenchsnake said: "I think what Fantasy said was very insightful, and something that should definitely be considered after reading this article and before coming to any conclusions. My first thought was that this condition sounds like my life. Corpses and school dissections don't bother me at all; if you want to test yourself, a first step would be to check out the pictures on rotten.com . I'm very detached and find it hard to get excited about things, and I don't sympathize with other people's pain."

Thank you.


"But then I realized that it annoys me greatly when people inevitably ask, "Aren't you excited about this?", and annoyance is an emotion, is it not? I might have had this condition throughout the last three years of high school, but what I have now isn't it. I'm regaining something of emotion now, though not much of the positive kind. (More than being feeling detached around corpses, I've found that I enjoy the blood… I might still need some help.) I'm not sure what it is that's making me feel again, but I suspect that it might be my boyfriend of a few months. He wants so much more feeling from me than I can give."

your boy sounds needy. maybe you're looking for a man.


MM
Posted 01 August 2006 at 05:49 pm

Didn't know this had been re-run.

1st: how to tell if you really are this way, or just think you are. If we are normal, we feel emotion at all times, even when we're just sitting there watching the world go round. I compare this to a pilot light on a gas stove. Even if you're not cooking anything at the moment, the flame is still in there burning, ready to go when it's needed. Alexithymics don't feel even this much. Their world is emotionally cold. The pilot light's out.

2nd: if anyone is developing a drug that would artificially induce this state, that person(s) is committing a crime against humanity nearly on par with murder! It would be akin to that stuff the voodoo priests use to create zombies - the living dead. They do exist, as has been discovered and proven. I would rather die than return to the alexithymic state for a long period. In reality, it would not be useful at all to have someone like this around for any kind of project - no more than you'd want to invite schizophrenics just so you'll have more people at your party.

3rd: I have the feeling now that I could have chosen to snap out of it at any time. How, I honestly do not know, but I believe the choice was there (though not the motivation, of course). I snapped out of it when a relationship collapsed because of this situation, and my girl was "entertaining" another guy (beetch!) - not a remedy I would prescribe to other (non-)sufferers. One thing I would try, though, is: put the headphones on, turn out the lights and listen HARD to Angelite's "A Bird is Singing" or "Le mystère des voix Bulgares, vol. 1", maybe with some chemical assistance. If that doesn't help you, you're truly far gone. The strange thing about this music is its unsophistication - something that would alienate you under normal circumstances, but in an alexithymic state, it has a hypnotic effect - and then it grabs you and slaps you really hard! Which is what you need.

4th and last: Dido said: "Can someone explain to me if I'm Alexithymic? I try to always be reasonable rather than let my emotions control me. When people die I figure "People die all the time, so move on quickly" I am very logical and love math. Yet I still feel happiness and sadness. I long for a girlfriend to love.
Can someone please help me. I mean I'm scared here."

Dido, the key words here are "try" and "long for". Your pilot light is obviously still on. Alexithymics don't have to try to be apathetic. They just are, and they don't long for anything, at all. If you lose your "love" for math or logic or anything - watch out!


nadash
Posted 05 September 2006 at 09:58 am

Hmmm, I'm naturally rather apathic about certain things. Now, since I am an agnostic, am in the process of detaching myself from all moral rules and reconstructing a new framework for myself. And I find myself caring less and less about the world. Obviously, it can't be compared to the extreme case as described. But I enjoy this state. Cold and calculative ain't always such a bad thing, in moderate amounts. As long as the state doesn't strip away your most fundamental dreams and ambitions, it may be considered a benefit by some.


A. Fect
Posted 21 October 2006 at 12:52 am

Here is an alexithymia questionnaire: ONLINE ALEXITHYMIA QUESTIONNAIRE

Take it at: http://www.planetpapers.com/Assets/6512.php

PS, make sure you use the automated version, its quicker and easier. at - tinyurl.com/nfkbh

Cheers- A. Fect


A. Fect
Posted 21 October 2006 at 12:53 am

Sorry, the automated version is at: tinyurl.com/nfkbh


A. Fect
Posted 21 October 2006 at 12:55 am

Ok..... I see why it isn't working. Just copy tinyurl.com/nfkbh into your browser and presto, there will be the test.


A. Fect
Posted 24 October 2006 at 11:21 pm

The following Alexithymia Glossary describes some behaviours associated with alexithymia:

http://www.planetpapers.com/Assets/6486.php


Buck
Posted 01 November 2006 at 08:21 pm

The URL you pasted for the alexithymia quiz doesn't work. I think you might have meant this one at the MSN Alexithymia Chatsite-

http://tinyurl.com/y9eerf

For the record I scored 50 points. I suppose that means I don't have alexithymia?

Buck


Starling
Posted 10 February 2007 at 09:15 am

Kafka said: "An interesting condition, but unfortunate for the people who have it. However, I do know some crazy people who would actually prefer to have this condition, because it can help in a lot of jobs that come with a lot of emotional stress. I've heard that some companies and governments want to develop a drug which mimics the effects of alexythimic disorder, with some success.

This would make SUCH an interesting story...*wanders off to Word*

Oh, and good article, too!


Jimmy Unix
Posted 04 March 2007 at 07:21 pm

I see a bunch of misconceptions here. Alexithymia is NOT apathy, lack of emotion, flattened affect, or any other emotional state. Rather, it is simply the inability to DESCRIBE these emotions due to lack of words. Alexithymics feel emotions just like normal people. But, owing to lack of the proper words, they can't tell the difference between some (or all) of their emotions and non-emotional bodily sensations. Sometimes, another person can be more aware of the alexithymic's emotions than the alexithymic himself.

The fictional android "Data," mentioned above, was alexithymic once he installed his emotion chip. Of his first emotion generated by the chip, he said "I am unable to articulate the experience," and needed somebody else to interpret his own emotions for him.

This web page describes an alexithymic who was inflicting injuries upon herself, but didn't know why she was doing it because she was highly alexithymic and therefore totally unaware of her actual emotional state, even to the point of not being able to tell if she was joyously happy or suicidally depressed:

http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/p000771.html


ConcernedCitizen
Posted 05 March 2007 at 01:40 am

@Jimmy Unix: i think you've misunderstood the condition... it's not a lack of ability to verbally describe emotions... if it were, then anyone who lacked the ability to speak would automatically be alexithymic. it's an inability to connect to emotions, whether it's their own or someone else's. for this reason, they can't express themselves emotionally, nor can they understand others' emotions.


ifeelya
Posted 06 March 2007 at 05:12 am

Why must everyone be connected at all times? Why must there be an attempt to drug anyone into submission who isn't presently suffering from group-think? I mean, past a certain point necessary for survival, I can't think why anyone would want to be drugged out of experiencing their own life. Is a more contemplative life so entirely unacceptable? Certainly, there is a huge range of existence between the terminally-engaged and the terminally-disengaged. Wouldn't it seem like a fully functional person SHOULD be able to range back and forth across that whole spectrum? What if I wince when you show me your hangnail, but am completely detached from the gory corpse on rotten.com, and you are the opposite? Is somebody right and somebody wrong? Curiously enough, I wondered all this with a completely lack of emotion. I'd engage emotionally and re-do, but can't locate enough emotion for the subject just at the moment. Please drug me now.


Buck
Posted 10 March 2007 at 05:07 pm

Some interesting comments. I agree that a-lexi-thymia (no words for feelings) may not be the most revealing way to term what we know as alexithymic behaviour .... as a poster above posed- would a mute individual also be considered alexithymic because they couldn't say their emotions? But of course the mute person could write down his or her feelings on paper, or think them, meaning that technically they certainly do have words for feelings! So whether one can or cannot "verbalize" is not actually a problem.

The bigger conundrum lies in an alexithymic individual's demonstrable ability to occasionally use accurate words for feelings, ie. to get their words for emotions right (!) such as when they cry and might intellectually be able to designate what they observe as "sadness," i.e., there are sometimes words for feelings, although artificially applied. The bigger issue may be the alexithymic individual's inability to imagine, "to picture" one's emotions and the emotional situation one is in, which ability would make for a *personal* intuition and a subsequent personal experience of one's emotions rather than a purely noetic (purely intellectual) inference by way of dispassionate scientistic observation. It is this emotional-picturing mechanism, or more accurately the lack thereof, which lays at the core of alexithymia. As described by the recognised alexithymia construct there is "CONSTRICTED IMAGINAL PROCESSES" involved, suggesting that maybe a Greek term along the lines: no-images-for-emotions may have been more appropriate for this syndrome? Not that it matters.

Here is a little more about the alexithymic deficit in imagining: http://alexithymiadepot.blogspot.com/

Buck


Dr. Alex
Posted 10 January 2008 at 10:56 pm

For a lively discussion about alexithymia go to the following free discussion forum:

THE ALEXITHYMIA EXCHANGE at: http://groups.msn.com/ALEXITHYMIAEXCHANGE/_whatsnew.msnw

Both people with alexithymia, or if you know someone who has it, or for people who are researching or 'just curious' about it, all welcome to join in the discussion.


Dr. Alex
Posted 10 January 2008 at 10:58 pm

Wooden_Mockingbird
Posted 28 February 2008 at 11:05 pm

*is jealous*

I'm whatever the opposite of Alexithymia is.

Such fun. [/sarcasm]


Wooden_Mockingbird
Posted 28 February 2008 at 11:08 pm

On an unrelated note:

Can you imagine roleplaying an Alexithymic...? The mind boggles.


a1c
Posted 08 August 2008 at 10:19 pm

Some antidepressants cause this. Basically, it has the effect of inducing "psychopathy" in the literal sense, similar to Asperger's Syndrome. Possibly an issue relating to mirror neurons or the limbic system.


Howzat
Posted 18 April 2009 at 08:13 pm

I notice a few of the above links are dead. So here are some live links:
Online Alexithymia Questionnaire-G2: http://oaq.blogspot.com/
Two-Factor Imagination Scale: http://tfis.blogspot.com/
Alexithymia Exchange (chat forum): http://groups.google.com/group/exchange-forum?hl=en

There's also a new book out about alexithymia called 'Emotionally Dumb: An Overview of Alexithymia' which is reviewed and can be purchased here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6392761-emotionally-dumb-an-overview-of-alexithymia

Howzat


jodi.bird
Posted 28 December 2011 at 10:45 am

I scored 153! Whaddo I win? Let's see, I win that I am unable to say anything without sounding sarcastic, when people cry around me I want to punch them in the face, I think Dexter Morgan would be the best husband ever, I lose friends because I try to help them figure out their problems logically and discount their feelings because they are being irrational, and my boyfriend tells me I am embarrassing because I am not "acting friendly" and his friends always ask him what is wrong with me because I always act like something is wrong. Case in point, nothing is wrong, that's my face.

Thanks, Howzat for the links.

I thought that that alexithymia is more of a detachment from your emotions by not having the words to describe them (literal translation), as opposed to not having them. I have only just begun my research on this, and especially now, since reading this article and your responses, and the online test, I will be doing much more.

In analyzing myself over the last few years, with the help of my counselor/therapist, I thought dissociation was the answer, though I was sure it could not be the sweeping description of my life, as I am not dissociated from my life, but on top of experiencing as described above, I have dissociative experiences.

I see this 'condition' or state possibly as a result of trauma, emotional trauma, and a variety of experiences that cause a protective shutdown. I might argue that those of us with "no feelings" actually are deeply feeling, sensitive people that cannot face it, and sometimes have the ability to have some joy in possibly one area, as Mycroft describes above (I do with my children).

@Nidis I hope that through some counseling and self-examination, you can get to that place you need to be. You already are very self aware, which is more than most people, and that is what it takes. Seems easier to begin the journey of learning about ourselves when we can be detached, but when we can get to that place where we have to go beyond that, there is our choice, do we dive in, or stay on the outside?
jodi.bird


nikkikan9
Posted 18 October 2012 at 11:59 pm

Melon Head said: "I CAN imagine what it would be like because I am quite the opposite. It must be horrible. I really appreciate being able to enjoy the beauty of a summer meadow, the communion of friends and relatives and even the elation that comes from surmounting a tough obstacle. Being without emotions would be like not being able to enjoy the taste of your food or to be able to use your other senses (ahhh! sweet music)

One may as well be an android like “Data”."

Not really, it's a disconnect from emotion, not beauty. As someone who came to this page on a research binge after being 'diagnosed' (or whatever the correct term in this case is) I can say that I can still appreciate beauty in some forms. For instance, I might not see the emotional complexities behind an opera or ballet but I can love the music for it's harmonies and melodies.


nikkikan9
Posted 19 October 2012 at 12:01 am

MM said: "I spent five years with this condition, and it is worse than hell. At the same time, it is NOT hell, because you really don’t care. Yeah, that might sound laughable, but when you get right down to it, wouldn’t most people agree that not caring – at all! – is worse than the deepest sadness or hatred? Well, now I have absolutetly no doubt about that whatsoever – and that is an emotional reaction! :-) With this condition – and neither do I have any doubt about its existence – you don’t live, you just exist. You don’t feel, you just function. It’s like being in a coma in the sense that, the second you snap out of it, you can no longer imagine what it was like being in it. It’s totally impossible for living, feeling people – myself included – to imagine this kind of existence. I just know it was awful. I snapped out of it one night while sitting around playing a boring computer game (Minesweeper), instead of celebrating Christmas.

P.S. If there are any others out there who want to know how I recovered, feel free to ask, but it won’t help you much."

Recovery is possible? I thought it was just a fact of my existence.


nikkikan9
Posted 19 October 2012 at 12:05 am

Dido said: "Can someone explain to me if I’m Alexythimic? I try to always be reasonable rather than let my emotions control me. When people die I figure “People die all the time, so move one quickly” I am very logical and love math. Yet I still feel happiness and sadness. I long for a girlfriend to love.

Can someone please help me. I mean I’m scared here."

Can you explain why you feel happy or sad? Most of the time I'm just aware if I'm angry or feeling depressed, explanation of why I feel that way is impossible. Try writing a love poem to someone close to you (it can be sappy, it doesn't have to be shown to anyone). This was a school assignment I had in Language Arts once which I failed miserably at. It was my first step in realizing that something was up.
My suspicion, judging by your happy/sad comments and your fear of being algorithmic is that you can just disconnect yourself from difficult situation, like it's temporary.


nikkikan9
Posted 19 October 2012 at 12:09 am

Mycroft said: "As a child and as a teenager, my emotions were incredibly intense, and, as a result, I was usually depressed most of the time. The world was too much with me.

Around the seventh or eighth grade, I began the process of shutting down my emotions so that I would not feel the pain anymore.
In other words, it is almost as if I deliberately caused the condition within myself, but I did so for self-preservation. It was either that or suicide.
Today, I am 53, married, one 20-year-old son, and fairly happy. I don’t think that I am enjoying life as much as I could, but I am still afraid to unleash my emotions completely.
Now that I think about it, I have no holds on my emotions at all when it comes to my son. He is my salvation. Fortunately, he knows nothing of what I have to do, and he has no traces of my condition.
I wish that my wife would just go to Hell. When we were young, she was astounding. Over the years, she has become the godmother of the Wicked Witch of the West. I suspect that I wouldn’t have to worry about my emotions at all if it were not for her.
All of this has a point, and it’s not that I enjoy talking about myself. Actually, I am very private.
Here’s the point: I wonder if those persons who have the real condition either somehow exacerbate it or did they cause it all, and they did it all out of a need for self-preservation?
I welcome your opinions."

Your 'how I got here' story is eerily similar. Also, does this have anything to do with your username?


Andrew
Posted 04 March 2013 at 12:24 pm

I've been confirmed to exhibit alexithymia by multiple psychiatrists and I can say from experience, the person who wrote this article and almost all of the people who've commented DO NOT have a correct understanding of what alexithymia actually is.

Let me make this clear:
***************
ALEXITHYMIA HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH AN INABILITY TO FEEL EMOTION. THAT IS CALLED A BLUNTED OR NUMBED AFFECT AND IT IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
*****************

Alexithymia is instead a difficulty or inability to connect the abstract feelings from the emotional regions of the brain with the higher functioning, logical regions on the separate hemisphere in order to adequately form a conscious comprehension of the feelings being experienced. PEOPLE WITH ALEXITHYMIA STILL FEEL EMOTIONS AS STRONGLY AS THEY WOULD WITHOUT IT. Trust me, I'm also severely Bipolar. I still experience the uncontrollable overwhelming emotional feelings typical of mood disorders. I just have difficulty consciously understanding what I'm feeling and I cannot describe them in words that adequately explain what they feel like. It's as if they are infinitely complex and cannot be communicated in any way humanly possible. Combined with extreme mood swings, I'd become delusional and then would become so overwhelmingly confused, I'd just fall into catatonia for sometimes a couple weeks at a time and since it's not a typical psychosis, was completely unresponsive to medication. I literally have to purposely dull my emotions to keep that from happening.


Brayton Rogers
Posted 27 November 2013 at 11:18 am

I'm pretty sure I have this because the only thing I can make myself care about anymore is the girl I think I love. There have been a couple of times she's stopped talking about for a while and that would really hurt. This last time, though, I stopped being able to really feel things now. I don't really feel happy or sad anymore, I still cry sometimes but I can't really tell if I know why and I don't think I feel any different. I sometimes start to get nauseous thinking about her and when I might see her and stuff. I really don't know how to explain everything, though.


Thomas
Posted 27 November 2013 at 06:27 pm

MM said: "I spent five years with this condition, and it is worse than hell. At the same time, it is NOT hell, because you really don't care. Yeah, that might sound laughable, but when you get right down to it, wouldn't most people agree that not caring - at all! - is worse than the deepest sadness or hatred? Well, now I have absolutetly no doubt about that whatsoever - and that is an emotional reaction! :-) With this condition - and neither do I have any doubt about its existence - you don't live, you just exist. You don't feel, you just function. It's like being in a coma in the sense that, the second you snap out of it, you can no longer imagine what it was like being in it. It's totally impossible for living, feeling people - myself included - to imagine this kind of existence. I just know it was awful. I snapped out of it one night while sitting around playing a boring computer game (Minesweeper), instead of celebrating Christmas.

P.S. If there are any others out there who want to know how I recovered, feel free to ask, but it won't help you much."

You've just given me a reason to live, I've been like this for 4 years and 10 months. Thank you.


Conor Large
Posted 12 December 2013 at 06:46 pm

I can feel basic emotions such as happiness or sadness, anger, fear, etc... but when it really comes down to it, I have tremendous difficulty extracting and detailed meaning from them. I feel in the most basic sense of the word, but extrapolating from that in either written or spoken words is an outright impossibility. Amazingly, I can actually get by in social situations by observing the actions of my friends and other people present at each gathering, but I am usually perplexed at their reasoning for reacting specific ways. Thus, I am not quite certain that alexithymia is what I am afflicted with. Any ideas?


thomas
Posted 16 December 2013 at 08:17 am

MM said: "I spent five years with this condition, and it is worse than hell. At the same time, it is NOT hell, because you really don't care. Yeah, that might sound laughable, but when you get right down to it, wouldn't most people agree that not caring - at all! - is worse than the deepest sadness or hatred? Well, now I have absolutetly no doubt about that whatsoever - and that is an emotional reaction! :-) With this condition - and neither do I have any doubt about its existence - you don't live, you just exist. You don't feel, you just function. It's like being in a coma in the sense that, the second you snap out of it, you can no longer imagine what it was like being in it. It's totally impossible for living, feeling people - myself included - to imagine this kind of existence. I just know it was awful. I snapped out of it one night while sitting around playing a boring computer game (Minesweeper), instead of celebrating Christmas.

P.S. If there are any others out there who want to know how I recovered, feel free to ask, but it won't help you much."

Please can you contact me about this? I have exactly the same symptoms as you and it all started 5 years ago.


gina
Posted 06 February 2014 at 01:00 pm

A load of BS in these comments. How is it healthy to believe that your moment-to-moment emotional state is the most important thing in the universe?Emotionalism as a way of life is nuts - "feelings" have been pushed as the most important aspect of being human for decades now, and the U.S. has become the leader in drunks, addicts and narcissistic disorder.

By the way, there is only one pain pathway in the brain: children are socialized to believe that they have 1,000s of "emotions" that don't actually exist. Why? Control. In your brain it's pain or pleasure. Physiologically, that's it.


Diana
Posted 11 February 2014 at 01:13 pm

Yes, please tell me how you snapped out of this!!! Need help! Thanks!

MM said: "I spent five years with this condition, and it is worse than hell. At the same time, it is NOT hell, because you really don't care. Yeah, that might sound laughable, but when you get right down to it, wouldn't most people agree that not caring - at all! - is worse than the deepest sadness or hatred? Well, now I have absolutetly no doubt about that whatsoever - and that is an emotional reaction! :-) With this condition - and neither do I have any doubt about its existence - you don't live, you just exist. You don't feel, you just function. It's like being in a coma in the sense that, the second you snap out of it, you can no longer imagine what it was like being in it. It's totally impossible for living, feeling people - myself included - to imagine this kind of existence. I just know it was awful. I snapped out of it one night while sitting around playing a boring computer game (Minesweeper), instead of celebrating Christmas.

P.S. If there are any others out there who want to know how I recovered, feel free to ask, but it won't help you much."


lesley teitelbaum
Posted 02 April 2014 at 09:39 am

MM said: "I spent five years with this condition, and it is worse than hell. At the same time, it is NOT hell, because you really don't care. Yeah, that might sound laughable, but when you get right down to it, wouldn't most people agree that not caring - at all! - is worse than the deepest sadness or hatred? Well, now I have absolutetly no doubt about that whatsoever - and that is an emotional reaction! :-) With this condition - and neither do I have any doubt about its existence - you don't live, you just exist. You don't feel, you just function. It's like being in a coma in the sense that, the second you snap out of it, you can no longer imagine what it was like being in it. It's totally impossible for living, feeling people - myself included - to imagine this kind of existence. I just know it was awful. I snapped out of it one night while sitting around playing a boring computer game (Minesweeper), instead of celebrating Christmas.

P.S. If there are any others out there who want to know how I recovered, feel free to ask, but it won't help you much."

I am interested to know how you recovered - thank you !


Viola Register
Posted 07 August 2014 at 01:28 pm

I would definitely like to know how you snapped out of it, because it is killing me. I feel nothing and I have a husband , five children and five grandchildren who I love dearly!!! I broke my foot in June had a pulmonary embolism in July, was given lexapro, took it for 12 days and weaned my self off. This is how I ended up. Lots of fear, anxiety and no emotion.


Glenn Davey
Posted 07 August 2014 at 04:40 pm

Dennbert said: "There is actually an entire planet of alexithymics... it's called Vulcan.
Interesting."

This was the first thing I thought of!


Kristin
Posted 05 November 2014 at 09:13 am

MM said: "I spent five years with this condition, and it is worse than hell. At the same time, it is NOT hell, because you really don't care. Yeah, that might sound laughable, but when you get right down to it, wouldn't most people agree that not caring - at all! - is worse than the deepest sadness or hatred? Well, now I have absolutetly no doubt about that whatsoever - and that is an emotional reaction! :-) With this condition - and neither do I have any doubt about its existence - you don't live, you just exist. You don't feel, you just function. It's like being in a coma in the sense that, the second you snap out of it, you can no longer imagine what it was like being in it. It's totally impossible for living, feeling people - myself included - to imagine this kind of existence. I just know it was awful. I snapped out of it one night while sitting around playing a boring computer game (Minesweeper), instead of celebrating Christmas.

P.S. If there are any others out there who want to know how I recovered, feel free to ask, but it won't help you much."

Like you said I don't think talking to you, or anyone for that matter, can help me. I have lived with what I think is this condition since birth. I can remember being different even as a kid in elementary school. I didn't know any different though, so I thought it was normal and that this was life. It really wasn't until I got older that I KNEW something was wrong. I am 25 years old now.

Two years ago, June 2012, I 'snapped' out of it too. I was driving to the city with my mom and all the sudden it just hit me. Its like the whole world came to life. Everything mattered and I was literally a different person. I went back to school, held down a job (which I was never able to do, nor wanted because I isolated myself) I met my fiance and became a step mom. I began taking skating lessons. I had real friends, that I connected with and knew what it meant to be a friend. I had goals and dreams. My whole life changed from that moment on. It was as if the person that I was for 23 years was some other person. I told my parents that the past 20 years didn't matter. Everything I had done in those years was fake, and it wasn't me. They of course were hurt by this and remembered having good family trips and quality family time together. It was the complete opposite for me. Since becoming this new person, I wish I could have erased almost everything that happened previous to the 'new me.' I remember I wasn't resentful though. I couldn't change the past so I didn't dwell on it. And honestly I was just so happy to be a normal person that I lived every moment being happy and so excited that I was magically cured! I wanted to start living my life NOW. I remember telling my dad that I 'snapped' out of whatever it was and he agreed with me. I told him that I must have had schizophrenia or something and he said he didn't know about that. But He saw the changes I was going through. Then he posed an interesting, scary question...well if you can snap one way, can you snap back to the old way? I couldn't even fathom snapping back to the way I was. I literally was just NOT HERE for 23 years of my life. It was like you said, a coma. I had a fiance and a family to take care of now. I had bills to pay and my own home. I had responsibilities for crying out loud. I just couldn't snap back. Well, a year and a half later (April 2014) it happened. I snapped back. I don't know how or why. But I am exactly where I was for the 23 years of my life. I'm just not here. I have trouble leaving the house. I don't have a job. I'm not in school. I stopped all communication with my new found friends that I had made when I was 'normal.' I am 100% positive now that there is something wrong with me. Having been normal for a year and a half, I know what it feels like to be happy, to feel stress, to feel anger, to feel excitement, to feel appreciation, to feel thankfulness, and to be a functioning person in society. Having 'snapped back' does not leave me hopeful for the future. I often wonder if I will die with this condition, whatever it is, having lived a non meaningful life.

Anyways, I'm glad (and not glad) there are some others out there that can relate.


Anne
Posted 16 February 2015 at 12:28 am

Hi. I'm alexithymic, and I'd like to clear something up. Having this condition does not render you apathetic or void of emotion, and nowhere in the article was that stated. It simply means that I have trouble understanding my own emotions and why other people are so controlled by them. Yes, I am neutral a lot of the time, but I am a loving, kind, and funny person. I'm very realistic, but I am also very imaginative. When people call us emotionless, it hurts our feelings, yes, we have those! It just takes a little more to make us recognize them,instead of being detached and viewing emotion as a resource with little value.


Aaron
Posted 28 April 2015 at 07:29 am

So Anne's comment makes sense. Until last week I never even thought about this. I have been through a lot of therapy for depression have been on adderall, paxil (at same time), and then effexor. I never noticed them do anything. Adderall and paxil would make me zone out, just lay there and stare. I'd also have problems waking up. Effexor I felt no different, actually I'd feel lower more often.

The reason I started seeing a psychologist again was because of these panic attacks. Never had something like this and it scared me. Heart racing, chest tight, muscles tightening, fear, just all these things. Knew it was anxiety from what I've heard (which is what I think those of us that have this bad relate our emotions too, what we perceive as emotions cognitively). So I was supposed to do acceptance therapy so I just blindly started to accept things. Think of it as faith. Just letting go. Well that was overwhelming, like constant panic attacks.

Well then I find out emotions have physical connections. Couldn't make the link until it happened. To put it simply, I was wrong what emotion it was, but I was crying because I connected a physical feeling to an emotion. Having a physical feeling connected to a thought that I connected to feeling is kind amazing honestly. Like I feel something, this is new to me. I'm 33, it was like hearing for the first time, or seeing.

Later on I freaked out and thought of something terrifying, and thought it'd kill me. And if I have physical sensations associate with these thoughts I think I'll die. As soon as it happened I had to shut down. I always called it calming myself down. Always was told I was emotionless, when I was younger said I wore a mask, that no one would ever know who I was or what I was feeling (little did I know neither would I really), would say how I'm building this wall. But even then, 13-14 years old I don't remember these connections.

My psychiatrist picked up on this when I said it, reason she thinks I have this, when I was younger I was abused and when spanked or punched or anything negative happen and I cried I'd get the "you don't have anything to cry for", "I'll give you something to cry about" (even after being punched). Thing is that was normally with spankings when I was little, and then later around 13-14 with fights. Mom told me my father abused me as an infant, and he abused her too (they'd send me and my brother out of the house, come in see her crying but everything was "ok"). So honestly I don't think I've ever made these connections.

I understand very well why no one understands me now with anything emotionally charged. My arguments are normally just factual or logically based so "emotions" kind of throw me off. Even as I type this I have panic feelings (the first feelings I recognized) but think it's really numerous emotions all hitting me at once, and I have no control. I'm scared. I want to feel these things to experience them, but if I get depressed and feel pain, or feel the terror of my fears, I don't think I can handle it.

Thing is, people like me don't know we have this problem. We can think we do, then learn that emotions aren't thoughts, they're physical, you just "feel" them. I can't get my head around it still, hell, people can't get their head around the fact I don't feel like they feel. It's more isolating and lonely than before honestly. At least not knowing you "feel" normal. Knowing leaves me wanting to experience, afraid of experiencing, and a "feeling" (thought I guess) that I am better off with what I know.


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