Alexithymia: True disorder or popular psycho-fad?

Our warrior had never heard of it before reading the article below. But for the past couple of years, this Alexithymia ‘disease’, ‘discovered’ in 1973 by Sifneos, has apparently gotten quite some attention.

It seems that there is a valid explanation for all kinds of undesirable behaviour. A diagnosis gives relieve. Did I fail to raise my child well? No! It has ADHD. Your kid does not do well in school? Dyslexia. Is unsociable? Hypersensitivity disorder, or even better, hyperintelligent. Is suicidal? Then it must be bipolar. etc. etc.

Our sincerest apologies if this all sounds a bit offensive (which it probably is a bit we assume), but this psycho-self-help-analysis seems to get totally out of hand. Probably the ever increasing pressure in society (also referred to in the alexithymia article below) has got a pretty big hand in this (For a nice example of new moral standard setting in cyber-space, just check Perez Hilton, the highly popular society-watch-dog who slams celebs like Lindsay Lohan and her mum and Britney Spears, who in his view are out of line…). We (and especially celebrities) NEED to be successful and flawless, role-models to everyone else. The pressure, the pressure.

Back to the Alexi-thing, it seems to be another soothing cream for people who let themselves get carried away in this materialistic society and get into this sort of mid-life-crisis: Oh my god what have I actually done all my life? Worked 80 hours a week, not spent enough time with the family. Who am I? What do I feel? etc.etc. Hardly a disease we would say, but maybe rather a sudden awareness of too strong a focus on a specific aspect in life. But then again, isn’t life just all about priorities??

Dr. Spock – Patron Saint of Alexithymia
Alexithymia: A condition where a person is unable to describe emotion in words. Frequently, alexithymic individuals are unaware of what their feelings are.
Here’s a technical definition of Alexithymia (by Taylor & Bagby, 2000.) Since the Heidelberg conference, there has been a consensus in the literature on the definition of the alexithymia construct. The salient features of the construct are:

(1) difficulty identifying feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal;
(2) difficulty describing feelings to other people;
(3) constricted imaginal processes, as evidenced by a paucity of fantasy; and
(4) a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style.

or in less-scientific terms the keyfeatures of Alexithymia are (according to an unscientific website) :
Difficulty identifying different types of feelings
Difficulty distinguishing between emotional feelings and bodily feelings
Limited understanding of what caused the feelings
Difficulty verbalising feelings
Limited emotional content in the imagination
Functional style of thinking
Lack of enjoyment and pleasure-seeking
Stiff, wooden posture
For, again, a not very scientific, but more personal view on Alexithymia, you can read: ‘Alexithymia & Society’ (S.Hein, 2005)


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