My Alexithymia

Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about my personal experience with alexithymia. I recommend that you check out my previous post on alexithymia. In that post I covered what alexithymia is as well as how it is connected to autism as well as PTSD.

I personally don’t have a difficult time knowing how I am feeling, but I do have a hard time labeling them. I personally feel that the language used to describe emotions is very limiting and is confusing because different people don’t use the words in the same way. Like what is the difference between joyful and delighted? Because there isn’t much difference in their definitions. Yet people use these words as if there were clear lines to mark out where one begins and the other ends. I find this perplexing.

I also struggle to describe those feelings to other people. When you aren’t sure what words to label your emotions with it becomes rather difficult to describe those feelings to other people. While there might not be much importance in the difference in labeling a feeling joy vs delight there is a whole host of difference in labeling your emotion fear rather then anxiety. Yet, what makes it anxiety rather then fear? Not being able to explain my emotions to others has made it difficult for me to connect with them on an emotional level. This is especially true since people often misread my affect and come to an incorrect conclusion regarding how I am feeling.

I experience difficulty distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal. The idea that my body is some how separated from my emotional experience is strange to me. When I have an emotion, there is always an accompanied physical sensation that goes with that emotion. Where does the emotion end and the physical experience begin? I don’t have an answer to that. The idea that they were separate things never occurred to me until it was brought up in a therapy session. They presented the idea that arousal looked the same for anxiety and excitement. This perplexed me then and still does now. I don’t think that these two emotions physically feel the same, but I will never be able to explain to other people how they are different. I lack the ability.

I struggle with identifying facial expressions and reading body language. If you don’t tell me what you are feeling, it is likely that I don’t know. When trying to read the emotions of others, I frequently read it incorrectly. This leaves me constantly clueless in how other people are responding to me socially. Am I boring you? I will never know. Are you flirting with me? No way I will ever guess that accurately. This has really gotten in the way when trying to connect with other people. There is no way that I can adjust what I am doing based on how other people are responding because I will never be able to “read the room.”

I experience a form of facial blindness. This is a difficulty with identifying and remembering people’s faces. If I meet you at work and then we bump into each other at the store, it is likely that I will have no idea who you are. I won’t recognize you outside of the social context my brain believes that you belong in. Some of this is because I don’t recognize people when they change small things about their appearances. I might not recognize you if you add or remove glasses. I took a facial recognition test as part of a research study. They presented two pictures of people and I had to indicate whether or not they were pictures of the same person or not. I only had a 41% accuracy. This low recognition rate means that I frequently fail to recognize people that I have met. The result is that they generally believe that I am choosing to ignore them. This doesn’t help build relationships.

Generally speaking, people respond to me poorly. They frequently report that I appear distant, rigid, and humorless. I am also frequently accused of having a logical and rigid thinking style that does not account for emotions. Another common descriptor that I receive is being cold towards others. None of this serves me well when trying to make friends. It doesn’t help when I’m at work either since my co-workers often don’t like working with me. And yet the irony of this is that the very traits that make me struggle socially are often the traits that people respond well to as my patients. I always take what my patient reports at face value because I have nothing else to go on. If they say they are in pain, they are because I have no measure for a person looking like they are having pain. The same is true of every other human experience. This means I always believe their account which is usually immensely appreciated in a medical environment where patients often feel doubted by their providers.

When approaching problems, I use logic rather then emotions for my decision making. It doesn’t matter what I am feeling. I find emotional responses to be unreliable indicators for decision making. This doesn’t mean that I completely disregard what I am feeling. It just means that I try to put my emotions into logical context. If someone is making me feel anxious, I try to evaluate what they are doing that is causing the anxiety. When presented with critical problems I generally respond intellectually and logically first. My emotional response usually comes later when I have had a chance to gather myself and things have settled down. This often leads people to feeling that I am robot-like because I generally have my emotional response outside of public view which means that most people never see that part of my response to the situation.

Having alexithymia has made it so that I always feel alone and isolated even when I am surrounded by other people. I have spent my whole life trying to figure out the magical equation for my behavior that will make people see my emotions properly. It is like trying to dance to music that I cannot hear while everyone around me can easily hear the music. The best that I can do is mimic everyone else’s dancing, but the reality is that I don’t even know what genre of music that is playing. And sometimes, I don’t even know who I am dancing with because I will mistake them for a stranger.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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