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What is Alexithymia?


What is Alexithymia?

Some autistic people have difficulty describing and recognising how they feel.

This is called Alexithymia.


What does it look like?

  • Your emotional responses can be delayed.

  • You may feel but not notice you do.

  • You may feel but not show it.

  • You may not know the words to describe your feelings.

  • You might confuse bodily sensations with emotions,

  • or emotions with bodily sensations.


Why is this?

Children can lack the words to describe how they feel. As we all grown and experience more and can come to a greater understanding of ourselves. This can mean more awareness of what is causing us to feel a certain way or about the subtleties of our feelings.


Emotions are complex. We think of them as happy, sad, fear, or anger but in reality, they're awe, trepidation, and melancholy Complex mixes that we don't always have the words for.


Sensory issues may mean someone has difficulty recognising what is causing a sensation. It can also mean emotions seemed delayed as the person is still processing everything that's happening within them and from the environment.

Sensory information might also be distressing and so cause negative feelings.

Bodily sensations (proprioception, nociception) might also be confused with emotions.

Eg: being bloated, periods, and restlessness causing anxiety


How can you do to help?

  • Be understanding

  • Give time

  • Ask how they feel (if they want to tell you)

  • Learn to recognise feelings your own or bodily sensations

  • Reduce sensory information


What next?

Sensory issues may help explain some of the reasons why

emotions might be mixed up with bodily sensations.

See Sensory Processing.

Scientific American: The Emotional Blindness of Alexithymia

Science Direct: Alexithymia