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How Alexithymia Affects Relationships: Tips for People with ASD

“Could you please go into greater detail regarding Alexithymia? I’m diagnosed with ASD and believe that I also have this comorbid condition.”

Alexithymia can be described as a deficit in understanding, processing, or describing emotions - and is defined by: (a) difficulty identifying emotions and distinguishing between emotions and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal; (b) difficulty describing emotions to other people; (c) constricted imaginal processes: and (d) a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style.

There are two kinds of alexithymia: (a) primary alexithymia, which is an enduring psychological trait that does not alter over time; and (b) secondary alexithymia, which is state-dependent and disappears after the evoking stressful situation has changed.


Typical aspects that result from Alexithymia can include:

  • very logical and realistic dreams
  • problems identifying, describing, and working with one's own emotions
  • oriented toward things rather than people
  • may treat themselves as robots
  • few dreams or fantasies due to restricted imagination
  • difficulty distinguishing between emotions and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal
  • confusion of physical sensations often associated with emotions
  • concrete, realistic, logical thinking, often to the exclusion of emotional responses to problems
  • lack of understanding of the emotions of others
  • lack intuition and empathy


Alexithymia creates interpersonal problems because the affected individual avoids emotionally close relationships, or if he does form relationships with others, he tends to position himself as either dependent, dominant, or “impersonal” (i.e., the relationship remains superficial).

Another issue related to Alexithymia involves the inability to identify and control strong emotions (e.g., sadness or anger), which leaves people with ASD prone to sudden emotional outbursts (e.g., rage, meltdowns). The inability to express emotions using a “feelings vocabulary” predisposes them to use physical acts to articulate the mood and release negative pent-up emotional energy.

Many people on the autism spectrum report a feeling of being unwillingly detached from the world around them. The affected individual may have difficulty finding a life partner or getting married due to low emotional intelligence and weak social skills. The complexity and inconsistency of the social world poses an extreme challenge, but the good news is that emotional competencies can be increased - and social skills can be learned. Finding a therapist who specializes in ASD can be helpful.

 



Resources for couples affected by ASD: 

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

 


 

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