There are 2 kinds of emotions-blindness: (1) primary (i.e., an enduring psychological trait that does not alter over time, and (2) secondary (i.e., is state-dependent and disappears after the evoking stressful situation has changed.
Typical limitations that result from emotions-blindness include:
- very logical and realistic dreams (e.g., going to the store or eating a meal)
- problems identifying, describing, and working with one's own emotions
- oriented toward things rather than people
- may treat themselves as robots
- lack of understanding of the emotions of others
- lack imagination, intuition, empathy, and drive-fulfillment fantasy, especially in relation to objects
- 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
Emotions-blindness creates interpersonal problems because these individuals avoid emotionally close relationships – or if they do form relationships with others, they tend to position themselves as either dependent, dominant, or impersonal (such that the relationship remains superficial).
Emotions-blindness frequently co-occurs with other disorders, with a representative prevalence of:
• 85% in autism spectrum disorders
• 63% in anorexia nervosa
• 56% in bulimia
• 50% in substance abusers
• 45% in major depressive disorder
• 40% in post-traumatic stress disorder
• 34% in panic disorder
Emotions-blindness also occurs in people with traumatic brain injury.
A second issue related to emotions-blindness involves the inability to identify and modulate strong emotions (e.g., sadness or anger), which leaves the autistic person prone to sudden outbursts, such rage. The inability to express emotions using words may also predispose the person to use physical acts to articulate the mood and release the emotional energy.
Many adults on the autism spectrum report a feeling of being unwillingly detached from the world around them. They may have difficulty resolving marital conflict due to poor social skills. The complexity and inconsistency of the social world can pose an extreme challenge for people with ASD.
Resources for Neurodiverse Couples: