IATE Term of the Week: Alexithymia


AlexithymiaWhether recalling a memory or going through experiences in life, we are usually familiar with what these occurrences bring- most often evoking feelings which we can draw from and identify easily, varying between a spectrum of good and bad. Although we have accepted that our brain conditions us to have these automatic reactions of feeling, we rarely question why we are built this way. However, what if we didn’t have such control over our minds and faced a blank state of “emotional numbness”?

For some people, this is their reality and living in a world where we learn and are shaped by emotions, it is frequently challenging for them to understand their role in an emotionally-dependent society. To bring awareness to this rare psychological condition, we have chosen “Alexithymia” the IATE term of the week.

Alexithymia IATE

How can we even begin to understand this state of not being able to describe or even consciously relate to the various representations of emotions which play such a significant part in our lives? Since 1972, many studies have attempted to explain why this occurs cognitively for some and not for others. Some scientists have hypothesised that this may be due to “a breakdown in communication between the two hemispheres, preventing signs from the emotional region”. According to Katharina Goerlich-Dobre at RWTH Aachen University, brain scans show that the difficulty in putting emotion into words may be due to  “abnormally dense connections in the neural bridge”, creating a badly-tuned, noisy radio effect for some individuals.

In the newly-released animated film, “Inside Out”, it takes on a different perspective on emotions functioning in the brain. In true Pixar style, emotions act as individual characters living inside a multi-layered community within the young protagonist’s brain, guiding her through various aspects of her personality, life experiences and memories.

In the real world, most would regard that having a lack of emotion is a great disadvantage to interacting with others, especially since if one is unable to experience basic feelings like joy, sadness and anger, they struggle to relate or emphasize naturally. However, these individuals, who call themselves “Alexes”, cope on a different level, one that is far more technical and analytical. Although, this is not viewed as conventional on any means, it has been effective, building their understanding in a manner which is conducive to them.

Therefore, it is easy to dismiss such simplicities in life like the range of emotions which we have access to, coursing through our minds and being present during a given situation. However, as Alexithymia continues to become a more familiarized topic, it illustrates that individuality exists in many forms, and in this case, the emotional and non-emotional ties which bind us together.




BBC News

Inside Out (Film)

Mind of Dan (Comic)


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Written by Margarita Reyes
Communication Trainee at TermCoord
Student at the University of Luxembourg