Why You Feel Nothing All The Time (Alexithymia)

Have you ever felt like you’re cruising through life on autopilot? Or like emotions are just a distant concept you can no longer seem to grasp? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, psychology even has a term that explains why some people feel nothing all the time – alexithymia. 

Picture this: emotions are like colors on a canvas, painting the landscape of your life. But for people with alexithymia, that canvas is either blank or mostly gray. They struggle to identify, understand, and express their feelings. 

What is Alexithymia?

The late psychiatrist Peter Sifneos, a professor at Harvard, introduced this term in 1972, which means “no words for emotions”. Alexithymia is neither a mental health disorder nor a formal diagnosis. Rather, it’s a symptom that often accompanies conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, depression, PTSD, and neurological problems like brain injury. It’s estimated that 13% of people all over the world suffer from alexithymia.

Signs of Alexithymia

Now, before you start thinking, “Am I alexithymic?” – hold up. It’s not just about having a bad day or being a little out of touch with your emotions. Alexithymia is like living in a constant emotional fog, where even the simplest feelings can seem elusive. Some common signs or manifestations of alexithymia include:

  • Being unsure of your feelings, only recognizing “good” or “bad,” “happy” or “unhappy,” without deeper understanding
  • Trouble expressing emotions, relying on logic rather than feelings
  • Feeling emotionally numb or detached
  • Uncertainty of your own needs and desires
  • Difficulty telling apart physical sensations from emotions
  • Limited imagination or fantasy life
  • Struggle to grasp others’ emotions or show empathy
  • Sudden, unexplained loss of motivation or drive
  • Weak sense of self or identity confusion

These signs might show up differently for each person, but if you’re nodding along to a few, it might be worth exploring further. 

Causes of Alexithymia

So, why does alexithymia happen? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Sometimes, it’s rooted in genetics. Some studies suggest that alexithymia can run in families, so you might have inherited a tendency for alexithymia. 

Other times, it’s linked to experiences – maybe you’ve been through some tough stuff that made you shut down emotionally as a way to cope. Alexithymia is more common among those who’ve suffered childhood trauma, abuse, or brain injury. It’s also been linked with substance use, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, personality disorders, and OCD. Finally, alexithymia is more common among men (17%) than women (10%). 

Living With Alexithymia

A person with alexithymia has a hard time processing their own emotions, which affects the way they respond to other people’s emotions. Because of this, living with alexithymia can be tough, with relationships suffering as a result. After all, it’s hard to connect with someone when you’re not even sure what you’re feeling yourself.

Because all emotions feel the same to them, people with alexithymia don’t even realize most of the time when they’re upset, in pain, or even having a panic attack. Your emotions tend to culminate in meltdowns that seem sudden and unexplained to you, and you likely need to be told by other people what you’re feeling. 

But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom! There are plenty of ways to cope with alexithymia. Most important would be to seek mental healthcare. Talking to a therapist and having a safe space to explore your emotions makes a positive difference. Practicing mindfulness techniques like meditation and journaling can also help you tune in to what’s going on inside you.

Most importantly, know that having alexithymia doesn’t mean you’re broken or defective. You’re just wired a little differently. It doesn’t make you any less valid or worthy of connection. So, if you’re feeling nothing all the time, know that you’re not alone. There’s a whole community out there who gets it. Seek out connections with others who understand, who can offer empathy and support. And remember, it’s okay to feel different. Be kind to yourself and embrace your journey.

In the midst of alexithymia’s fog, there are moments of clarity, glimpses of color in the gray. Cherish those moments, no matter how fleeting they may seem. Keep moving forward, one step at a time, and trust that you’re capable of finding your way through the fog to a place of greater clarity and understanding.

So, what’s it really like living with alexithymia? And what helps you cope? Share your stories in the comments down below!

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