Alexithymia is a clinical term for the inability to understand the intricacies of feelings and emotions. The existence and study of alexithymic experiences started in the 1970's. Some research suggests that alexithymia is more predominant in men than in women and is prevalent in approximately 10% of the general population. Alexithymia is also understood to have two components; a cognitive component where people might face challenges with thinking and emotions while trying to name, understand and talk about feelings, as well as an affective component where people might struggle with the experience of sharing, responding to and sensing emotions.
People who experience the effects of alexithymia might have these symptoms:
1. Difficulty identifying feelings
2. Difficulty distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations
3. A lack of impulse control
4. Violent or disruptive outbursts
5. Difficulty describing feelings to other people
6. Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, or physical touch
7.Limited imagination and, therefore, little or no fantasies and limited dreams
8. An unawareness of what is happening in their own mind and a very concrete way of thinking.
Alexithymia is known to be co-morbid with a number of psychiatric conditions. Therefore, when signs of Alexithymia are seen one might also look at depression, post traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, substance abuse, and eating disorders, as it’s these diagnoses that one might harbor alexithymia.
But where does it come from? How does one end up with this personality construct of marked dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment and interpersonal relating? Some research has indicated that events happening in a person’s early childhood such as neglect or abuse but there are also cases of witnessing a horrifying event is known to trigger alexithymia.
If you, or someone you know, is displaying symptoms such as those described above please seek out the support of a licensed therapist. Therapy will often concentrate on building a foundation of naming emotions and appreciating a range of feelings. The process will likely include both consideration of the experiences of other people and self-reflection. For people who have no problem with emotional comprehension this might sound very basic, however, for a person with alexithymia the process of growing their emotional intelligence and capacity may be difficult.
Liz Birch is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who provides services in her office in Orange, CA but also has options for home-based psychotherapy. Her areas of expertise are in communications, relationships, marriage strengthening, stress reduction, depression, trauma, personal growth, ptsd and provides support to the military population and their families. She can be reached via LizBirchTherapist.com, email at LizBirchMFT@gmail.com, or by calling 714-614-0612.
Weiss, Thomas C. , Alexithymia: Information, Symptoms & Treatment Options, August 2012, Disabled World/heath/neurology/alexithymia
You had an amazing passionate relationship with your spouse. Sex was beautiful, often, and intense. It was a safe place. It was when you felt the most intimate and close that you can feel with anyone. You both had thoughtful, deep and ultimately the best conversations. You embraced the closeness you both felt in those moments after.… when you are coming down from the highest of highs. Those moments of laying together are etched in your memory.
I hope each military couple out there still has the same intensity as when they first met, were dating, or after their marriage. Don’t we all wish that passion was still there?
I’m guessing for most military couples who have endured multiple deployments that is not the case. The spouse who has been waiting and taking care of the home and children has been anticipating their veteran’s return. The void of sex is almost painful. But she/he knows when their partner finally arrives it will be filled with that passion and intimacy that they have longed for over the past several months. Unfortunately, in most cases that is not the reality.
I work with many veterans and military families and I hear a lot of the same story. Sex is not the same. They want the passion. They want it all to be just as it was before and when it’s not the frustration begins, for both. Each time they try and that fulfillment isn’t there both partners feel a sense of loss. They both work so hard at getting it back. The incentive is there but the same feelings aren’t occurring.
The returning veteran is feeling the effects of war - some of which are probably nightmares, startle responses, paranoia, fear, being on edge, depression and anger. Some veterans have physical effects such as burns, scars and loss of limbs. Each veteran has their own set of emotional and physical changes due to combat. Any one of those can have a profound affect of the sexual relationship.
For the partner who’s been at home waiting for these passionate moments please try to understand what your veteran has been through and the symptoms of PTSD, TBI, and what just plain war creates. For the veteran, please try not to be disappointed in yourself. Let me assure you, you are not the only veteran experiencing this. You may not be sharing your sex life, or lack of it, with your buddies but I know the same frustrations are occurring in most.
Let me offer some suggestions;
Combat takes a toll on all relationships. I hope the above guidelines and suggestions are helpful. Please try to understand you are not alone, either partner, in the struggle to rekindle your sexual relationship.
It is not a sign of weakness to seek out help and support but rather a sign of strength in wanting to work on improving your relationship. I commend you for all you have given and wish you peace.
Liz Birch is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who provides home-based and online psychotherapy. Her areas of expertise are in communications, relationships, stress reduction, depression, trauma and provides support to the military population and their families. She can be reached via LizBirchTherapist.com and email at LizBirchMFT@gmail.com
Over the past few years I’ve become accustomed to utilizing phone apps to help my clients get through some tough times. It’s not a replacement for me, their therapist, but they do help when my clients needs some "on the spot" aid.
I thought I’d list a few that I use and ones that my clients have shared with me that they find helpful.
If any of you have other apps that aid in calming, supporting, encouraging or do some crisis management until personal help is available I’d like to hear about them.
Here are my top five that I’m able to access via my iphone.
Again none of the above mentioned apps are a replacement for in-person help but many of my clients have shared that they have been extremely helpful to them.
Please list your favorite self help apps (and maybe some pros and cons) in the comment section below. It's great to learn what works, and doesn't, from others.
*photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
I'm a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Psychotherapist, who works with individuals, couples and families. I'm also a thinker, doer, caregiver and idealist. I hope I inspire you to take risks and step out of your comfort zone. You might be surprised what you discover.