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What is alexithymia?

Updated: Apr 23

Alexithymia is very common in Autistic individuals, and can be affected by struggles with one of the lesser-known senses – interoception!

Alexithymia is a difficulty in feeling, understanding, interpreting, and communicating your emotions. An Autistic person with alexithymia is not an emotionless robot, but we can experience our emotions differently than our neurotypical counterparts.

Alexithymia can affect individuals in different ways. Some may feel their emotions more intellectually than physically, or use context clues to figure out what emotions they’re feeling (ex: “I smiled, which means I’m happy”). Others may not be able to identify their emotions at all, or may be easily swayed by other’s interpretations of their emotional state because they don’t have the tools to understand it themselves.

What is interoception?

Interoception is the sense of our own internal states. While this includes the physical side of emotions, it also includes hunger, thirst, need for the bathroom, tiredness, pain, and more.

Many Autistic people have a weak or inconsistent interoceptive sense. This feeds into alexithymia because an autistic person who struggles with these things is not getting the same emotional clues as a neurotypical person.

When a neurotypical feels flushed and has a racing heart, they are able to easily interpret that as anger. An Autistic person may instead just feel ‘off’ or not know what is wrong. For example, they may feel their heart racing, but they believe that they tired or dizzy, not angry.

How we can help

Luckily, with the right tools and guidance, the interoceptive sense can be strengthened, and alexithymia can be accounted and accommodated for. Having someone to help guide you can make all the difference with these struggles, which is where our Coaches come in!

We work with clients utilizing tools like body scans, grounding, and mediation to help strengthen their interoceptive sense. To foster emotional literacy, we work through alexithymia with discussions, emotion modeling and charts, roleplay, and CBT from an autism-friendly perspective.

Having a better handle on alexithymia and interoception can benefit an Autistic person in many areas of their life, including their relationships, health, navigating their school or work environments, and more!

If you're ready to explore how an Autism Personal Coach can help you better identify your feelings and integrate this awareness into your life, contact us to learn more!

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