Alexithymia is a personality construct characterized by the sub-clinical inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. The core characteristics of alexithymia are marked dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment, and interpersonal relating. Furthermore, individuals suffering from alexithymia also have difficulty in distinguishing and appreciating the emotions of others, which is thought to lead to unempathic and ineffective emotional responding. Alexithymia is prevalent in approximately 10% of the general population and is known to be comorbid with a number of psychiatric conditions.
The term “alexithymia” was coined by psychotherapist Peter Sifneos in 1973. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word comes from the Greek words λέξις (lexis, “speech”) and θυμός (thumos, “soul, as the seat of emotion, feeling, and thought”) modified by an alpha privative, literally meaning “no words for emotions”.
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