Alexithymia

Alexithymia is a personality trait whereby a person is separated from their feelings. They may be more robotic-like, have difficulties in identifying feelings, difficulty in describing feelings or have a much more limited emotional range.

I first discovered the term back in my counseling training days, I came across a concept that certain events, themes and experiences made people disconnect with their emotions (there are also some disorders as well whereby a person is disconnected with their emotions too). I was listening to audio file about reflective practice and it contained a quote “the hardest journey is from the brain to the heart”. Through certain experiences or disorders the heart (emotions) was in a state of ‘perma-frost’. Perma-frost is a layer of frozen soil found in countries near the Arctic where the ground never defrosts, neither in spring or summer. The analogy was that the heart can remain in such a state, buried deep and frozen.

It’s a rather dramatic description of how disconnected some people can be, not only is their heart frozen, but also buried under layers of frozen soil.

The term Alexithymia means that a person pushes away their emotions. There are a range of issues that can cause this, one of which is alcohol and drug use. It is common for substance use disorder clients to possess a level of disconnection with their emotions. This sometimes comes from trauma, whereby emotions are overwhelming and flood the individual and person lacks the coping skills to manage emotions. Another aspect is that continued use of drugs, alcohol and acting out on processes (sex, porn, junk food and excessive exercise) causes disruptions in the ability for the brain to process emotions effectively.

It has been suggested by some that there is a ‘normal male alexithymia’ that leads to men shutting down and suppressing their emotions. However, despite the war on masculinity over the last decade there has been little to no advancing of male well-being, with suicides increasing for men more rapidly each year.

Alexithymia is something that can be overcome via counseling, journalling and reflective work. Emotions can be helped to be brought back online by abandoning Mal-adaptive addictive processes and working through feeling again.

Some people might always have a limited range of emotions in one way or another, the process can take a little longer to improve, but every small increment of improvement may certainly help a person grow and develop personally.

Published by Dylan Kerr BA ACAT FDAP DipHE MBABCP

Mr Dylan Kerr Addictions Counselor Bachelors in Clinical Counseling (Hons) Advanced Certified Addictions Therapist Member of the British Association for Behaviour and Cognitive Psychotherapist Member of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Practitioners HeDip Health-care HeDip Psychology of Addiction Dip Counselling Diploma in Arts Therapy Diploma in Transactional Analysis CSAT III Dylan Kerr is a Certified Substance Abuse Therapist who is qualified in Counseling, Psychology of addiction from Leeds University and Healthcare from Birmingham City University. Dylan Kerr has been a senior Therapist at the River Rehab, Lead Therapist at Lanna Rehab in Chiang Mai and Head Counselor of Hope Rehab in Siracha. As well as working in Thailand for 7 years, Dylan has also been the on-tour counsellor for the the Rock band ‘The Libertines’. Dylan is now resident counsellor at an Asian rehab. Dylan has experience of working within the music industry supporting acts in therapeutic needs. As well as working around the world Dylan has over 13 years experience delivering substance use disorder treatment at various agencies around the UK. He is skilled in motivational interviewing, CBT, RET and guidance around 12 step philosophies. Dylan has worked with a broad client base and establish the rapport needed to effect change and sustainable progression. Dylan wishes to start this blog to help educate people on his observations within this field and debate the nature of work in the addictions field.

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