Alexithymia is the difficulty of expressing emotions or feelings. The person does not have the words to express his emotions.

It is a term created by the American professor Sifneos of Harvard University.

This disorder often appears in older people with depressive symptoms. 

How is alexithymia expressed?

It is characterized by an inability to recognize one’s emotions and to communicate one’s feelings.

It also results in a limitation of the imaginary life, a tendency to resort to action, a tendency to dependence or a preference for solitude.

People with alexithymia complain of inner tension, irritability, feelings of boredom and emptiness as well as nervousness. They tend to somatize their emotional problems.

Possible causes of alexithymia

Some psychologists think that alexithymia helps people deal with traumatic situations. It would depend on the existence of early childhood trauma.

Neurobiologists believe that alexithymia is caused by abnormalities in the connections between the limbic system and the neocortex, a part of the brain associated with perceptions.

It is also unclear whether alexithymia is determined at birth (genetic origin) or whether it results from an environmental factor.

Forms of alexithymia

There are two forms of alexithymia:

  • the primary form, which refers to a factor predisposing to the onset of somatic disorders;
  • the secondary form, which results in a mechanism of adaptation to specific traumas.

Alexithymia would predict the appearance of somatic symptoms that are not clinically explained, such as asthma, chromium disease, certain migraines, or gastrointestinal disorders.

There would be depressive disorders in alexithymic patients. There would be depressive disorders that are often undiagnosed in these people because of their weak verbalization skills and who find it difficult to recognize themselves as depressed.


The best medical attitude is to screen patients as early as possible because there is a risk of developing a somatic disorder, depression, or even dementia.

Psychotherapy is indicated for patients wishing to find the origin of their psychological disorders.

Individual care is complex because there is no actual demand. Group support is often indicated.

Relaxation is also a good indication. The relaxant is lying down, and the caregiver talks to him about his body. This sometimes makes him feel good and sometimes makes him feel bad, and he will be able to talk about it after the session.


To detect this disease, there is a questionnaire called the French scale for evaluating alexithymia.