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Thread: Alexithymia: "How are you?" is the hardest question...?

  1. #1

    Question Alexithymia: "How are you?" is the hardest question...?

    Is, "How are you?" one of the hardest questions you are asked? Does it seem like there just is no answer and the question is almost meaningless...?

    I've become aware (through psychotherapy) that I find it almost impossible to express certain emotions such as anger -- I literally can't get angry. If you tried to punch me, I'd probably laugh (partly out of nervousness, partly to taunt you). The best I could do (99% of the time) would be to try to fake anger... which usually makes me look slightly insane...

    And I also tend to see emotions in "one big blob", rather than being able to separate out different feelings. My therapist got me some cheerful emotion faces so I could go through them one by one to see if they applied when I was thinking about something. See here:



    Anyway, I saw this video (see below) yesterday where a psychotherapist was talking about alexithymia and I was surprised at how well it seemed to describe me.

    According to Wikipedia, alexithymia typically involves "a difficulty in identifying, describing, and working with one's own feelings" as well as "concrete, realistic, logical thinking, often to the exclusion of emotional responses to problems", and... well... problems relating to people, and a whole lot more.

    One person's theory about the cause is that "the disaffected individual had at some point "experienced overwhelming emotion that threatened to attack their sense of integrity and identity", to which they applied psychological defenses to pulverize and eject all emotional representations from consciousness"... and she proposed that, "the alexithymic part of an adult personality could be "an extremely arrested and infantile psychic structure"... which was interesting...

    In one test, 85% of people with autism/Asperger's were deemed to be "impaired" through alexithymia. But it's also common with depression, anxiety, social phobias, panic disorder, anhedonia, PTSD, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, substance abuse, IBS, asthma and "perverse sexual behaviours" (ooh err misses!)

    Anyway... I'd never heard of it (and neither had my therapist), so... I just thought I'd chuck it out there in case it rings any bells with anyone...

    There's a test you can do here: http://images.imaginalistory.multipl...nmid=248389827

    And a slightly different one here: Online Alexithymia Questionnaire

    And here's the video I saw. I'd love to hear any thoughts...


  2. #2

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    just took the quiz. I show high alexythimic traits apparently

  3. #3

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    I have taken the test in the past and scored alexithymia on it. I wasn't surprised. Even my own shrink tried to get me to describe my feelings and he kept telling me they were thoughts. I honestly don't see why it's so important. Sure I can say "this pisses me off," "it annoys me." Isn't that expressing emotion?

    I can also cry and yell and scream. Also expressing emotion.

    I am not sure what my shrink wanted. What I did regarding feelings/emotions was never good enough.

  4. #4

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    Reminds me of a song by the same name.

    Anyways, I don't mind the question being asked, but I usually lie. I hate making people worry, and people easily accept "I'm okay," so why not? It saves me trouble, and it saves them from having to worry.

    Although, honestly, if I'm going to be honest about my feelings, I'm never able to put them into words, and then no one ever understands what I mean. Usually, if I'm debating with a friend, or trying to talk to someone about something, they laugh and chuckle because I sound silly, and I must just be being silly or something. Now that blows.

  5. #5

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    Ellen Degeneres brings this up in her routine Here and Now (which is very funny and clean stand-up comedy if anyone is interested). People tend not to care about the response to the question "How are you?" Just a formality.

    As far as alexithymia, I don't think I have trouble identifying or verbalizing my feelings, but I basically do not express anger. Even if a close friend did something which I might describe as "betrayal," for instance... I can't imagine myself getting angry, shouting, whatever that entails. I might talk about it, but as for the visual manifestations of anger... there would be none of them.

  6. #6

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    As part of my condition, I fail to register subtle emotions from other people, like the way I've learned with dogs and how they'll go through stages of behaviors if they perceive you as a threat. With people, I never see the showing of teeth or hear the growling. For me it could be like the dog wagging its tail to suddenly getting bitten with no idea how it happened, whereas most NTs will pick up on those subtle escalations. When I have anxiety, fear or disappointment it tends to come off as anger, and to compound things, whenever I had a minor conflict with anyone I went from being their best friend to their worst enemy, it took me a very long time to learn that a trivial disagreement didn't have to turn into lifetime banishment.

    As for "How are you doing?" I usually answer with a "Hey" like I'm happy to see them. Having a small indie business requires a friendly attitude, and I've observed it's not so much the words they want to hear than the tone of voice

  7. #7

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    This is a thread throughout the movie Star Trek IV The Voyage Home.
    Spock is asked "How do you feel?" and he doesn't understad the question at first. At the end of the movie he tells his father to tell his mother he is feeling fine.
    It never occured to me that this might be real. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by tiny View Post
    One person's theory about the cause is that "the disaffected individual had at some point "experienced overwhelming emotion that threatened to attack their sense of integrity and identity", to which they applied psychological defenses to pulverize and eject all emotional representations from consciousness"... and she proposed that, "the alexithymic part of an adult personality could be "an extremely arrested and infantile psychic structure"... which was interesting...

    In one test, 85% of people with autism/Asperger's were deemed to be "impaired" through alexithymia. But it's also common with depression, anxiety, social phobias, panic disorder, anhedonia, PTSD, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, substance abuse, IBS, asthma and "perverse sexual behaviours" (ooh err misses!)
    soooooo, the correct answer to a sincere, "how a' thee?", would be, "shit!"
    (i'm saving you a fortune on head-shrinking bills, here )

    seriously, if someone genuinely asks, tell the summarized truth, above. if it's just the casual greeting, and so as to make sure that the whole world isn't falling apart, "y'reet?", the answer is, "aye".
    alternatively, there's the old jokey responses to a "how are you?": "it all started about 3 billion years ago.........", or, "well, my mam met my dad, they got married and you know that thing you did with your sister? well......."

    tell the truth, play it down or laugh it off. you only have to worry about being too detailed with the first one as you may come across as a mardy-pants. oh, and with the last one, you to be careful not to touch anybody's raw nerve as there's many a true word said in jest

    Ade: psycho the rapist
    (damn that signwriter!)

  9. #9

    Smile

    Interesting comments everyone -- cheers to all who posted!



    Quote Originally Posted by ade View Post
    seriously, if someone genuinely asks, tell the summarized truth, above. if it's just the casual greeting, and so as to make sure that the whole world isn't falling apart, "y'reet?", the answer is, "aye".
    alternatively, there's the old jokey responses to a "how are you?": "it all started about 3 billion years ago.........", or, "well, my mam met my dad, they got married and you know that thing you did with your sister? well......."

    tell the truth, play it down or laugh it off. you only have to worry about being too detailed with the first one as you may come across as a mardy-pants. oh, and with the last one, you to be careful not to touch anybody's raw nerve as there's many a true word said in jest

    Ade: psycho the rapist
    (damn that signwriter!)
    But... sometimes I say "fine" and people tell me I'm not (or that I don't look it)! Or they rise an eyebrow as if to say, "A longer response is required". It would be soooo much easier if they said, "Tell me you're fine (and just pretend if you're not)" or "Are you worried about X? I'm only partially interested, so please give me a summary in about 25 words, leaving out any unpleasant details so you don't con me into feeling sorry for you." At least I'd know what they were asking and I could give them what they want and get on with something more interesting!

    Anyway, I just came across a few blog posts about alexithymia, ASD, grief and social anxiety which were incredible to read. They almost perfectly seems to describe the kind of way I think. I'd be interested to hear if they resonate with anyone else...:

    Emotional Dysfunction: Alexithymia and ASD | Musings of an Aspie
    My Anxiety is Not Disordered | Musings of an Aspie
    Alexithymia and Grief | Unstrange Mind

  10. #10

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    Interesting topic here.

    While my intital thought is that it is not that entirely uncommon as most everyone evaluates the initial anticipation of the customary question being asked, "how are you?" as well as the afterthought, "I hope I delivered a customary response" and followed by "how pointless was that??" I think you are an instinctual evaluater and it may be unitentionally corrupting. I have had similar thoughts on "small-talk". I am not a fan of it and have to deal with it everyday. While I regret so, I realize that it is a response to keep the ebb-and-flow of things from pointing a spotlight on me thus making it more work to try to explain myself to someone that has zero interest of investment in my worries, concerns, or thoughts of the moment simply to play the part of passer-by.

    I am going to look into it further as this subject has been beaded and piqued my interest in human psychology and the brains response to problem solving.

    Quick add: I suspect it may deal with the human contrived subject of etiquette in some manner.

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