Fear of Expressing Emotions (Alexithymia): Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

The fear of expressing emotions or alexithymia, or the inability to express feelings in words, affects 15 and 20% of the population and is sometimes a real psychiatric disorder. The alexithymic person cannot become aware of his emotions and express them.


Alexithymia ranges from a simple difficulty expressing feelings to an inability to verbalize emotions, as in some mental illnesses. The person physically feels the emotion; for example, an acceleration of the heart rate or the presence of sweat on the skin’s surface may be noticed without becoming aware of it or expressing it.

Men are apprehensive and helpless when it comes to expressing their emotions. The causes of this psychiatric disorder are not always obvious. It is often the result of psychiatric problems and psychological shock, especially in childhood, a somewhat rigid upbringing, or addiction.


  • Inability to recognize, identify and verbally express one’s emotions.
  • A minimal imaginary life, including the ability to daydream.
  • A tendency to use an action to avoid or resolve conflict.
  • A poor, stereotyped, repetitive, and factual verbal description and an inability to describe abstract or fantasy situations.
  • The person avoids confrontation with their emotions and remains very rational to prevent conflict or stress .
  • Contact with others can also be problematic.

You might also like to read: Fear Of Needles: Characteristics, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment.

Causes of alexithymia

causes of alexithymia

Alexithymia is characterized by the inability to express emotions (joy, sadness, fear, or anger) in words due to an ineffective connection between certain parts of the brain responsible for feelings and others in which they are consciously represented. There are several causes:


  • A major emotional shock, especially in childhood, can disconnect specific brain structures related to emotions and expression.


  • Some cultures reject the expression of emotions, especially in men.


  • When no physical illness can explain specific symptoms (pain, palpitations, or even paralysis), it can be the physical expression of emotion. The person expresses “evils” that he cannot communicate with “words.”
  • Depression, melancholy, or anxiety are sometimes accompanied by a significant slowdown.
  • The person is frozen.

Addiction or eating disorder

Addiction or eating disorder

  • Almost one in two addicts has a more or less pronounced alexithymia profile.
  • It can be related to the substance itself or the personality.
  • Autism or autism spectrum disorders.
  • Parkinson’s disease, psychosis, and schizophrenia (negative symptoms related to anxiety and depression) may also accompany alexithymia.


Alexithymia is expressed with symptoms of varying intensity depending on the individuals and the psychiatric disorders:

  • It is challenging to recognize and name your own emotions and those of others.
  • An expression of bodily sensations (the person cries without understanding that it is sadness, for example).
  • A poor fantasy life.
  • An inability to describe your inner life.
  • The expression of complaints and physical suffering.
  • A repetitive, factual, and symbolically poor speech with a tendency to explain the circumstances surrounding the events.
  • Isolation and distance from the relationship with others.
  • Lack of humor
  • Difficulty telling a memory, story, or dream.


Alexithymic people have very poor introspection and self-analysis skills, making psychotherapies difficult.

To remove alexitism from its emotional silence, the therapist returns a language to it by associating the emotions with what the person physically feels or tells.

It is long and hard work. Alexithymia must go through expressing all your feelings (negative and positive) to relearn how to think about emotions and listen to your body.

The work of the psychologist serves to frame this new management.

Website | + posts

Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.