Alexithymia – comes from Greek origins and it literally means “no words for emotions.” It is a condition characterized by a deficit in the ability to name and express emotions. Often individuals with Alexithymia confuse emotions with bodily sensations.
Asperger’s, Alexithymia and Social Relationships
Many of the defined characteristics and symptoms of Asperger’s are social. Example symptoms for Asperger’s are listed as – poor eye contact, problems making/maintaining friendships, trouble interpreting social signals inability to recognize humor or sarcasm, etc …
Those with Asperger’s are thought to feel a lack of interest and pleasure in social relationships.
It is easy to see the similarities between Asperger’s and Alexithymia. In fact, researchers have noted that there is significant overlap in characteristics between Asperger’s and Alexithymia.
An example of the overlap in characteristics would be the person often presenting with a flat affect, regardless of the context of the social interaction. In extreme cases they often appear oblivious or non-caring towards unwritten rules of social interaction, such remembering to greet someone before an interaction, or smiling at a joke. Even disagreements with others is often met with a flat affect. People who interact with those diagnosed with Asperger’s or Alexithymia are often thrown off by the lack of emotion that normally go with spoken words communicative interactions.
Childhood and Beyond
As a result of these social deficits, many children with Alexithymia or Asperger’s experience conflicts with their peers all through childhood. Imagine a kid on the spectrum attempting to socialize in the school yard. He walks into a circle of kids having a conversation, and just begins talking. Sadly, in cases like these, such attempts at socializing end poorly for children with Alexithymia or Asperger’s.
By the time they reach their teenage years, they have developed significant anxiety in regards to socializing. They lack the skills required to build relationships. As they move forward in life, it becomes difficult for them to find and keep employment even if they possess the skills needed for the job.
Effective Therapeutic Approaches
Therapeutic approaches such as transactional analysis can help develop insight into the fundamentals of social transactions. While Alexithymia and Asperger’s will never fully go away, social skills can be developed. Assertiveness skills for initiating social interactions can be learned. Compassionate approaches to dealing with conflicts can also be developed. If Alexithymia and Asperger’s are forms of social blindness, consider an approach like transnational analysis to be social walking sticks — it provides the support needed to function well.
Executive coaching is useful for children, teens, and adults facing difficulties with social skills and social anxiety. The effectiveness of a coach, is similar to that of a sports coach.
Research in neuroscience has shown, that new behaviors cause the development of new neurological connections in the brain. Therefore with significant coaching, people with Alexithymia and Asperger’s can receive the support they need while developing new habits for successful social interactions. It takes time to develop the necessary skills. A supportive and understanding life coach will provide guidance, motivation, and education to assist in positive forward movement.
Therapy and coaching for individuals with Asperger’s and/or Alexithymia can make all the difference in the ability to manage social and professional relationships.
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