Alexithymia: the disturbances it entails

The psychosomatic and depressive disorders linked to alexithymia and the theses that can explain this relationship.


Alexithymia is  an affective-cognitive disorder that involves a difficulty in identifying, expressing and interpreting personal and other people’s emotions. There are links between alexithymia and the onset of psychosomatic disorders, and also studies that attest to this hypothesis. At the scientific level, the relationship between alexithymia and psychosomatic disorders is seen as a malfunction of the body’s processes. It is due to the lack of ability to represent emotions. 


If we start from a biopsychosocial model, health and the development of a disease are influenced by the association between biological, psychological and socio-cultural factors. Alexithymia can lead to the appearance of somatic symptoms leading to a generic alteration of prolonged physiological functioning. If, on the other hand, alexithymia is the result of a childhood trauma, it can predict a deficit in behavioral development (smoking, alcohol, drugs).

Many alexithymic individuals focus too much on amplifying bodily sensations associated with emotions and therefore misinterpret these sensations as symptoms of illness. In other cases some individuals may associate a misalignment between emotion response systems. Basically, an association that tends to confuse physical sensations with signs of illness. 

Additionally, there has been evidence of a link between alexithymia and depression . The poor ability to identify and interpret emotions in alexithymia is the physiological effort that avoids a disturbing emotional experience. This then causes the development of physical and mental pathologies. 


A study in 2021 investigated the relationship between severe depressive symptoms, avoidance and alexithymia, attesting a link between these factors. Among the subjects analysed, young people with childhood abuse had the most significant scores on alexithymia, avoidance, suicide, self-harm. 


Simply put, a traumatic childhood experience as an input to depressive development and impaired emotion regulation capacity are essential factors. More studies will be needed to confirm this report’s contention that avoidance can be an aggravating factor. 

  • Alexithymia and related disorders (


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