Alexithymia from the Greek words λεξις and θυμος (literally "without words for emotions") is a term coined by Peter Sifneos in 1973[1][2] to describe a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing emotions.


Alexithymia is considered to be a personality trait that places individuals at risk for other medical and psychiatric disorders while reducing the likelihood that these individuals will respond to conventional treatments for the other conditions.[3]

Alexithymia is not classified as a mental disorder in the DSM IV. It is a personality trait that varies in severity from person to person. A person's alexithymia score can be measured with questionnaires such as the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), the Bermond-Vorst Alexithymia Questionnaire (BVAQ)[4] or the Observer Alexithymia Scale (OAS).[3]

Alexithymia is defined by:[5]

• (i) difficulty identifying feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal
• (ii) difficulty describing feelings to other people
• (iii) constricted imaginal processes, as evidenced by a paucity of fantasies
• (iv) a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style.

In studies of the general population the degree of alexithymia was found to be influenced by age, but not by gender; the rates of alexithymia in healthy controls have been found at 8.3% (2 of 24 persons) 4.7% (2 of 43), 8.9% (16 of 179), and 7% (4 of 56). Thus, several studies have reported that the prevalence rate of alexithymia is less than 10% in healthy controls.[6] A less common finding suggests that there may be a higher prevalence of alexithymia amongst males than females, which may be accounted for by difficulties they have with 'describing feelings', but not by a difficulty in 'identifying feelings' in which males and females show similar abilities.[7]

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia © 2001-2006 Wikipedia contributors (Disclaimer)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Emotional Intelligence. The Official Guide to Emotional Intelligence is Reldan S. Nadler, Psy.D. Dr. Nadler, educated as a clinical psychologist, has become a world-class executive coach, corporate trainer and author. He is the president and CEO True North Leadership, Inc. an Executive and Organizational Development firm. Dr. Nadler brings his expertise in Emotional Intelligence to all his keynotes, consulting, coaching and training. A licensed psychologist and Master Executive Coach, Dr. Nadler has been working for more than 30 years with top executives and their teams to become “star performers.” He is the author of two best-selling leadership and team performance books, and is a sought-after speaker and consultant on leadership, emotional intelligence, teambuilding, executive coaching, and experiential learning.

Additional Resources covering Emotional Intelligence can be found at:

Website Directory for Emotional Intelligence
Articles on Emotional Intelligence
Products for Mental Health
Discussion Board
Reldan S. Nadler, Psy.D, The Official Guide to Emotional Intelligence