Four decades of research on alexithymia: moving toward clinical applications

People who have alexithymia have difficulty identifying and describing their emotions. This article, published in "Frontiers in Psychology," says that "as many as 10% of the general population may be characterized by levels of alexithymia that are sufficiently high to qualify as pathological." But despite four decades of research, the authors say, "to the best of our knowledge, there exists no treatment specifically designed to overcome the problems associated with alexithymia."

They go on to suggest some possible treatments: "One possible linguistic intervention might consist of training alexithymic individuals in affect labeling that is, in lexicalizing emotional aspects of emotional stimuli and events. Research among general populations (which did not assess alexithymia) indicates that affect labeling improves emotion regulation (Lieberman et al., 2011). Thus, affect labeling could be an effective antidote against alexithymia."

Affect labeling means putting feelings into words, and you can find studies on the benefits of affect labeling here. Because Mixed Emotions cards are designed to help people identify and articulate their feelings, they may prove helpful in overcoming alexithymia.

Dalya Samur, Mattie Tops, Caroline Schlinkert, Markus Quirin, Pim Cuijpers, and Sander L. Koole
Published in "Frontiers in Psychology" on November 19, 2013
© 2013 Samur, Tops, Schlinkert, Quirin, Cuijpers, and Koole