Alexithymia is a relatively new word in the scientific world and is a term that represents an inability to understand, process, and describe emotions. Each of us has some level of alexithymia, but this personality trait is often found with other conditions on the autism spectrum, as well as post-traumatic stress disorders. It has also been shown to be related to eating and panic disorders, as well as substance abuse.
Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Missouri (MU) says 8 to 10 percent of people suffer from high alexithymia. University of Missouri’s latest study indicated that affectionate communication, such as hugging, could help those who have high levels of alexithymia lead more fulfilling lives.
The University of Missouri reported:
“We know how important it is for people to empathize and be open with the people around us, because that makes someone more competent as a communicator,” Hesse said. “We still need to study the best approaches, but we believe that affectionate communication ranging from hugs, touching, or even the posture taken during communication – can make a positive impact, even if it only relieves anxiety.”
In the paper “Affection Mediates the Impact of Alexithymia on Relationships,” published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, Hesse and Kory Floyd of Arizona State University surveyed 921 people and measured shared affection, attachment levels, and the number of close relationships. The researchers found that even though alexithymia was negatively related to forming relationships, the impact was lessened by giving and receiving higher amounts of affectionate communication.
Hesse hopes to help alexithymia sufferers succeed at building relationships by showing how difficulties can be eased by affectionate communication. This style of communication is known to release stress relieving hormones.
“Because there is so much gray area with alexithymia, the potential for what we learn could have benefits for people with conditions such as emotional distance and autism spectrum disorders,” Hesse said. “I want to help alexithymia sufferers understand the undercurrent of the messages sent from other people.”
Source: University of Missouri