Experience of Joy and Sadness in Alexithymic Emotional Discourse
Alexithymia is a personality trait characterized by difficulties identifying and describing emotions. Suffering from a deficit in the cognitive processing of emotions, alexithymic individuals are unable to symbolize their emotions. Even though emotional elaboration is one of the core aspects of alexithymia, it has not been thoroughly investigated. Few studies have reported quantitative features of alexithymic’s discourse. However, the qualitative properties of alexithymic emotional discourse and the difference in symbolization between positive and negative emotions remain to be investigated. This study aims to examine how individuals with alexithymia symbolize their subjective emotional experiences by defining the characteristics of their discourse related to positive and negative emotions. A sample of 9 clinically alexithymic individuals rated on the TAS-20 was interviewed about a typical experience of joy and sadness. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Themes associated with sadness revealed that alexithymic individuals tend to avoid contact with sadness. They also perceived sadness as an imposed state by external events. Themes associated with joy revealed that this emotion seemed easier to share with peers. Moreover, joy seemed easier to express and symbolize for alexithymic individuals than sadness. This comprehensive description of alexithymic emotional discourse allows to better understand the symbolization of emotions according to their valence and to better recognize alexithymic ways of expressing emotions.
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