Alexithymia In Panic Disorders

Nov 4, 2022Panic Disorder

Invictus Clinic
November 4, 2022

If you suffer from panic disorder, you may find that at times you’re at a complete loss for letting someone into what you’re feeling. This can foster insecurity, confusion, and even hostility if a loved one feels shut out even though you’re trying to let them in. If someone you love suffers from this condition, trying to help them through a panic disorder when they can’t express themselves can feel disheartening and frustrating. But there’s a term to keep in mind, which can help everyone give a little more grace in these difficult situations.

Although alexithymia has been studied for many years, its cause is still unknown. However, evidence suggests that alexithymia may be linked to the manifestations of panic disorders. Alexithymia is characterized by difficulty identifying and describing one’s own emotions. People who suffer from alexithymia often find it difficult to express their feelings, leading to personal relationships and work-life problems.

A Closer Look At Alexithymia

Alexithymia is a relatively recent term, first coined in the early 1970s by the psychotherapist Peter Sifneos. The condition was originally described as having “no words for emotions.”

Since then, research has shown that people with alexithymia have difficulty identifying and describing their own emotions. They may also find it difficult to understand the feelings of others.

People with alexithymia often have trouble regulating their emotions and may be more prone to anxiety and depression. They are also at risk for developing addictions to substances or activities that provide an emotional outlet, such as gambling or shopping.

Symptoms of Alexithymia

The symptoms of alexithymia can vary from person to person. However, some common characteristics that people with the condition tend to exhibit.

Some of the most common symptoms of alexithymia include:

  • Difficulty identifying emotions
  • Difficulty describing emotions
  • Emotional detachment
  • Inability to react emotionally to events
  • Problems regulating emotions

People with alexithymia may also struggle with cognitive tasks that involve emotion, such as memory and problem-solving. They may have difficulty understanding jokes or abstract concepts.

Also, maintaining personal relationships can be challenging for people who suffer from this condition. They may be seen as cold or unemotional. They may have trouble expressing their feelings to others while, at the same time, experiencing difficulty understanding the feelings of those around them.

In addition, work-life can be difficult for people with alexithymia. They may have trouble getting along with co-workers and managers — and may find it challenging to communicate effectively in any social circumstances.

Next, let’s take a brief look at panic disorders.

What Are Panic Disorders?

Panic disorders are a type of anxiety disorder. They are characterized by sudden, unexpected attacks of fear or terror.

During a panic attack, a person may experience many of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations

People with panic disorders often worry about the future and more attacks. This can lead to distress and interfere with work, school, and social life. 

Panic disorders are relatively common, affecting about 2.7% of the population in the United States. They are more common in women than men and typically develop in early adulthood.

The Link Between Alexithymia and Panic Disorders

There is evidence to suggest that alexithymia may be linked to panic disorders. People with alexithymia are more likely to experience panic attacks and develop other various anxiety disorders.

This is understandable in someone with alexithymia. Suppose one cannot identify or describe their emotions. In that case, these emotions will fester to the point of — for lack of better terms — an unregulated emotional explosion in the form of a panic attack.

It should be noted that just because someone has trouble identifying their emotional state, this does not necessarily mean that the emotions are not present. So, in a sense, these feelings are set aside and bottled up to the point of immense pressure, which has to be released somehow.

In one study, researchers looked at the relationship between alexithymia and panic disorder in a group of patients. The results showed that patients who scored high on the alexithymia scale were more likely to have a panic disorder than those who scored low. 

Another study looked at the link between alexithymia and agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in places where escape might be difficult or embarrassing. The results showed that people with agoraphobia were more likely to have alexithymia than those without the condition.

Why Might Alexithymia Maintain Prevalence In People With Panic Disorders?

There are a few possible explanations for why alexithymia might maintain prevalence in people with panic disorders.

One explanation is that people with panic disorders may be more likely to develop alexithymia. This is because they may be more sensitive to the emotional sensations associated with a panic attack. 

For example, someone who experiences a lot of chest pain during a panic attack may start to associate this pain with fear and become preoccupied with it. This can lead to difficulty identifying and describing emotions outside of the context of a panic attack.

Another possibility is that alexithymia may actually maintain the prevalence of panic disorders. This means that the two conditions may reinforce each other, leading to a vicious cycle. 

For example, someone with alexithymia will have difficulty identifying and describing their emotional state, leading to feeling overwhelmed and out of control. This, in turn, can trigger a panic attack.

Finally, alexithymia and panic disorders may share common underlying causes. Both conditions may be caused by genetics or early life experiences.

Invictus Clinic: Helping You Find Relief from Alexithymia and Panic Disorders

Not being able to describe what you need is an immense strain on you and your relationships. If you or someone you love is struggling with alexithymia or a panic disorder, Invictus Clinic may be able to help. Our team of experienced, compassionate providers will work with you to develop a treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs and the circumstances of your condition. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Contact us to find out more about how we can help.


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