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Alexithymia is a condition characterized by difficulties identifying and describing one's own emotional states (Nemiah, Freyberger, & Sifneos, 1976). Individuals with alexithymia are often aware that they are experiencing an emotion, but struggle to determine whether it is fear, excitement, or anger, for example. Alexithymia is therefore associated with difficulties describing how one would feel in particular emotional scenarios (Lane et al., 1990), as well as with difficulties regulating one's emotions (Stasiewicz et al., 2012; Venta, Hart, & Sharp, 2013). This chapter details the behavioral and neurological characteristics of alexithymia, its etiology (including whether it may be evolutionarily adaptive), and its role in emotional impairment across clinical populations. The relationship between alexithymia and interoception (the ability to perceive and recognize the internal state of one's body) is also discussed, alongside evidence that alexithymia may represent a general deficit of interoception.

Original publication





Book title

The Cambridge Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Behavior

Publication Date



436 - 448