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anhedonia versus alexithymia whats the difference


Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I am unsure what the difference is between alexithymia and anhedonia. The two terms seem to refer to quite similar conditions. I quote from two web sources below but am still unsure what the difference is. In my mind anhedonia is related to a loss of emotion which was there before and alexithymia seems to be relevant to something more enduring as a condition about recognising and describing emotions.

How do others define the difference.
[I suppose I am a bit aspie in needing this distinction clarified]

What Is Anhedonia?

Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure. It's a common symptom of depression as well as other mental health disorders.

Most people understand what pleasure feels like. They expect certain things in life to make them happy. Maybe you enjoy riding your bike, listening to the sounds of the ocean, or holding someone's hand. But some people lose the ability to feel joy. The things that once made them content are no longer fun or enjoyable. That's anhedonia.

There are two main types of anhedonia:

  • Social anhedonia. You don’t want to spend time with other people.
  • Physical anhedonia. You don’t enjoy physical sensations. A hug leaves you feeling empty rather than nurtured. Your favorite foods taste bland. Even sex can lose its appeal.
Anhedonia makes relationships, including those with friends and family members, a struggle. With the reward of enjoyment gone, it's hard to get motivated to spend time with others. You might turn down invitations and skip events like concerts, parties, and even one-on-one get-togethers because you no longer believe there's any benefit in taking part.

Or you could have social anxiety. You feel like you don't fit in, especially when meeting new people.

Relationships also thrive on positive feedback, and without it they can wither: Imagine not being able to tell someone you love them or that you had a great time spending the day with them. But if you have anhedonia, you can't, because you don't have those feelings. Meanwhile, loss of libido can take a toll on a romantic relationship.

It's also worth noting that some scientists believe anhedonia isn't always a black-and-white issue. You might feel no joy at all, or you could find that your positive emotions are dulled. In other words, it's possible to still like eating chocolate ice cream or listening to jazz; you just don't like those things nearly as much as you used to for reasons you can't explain.

What Is Anhedonia?

Alexithymia is a personal trait characterized by the subclinical inability to identify and describe emotions experienced by one's self or others.[1] The core characteristics of alexithymia are marked dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment, and interpersonal relating.[2] Furthermore, people with alexithymia have difficulty in distinguishing and appreciating the emotions of others, which is thought to lead to unempathic and ineffective emotional responding.[2] Alexithymia occurs in approximately 10% of the population and can occur with a number of psychiatric conditions as well as any neurodevelopmental disorder.[3]

Alexithymia is considered to be a personality trait that places affected individuals at risk for other medical and psychiatric disorders while reducing the likelihood that these individuals will respond to conventional treatments for the other conditions.[4] Alexithymia is not classified as a mental disorder in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is a dimensional personality trait that varies in intensity from person to person. A person's alexithymia score can be measured with questionnaires such as the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20)[5], the Bermond-Vorst Alexithymia Questionnaire (BVAQ),[6] the Online Alexithymia Questionnaire (OAQ-G2)[7] or the Observer Alexithymia Scale (OAS).[4] It is distinct from the psychiatric personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder or borderline personality disorder, with which it shares some characteristics, and is likewise distinct from the abnormal conditions of sociopathy or psychopathy.

Alexithymia is defined by:[8]

  1. difficulty identifying feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal
  2. difficulty describing feelings to other people
  3. constricted imaginal processes, as evidenced by a scarcity of fantasies
  4. a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style.
Studies have reported that the prevalence rate of alexithymia is less than 10% of the population.[9] A less common finding suggests that there may be a higher prevalence of alexithymia amongst males than females, which may be accounted for by difficulties some males have with "describing feelings", but not by difficulties in "identifying feelings" in which males and females show similar abilities.[10]

Alexithymia - Wikipedia
From reading the descriptions, it seems that anhedonia is specifically centered around joy/pleasure, and is likely to be a new development. Whereas alexithymia involves a lack of understanding for all emotions - it's not necessarily that you can't feel things, it's that you can't interpret the things that you're feeling. So you can feel joy, maybe, but you don't know the difference between joy and anxiety, or you might feel sad, but you don't know if you're sad or if you're hungry.

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