Alexithymia and emotional processing in autism - West Palm Beach Autism

Alexithymia and emotional processing in autism - West Palm Beach Autism



Alexithymia is characterized by difficulties in identifying,
describing, and processing one's own feelings, often marked by a lack of
understanding of the feelings of others, and difficulty distinguishing
between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal.
Alexithymia is not a formal clinical diagnosis and is best
conceptualized as a dimensional personality trait that is normally
distributed in the general population (with estimates of 10%) and varies
in severity from person to person. However, there is evidence to
suggest that it is associated with an increased risk for mental health
problems. For example, several studies indicate that even in childhood,
alexithymia and difficulties in the domain of emotion processing are
positively related to internalizing problems such as anxiety and depression.




Research indicates that alexithymia overlaps with autism
spectrum disorder (ASD). Although alexithymia is not a core feature of
autism, recent studies have found varying degrees of this trait in 50 to
85% of individuals with autism ASD. The alexithymia trait appears to
have the following properties: (a) it is more common in individuals with
ASD than in the general population (b) it is more common in parents of
individuals with ASD than in parents of individuals with another
developmental disabilities, (c) it is stable over time in ASD, and (d)
problems in the domain of emotion awareness are positively related to
depression, anxiety, somatic complaints, worry and rumination. There is
also evidence to indicate that the alexithymia trait might be part of
the broader autism phenotype and a significant component of the emotion
processing difficulties observed in ASD.



Given the apparent association between alexithymia and autism, it’s
especially important to investigate the relative contribution of this
dimensional trait to the impairment in social functioning experienced by
individuals with ASD. An important question for future research relates
to the prevalence of high levels of alexithymia in ASD compared to
neurotypical individuals and how to explain the high co-occurrence
(comorbidity) between alexithymia and ASD. Is alexithymia a
neuroanatomical structural consequence or is the result of a
neurobiological impairment, or is it a distinctive personality trait of
individuals with ASD? Does the level of alexithymia predict symptom
severity in ASD? Although not a diagnostic feature of autism, would
alexithymia be a useful diagnostic marker for ASD? Because alexithymia
is associated with increased risk of mental health problems (i.e.,
anxiety and depression), should a measure of alexithymia be included in
an assessment battery for ASD? As with most autism research, there are
more questions than answers.

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Lee Wilkinson said…
This article was written by Dr. Lee A. Wilkinson, West Palm Beach Autism & Education Examiner. Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, NCSP, CPsychol, AFBPsS is the author of the award-winning book, "A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools." He is also editor of a recent volume in the American Psychological Association (APA) School Psychology Book Series, "Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools" and author of the new book, "Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT."

Continue reading at http://bestpracticeautism.com

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