Is it a weakness to be emotionless?

Emotional coldness: definition, self-test and tips against alexithymia

Emotional cold affects around ten percent of all people in Germany. To other people you seem cool, distant and unemotional. It is impossible for them to adequately perceive and verbalize their own feelings or those of others. This has consequences for cooperation and coexistence. Here you can find out how coldness expresses itself and what those affected can do ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is coldness?

The term coldness describes the inability of a person to empathize with others. The American psychologists John Case Nemiah and Peter Emanuel Sifneos coined the technical term "alexithymia" as early as the early 1970s. It is a Greek made-up word, translated it means: "Inability to read and express feelings".

The concept of alexithymia or emotional blindness (sometimes also: emotional dyslexia) refers to both the person and how they interact with others. This means that the person concerned cannot recognize or classify his own feelings. There is often a lack of vocabulary and expressiveness and simply a lack of emotional intelligence. This deficiency is also evident in dealing with outsiders, which is why those people appear cold to others.

How is cold feeling expressed?

As a rule, these people cannot express their complaints with emotions. For example, an emotionally blind person would never say that they are nervous. Instead, a typical description of the physical symptoms would appear, such as: tingling in the epigastric region, increased urination. When asked "How are you", those affected usually do not have a suitable answer, which is why they often answer briefly.

Causes emotional coldnessthat those affected find it difficult to differentiate their emotions. It is therefore difficult to differentiate and differentiate from other emotions. This in turn causes people with cold feelings to feel detached from themselves and their own emotions. This can lead to misunderstandings. And it makes contact with other people more difficult: Those who cannot do anything with the emotions of others quickly feel overwhelmed by emotions and avoid close relationships whenever possible.

Job search and partner search fail because even basic principles of human coexistence are missing. And of course this also has an effect on life satisfaction: Others avoid the loner. This makes important social contacts as well as professional advancement difficult.

Causes of Alexithymia

Scholars disagree as to whether this is a personality trait or a disorder. The fact is that emotional coldness has not yet been considered a disease. However, it often occurs in connection with certain diseases.

Nemiah and Sifneos discovered the cold feeling in people with psychosomatic complaints. High blood pressure, intestinal diseases, sleep disorders but also back pain (PDF) and migraines were common. Many of these people do have feelings - but cannot verbalize them. Instead, they try to channel this in part through addictive behavior (binge eating, drug use, abnormal sexuality). There are various possible causes of emotional blindness.

  • Drugs: For one thing, there are indications of the harmful effects of substance abuse on emotionally cold people.
  • Education: On the other hand, childhood experiences seem likely: Anyone who as a child never learned to perceive and express feelings as a result of emotional neglect is most likely to develop cold feelings.
  • Trauma: Other traumatic experiences cannot be ruled out as the cause.
  • Diseases: In addition, emotional blindness correlates with diseases such as Asperger's, burnout and depression: People often describe an inner emptiness. Researchers also observe a connection between anxiety disorders and alexithymia.

Emotional cold test: are you emotionally blind?

Anyone wondering whether he or she suffers from emotional blindness can do this short self-test. Check the following statements:

  • When asked, you describe your own condition as good or bad.
  • A nuanced expression of feelings is impossible for you.
  • You are more likely to hear others perceive you as inaccessible, hypothermic, and cold.
  • Most of all, when someone breaks down in tears around you, it makes you feel uncomfortable. You want to flee.
  • You don't have very many friends.
  • You would never talk about feelings on your own.
  • You perceive physical closeness as a necessary evil and less as a joy.
  • Family, friends and colleagues often feel that you do not understand them.
  • You steer clear of people who appear to be in need of help in any way.
  • You find it difficult to enter into new relationships, to make social contacts.

Of course, this self-test cannot replace medical or psychological advice. However, if you can answer half of the questions with "yes", that is an indication of emotional coldness.

You can do that against the cold feeling

What are the options for dealing with emotional coldness? That depends on the one hand on the severity and on the other hand on the level of suffering. Often someone perceives another person as being emotionally cold, but this person is merely rational and thinks very analytically. But not everyone who does not have his heart on his tongue is also emotionally cold at the same time. There is therefore a risk of confusion even with introverted people. But it makes a difference whether or not someone does not want to open up to others can notbecause he never learned.

Even if there have been social changes for several years: Often men are particularly affected. This has to do with the fact that the ideal of the strong man has been preached for a long time. Emotions as a sign of weakness were frowned upon. But don't let that discourage you. Use these tips to tackle the problem:

1. Deal with the problem

In contact with other people, do you always offend and get stuck? Then problem analysis is required. Admitting your own deficits in dealing with other people and your own feelings requires self-criticism and courage.

2. Look around for empathetic people

Problem recognized, danger averted? Nearly. If you are one of those people for whom the coldness of emotions is rather low, then you lack practice above all: you have to learn the typical vocabulary with which you describe certain feelings. Above all, you should spend a lot of time with other people, preferably those who have a lot of empathy. Compassionate people behave differently in their dealings with other people than those who are more likely to attract attention through selfish behavior. By acting as role models, you can gain a better understanding of your own feelings and those of other people.

3. Find a therapist

If the feeling of coldness is already very pronounced, usually only therapy will help. This is recommended anyway if you suffer from the above-mentioned health problems without an organic cause being found. The research on emotional coldness is still not particularly advanced. However, experts rate cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapies as promising. This is where people learn to mentalize: they reflect their behavior on the basis of beliefs, feelings, attitudes and desires.

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[Photo Credit: Elena Abrazhevich by]