Can you mentally abuse yourself

Are You Emotionally Abusing Yourself?

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We all have that “inner critic” voice in our heads. It's a nagging and persistent voice that tells us unkind, judgmental, or mean things. While it is impossible to completely get rid of your “inner critic,” you can take away a lot of its power through the practice of self-compassion.

Some of my clients' inner critics are downright emotionally abusive. Many of my clients struggle with saying incredibly harsh things to themselves that they would never say to anyone else.

When they first come to meet with me for therapy, often they don't even realize how mean they are being to themselves. Many of us are aware of the devastating impact that emotional abuse can have on people; however, it's less common to talk about the impact of emotionally abusing yourself.

A variety of factors could contribute to people developing an abusive relationship with themselves. One might be internalizing emotional abuse that you experienced from someone else and unintentionally re-enacting it through your own inner critic. Another might be having an intense fear of judgment from others, so one subconsciously wants to "beat them to the punch." Additionally, having a trauma history, or struggling with an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, or self-harm can all contribute to developing a very harsh inner critic.

Learning about the practice of self-compassion has transformed my life, both personally and professionally.


Self-compassion is not some New Age concept for the spiritually enlightened. Rather it is a practice that can have transformative power in our lives. Practicing self-compassion is also not the same thing as being self-centered. Self-compassion is simply treating yourself with the same kindness and care that you would extend to someone you love.

Additionally, self-compassion is different from self-esteem, in that self-esteem often hinges on external accomplishments. Thus, self-esteem is prone to fluctuate depending on one’s perceived successes and setbacks. However, self-compassion is always available to us, regardless of our external circumstances.

According to self-compassion researcher Kristen Neff, the three components of self-compassion are self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness entails being understanding and warm to ourselves when we fail or make mistakes. Common humanity is simply recognizing that suffering and setbacks are normal and expected parts of life that everyone will encounter. The element of mindfulness involves observing our emotions and thoughts in a nonjudgmental manner.

Putting It Into Practice

1. Mindfully notice any self-critical thoughts that you are having.

The first step is to simply start noticing (without judgment) any self-critical thoughts that you are having. Try not to beat yourself up for having these thoughts. Instead, practice mindfulness and making space for any thoughts or emotions as they arise. Emotions and thoughts are not "right" or "wrong"; they simply exist. While some thinking patterns may be "unhelpful," you can learn to change your relationship with those thoughts so that they have less power over you.

2. Acknowledge that you are not alone in what you are experiencing.

The next step is to acknowledge that you are not alone in what you are experiencing. Whether you feel that you have fallen short, made a mistake, or had a setback, it’s important to recognize that this is part of the human experience. You are certainly not alone in this. Further, a life without experiences of failure, setbacks, and mistakes would likely lack meaning and growth.

3. Practice responding to yourself with kindness.

A crucial part of self-compassion is practicing responding to yourself with kindness, both through words and actions. I often will have clients dialogue their thoughts.


Inner Critic: Really? You are leaving the house looking like that? You are so ugly and disgusting. You don't deserve to go out in public looking like that.

Compassionate Voice: I'm sorry that you are feeling so badly about yourself today. It's perfectly understandable, given that you are feeling stressed about fighting with your boyfriend, and your body is an easy target. You are not seeing yourself accurately. Even so, your appearance is really the least interesting thing about you. You deserve to be able to go out and enjoy a fun day with your friends no matter what you look like. They don't care! They just want to spend time with you.

In addition to speaking to yourself gently and kindly, you can practice acts of self-compassion, which could include taking time out for self-care, setting healthy boundaries with others, practicing "opposite action" when you are feeling urges to engage in eating disorder or self-harm behaviors, and doing kind things for yourself.

The Bottom Line

Like any other skill, self-compassion is a practice, and it can take time for this way of responding to yourself to become ingrained. If your current emotional default setting is harsh self-criticism, it will take some time to rewire your neural pathways to make the self-compassion response feel more natural. Therefore, it’s especially important that you do not “beat yourself up” for not always being compassionate with yourself. Ultimately, you deserve to treat yourself with the same kindness and care that you give to the people you love.

LinkedIn image: LightField Studios/Shutterstock

4 Emotionally Self-Abusive Habits to Replace

An emotionally abusive inner critic can take a toll on your mental health. When your self-talk is hurtful, here’s how to flip the script.

Most of us recognize when another person is being emotionally abusive: The way they’re speaking is meant to tear down your confidence and self-worth with putdowns and shame.

It can be much harder to recognize this pattern when the bully is your own inner critic.

If you’ve been talking to yourself in a cruel and hurtful way, finding new ways to use self-talk could help you build strength, emotional safety, and self-confidence.

“Self-talk can come from a variety of sources but may start young,” says Sarah Epstein, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Dallas, Texas. This applies to all types of self-talk, including painful and abusive ones.

Many factors can contribute to emotional self-abuse:

  • Perfectionism. If you have perfectionistic tendencies, even small failures can feel catastrophic. Since perfectionism leads us to believe we’re letting ourselves down when we make any mistake, it often comes with a harsh inner critic.
  • Past relationships. Maybe a relationship with a friend or partner hasn’t been the most balanced — emotional abuse in a relationship can make it easier to accept the same treatment from yourself.
  • Your childhood. If influential adults or your parents were emotionally abusive or neglectful, it can be all too easy for their voices to stay alive through your self-talk without your noticing it.
  • Mental health conditions. Depression and anxiety can contribute to abusive self-talk for many people, as this research explains.

Meanwhile, the outcomes tied to abusive self-talk are often consistent: Research shows that low self-esteem and less confidence commonly result from this behavior.

When mental self-harm turns physical

Sometimes emotional self-abuse comes with physical self-harm. If you or someone you care about is self-harming, you have options for support and care. You can:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for immediate support 24/7, any day of the week.
  • Text HOME to 741741 to chat with a crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line.
  • Visit S.A.F.E. Alternatives or call 800-366-8288 for information and resources on nonsuicidal self-harm.

Emotional self-harm doesn’t look or sound just one way. Which patterns might you recognize in your own self-talk?


Name-calling is a habit you may have shed when you left elementary school. So why do we talk to ourselves in ways we otherwise recognize as mean-spirited?

Self-esteem can play an important role. If you tend to see yourself as less significant than others, putting yourself down might not feel like as big of a deal compared with the thought of treating another person that way.

Sounds like

  • “I’m such a pig. Why can’t I have some self-control?”
  • “How could I be so brainless? Everyone must know I’m a fool.”

Instead try

  • “I just ate a lot of comfort food. Could this be connected to how I’ve been feeling lately?”
  • “That was embarrassing, but I might be laughing about it by next week.”


Self-doubt can mean second-guessing yourself or worrying that you’re not up to the task at hand.

Research from 2020 highlights how self-doubt is connected to perfectionism and impostor syndrome. In short, people who set impossibly high goals for themselves may be more likely to feel that they’ve failed when their performance doesn’t match up to their standards or goals.

Sounds like

  • “If I ask this question, everyone will realize how stupid I am.”
  • “I shouldn’t try to help because I’m bound to mess everything up.”

Instead try

  • “I’m feeling confused, but asking this question could help clarify things for others.”
  • “It looks like they could use my help. Maybe I should ask what they need most right now.”

Cognitive distortions

Cognitive distortions are maladaptive, or unhelpful, thinking habits. Many cognitive distortions go hand-in-hand with emotional self-harm because they tend to funnel folks into rigid mindsets that don’t allow room for nuance or complexity.

Common cognitive distortions that may lead to abusive self-talk include:

  • Filtering: focusing only on the negatives in a situation while ignoring the positive aspects
  • “Shoulds”: fixating on how you “should” be, and feeling continually disappointed when you don’t measure up
  • Global labeling: judging yourself across the board based on one event
  • Control fallacy: placing blame on yourself in situations outside your control

Sounds like

  • “No one’s ever going to take me seriously again after this.
  • “It’s my fault my family missed this opportunity. I’m worthless to my kids.”
  • “If I hadn’t been involved in that project, everyone would be better off.”

Instead try

  • “Oops — well, everyone makes mistakes. What can I learn from this one?”
  • “What’s important is that I keep showing up for my family, even if I don’t always get everything right.”
  • “I’m responsible for my part of this project, but other factors I couldn’t control contributed to the outcome, too.”


It isn’t always easy to recognize when your self-talk becomes cruel. A couple of clues self-cruelty is at play include making threats to yourself or telling yourself you deserve a bad outcome or future.

Sounds like

  • “I’m disgusting. I deserve to be alone forever.”
  • “I may as well quit — if I can’t even do this, I don’t deserve anything good.”
  • “I can’t get through a simple conversation without being weird. I wish I’d just fall off the face of the Earth!”

Instead try

  • “I don’t feel my best. What could help me feel better in my skin right now?”
  • “This assignment is frustrating. Maybe I should tell my boss it’s more complicated and see if we can troubleshoot it.”
  • “It’s not always easy to put myself out there, but I keep making the effort and that takes courage.”

When it comes to changing this habit, Epstein emphasizes the importance of asking yourself where the hurtful self-talk is coming from, since learning the origin of these words could help you disconnect from them.

You might ask yourself: “Whose voice am I hearing when I put myself down?”

Self-compassion and self-acceptance are also key — and you can learn to cultivate these through your own practice or with the help of a compassionate coach or therapist.

“Like anything else, kinder speech and rooting out abusive self-talk requires time and continuous effort,” says Epstein.

What is it like to feel yourself and others on the mental level

Mentality - consciousness, way of thinking, reflection of the psyche.

Do you know the situation when you go far away from loved ones, but often think about them? And they think about you. Here your physical bodies are far away, but you are connected to each other on a mental level. Your thoughts help keep that connection going.

The mental level is accessible only to man. Therefore, for a comfortable life, it is important to keep it intact.

There are several factors that indicate that a person is mentally healthy:

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  • Clarity of mind. It is important to be able to express your thoughts clearly and clearly.
  • Logic sequence. If a person can express his thoughts, but others do not understand him, it is worth checking whether there is logic in his words. Speech should be coherent, consistent, logical.
  • Creative thinking. This is an adaptation to life, to society, to the environment. The ability to say goodbye and move on, the desire to grow forward without getting hung up on trifles. Be flexible and always find solutions, even in the most difficult situations.
  • Harmony with yourself. A healthy person is a loving, self-respecting, satisfied with himself and his life. He knows about his shortcomings and virtues, but accepts himself for who he is.
  • Self acceptance. This also includes awareness of who you are, what you want, where you are going and why.

In this Article:

Why It's Important to Maintain ItHow to Help Yourself Maintain Your Mental LevelWhy You Should Strive to Maintain Mental HealthPopular ProblemsTreatment of Mental Health Problems

Why it is important to keep it

Mental health is a necessary component for a fulfilling life. A person can be sick on a physical level, but having mental health, enjoy life and feel good.

What is the mental level?

But if a person is mentally ill, then no amount of physical health will make him happy. Mental pain is the hardest. And they are not treated at all simply, magic pills will not help here, but only long-term work with oneself. And this requires, at least, willpower.

If a person has disorders of memory, attention, thinking, then it is considered that he is sick, even if there are no physical defects.

Symptoms that indicate that a person is mentally ill:

  • Constant tension, stress. Inability to relax and let go of the situation
  • Frequent mood swings. Emotional instability
  • Excessive aggression. As a reaction to the actions of others, and often unreasonable
  • Lethargy, eternal fatigue, laziness. Lack of energy, frequent "lemon survivor" state
  • Constant feeling of guilt. Feeling miserable, bad, objectionable and alien. You often reproach yourself for your actions, scold, maybe even punish
  • Panic attacks, fears of the dark, closed spaces, certain objects
  • Detachment from people, isolation, closeness, loneliness
  • Constant feeling of anxiety. Prolonged stay in a depressed state, in a state of stress.

How to help yourself maintain your mental level

Do introspection. It helps to look inside, trace your reactions to various situations. Introspection helps in identifying feelings and emotions. Why do you behave one way in one situation and another way in another?

Surround yourself with good people. It is important that your environment is positive, you feel comfortable being with them, you can trust them. Toxic people need to be cut out of life, said goodbye to them, avoided.

Photo by Tú Nguyễn: Pexels

Connect physical activity. Sport helps to feel better, more time appears for business, less sleepy. The mind is not clouded, but the energy to do new things is more and more.

Walk more in the fresh air, feed your brain with oxygen. In a few days you will feel better.

Get involved in new things. Strive to comprehend the unknown, read more, be interested, find out. In general, feed your brain with useful information. Do not let yourself degrade, always move forward, master new heights.

Accept people with their faults, weaknesses and problems. If a person is dear - do not educate him, do not try to change, accept. It takes a lot of strength to fight, a lot of negative emotions pour out. There will also be stress, anger, anxiety, guilt. Do not torture yourself with these feelings, get rid of them. Tell yourself: “yes, he is like that, but I will not play his game and I will not get angry at his excessive care, I will just accept him as he is, because this person is dear to me.”

Practice self-confidence. Do not be afraid to speak, express your thoughts and feelings. You are a person, which means you have every right to your own opinion. To remain silent is to squeeze your needs, your feelings and desires into a corner. This leads to mental anguish, a feeling of inferiority.

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Ask for help. If you can’t cope, don’t pull the load yourself, don’t torture yourself with guilt, over-responsibility, fear of not doing it. Just ask a loved one to help you, trust him, share this burden. This is not a sign of weakness, this is self-love.

Analyze situations. Negative emotions worsen your health, don't let them consume you. Analyze why in this or that case you experience irritation, anger, anger. What or who is the matter? We need to find the reason. Maybe it's lack of sleep, fatigue, or it's a specific person? Change the mode, schedule, or try to minimize communication with this person.

Plan, set goals and go for them. Chaos in the head leads to devastation in life. Structure your thoughts. Make a plan and order of doing things to make it easier to do it. Do not accumulate a lot of unnecessary information in your head, it is better to write it down. Do not overload your head with unnecessary worries.

If you don't succeed on your own, then a psychologist, psychotherapist, and sometimes a psychiatrist are the same doctors who will help you heal your psyche. Don't be afraid to turn to professionals.

Why one should strive to maintain mental health

The mental level is an important component of a person, it is a part of his psyche. This is how he accepts the world, how he reacts to it and how he lives the experience.

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Your mental health depends on how much you know yourself, how much you can control your reactions and emotions. It plays a big role in your life, without it it is impossible to enjoy life and be happy. Mental anxieties are the most terrible weapon against oneself. It's a slow self-destruction. It is stress and negative emotions that lead to serious mental and physical illnesses.

Think about what is beautiful in your life and be inspired by it. And also look for the very causes of your stress and poor health, which makes you experience negative emotions. Get rid of them immediately, filling your life with only the beautiful. Your mood and well-being should not depend on someone else. Only you are the author of your life, do not let others influence it.

Keep your mental health, take the opportunity to experience life to the fullest and enjoy it.

Popular problems

Many modern people have mental problems. But often a person is not able to recognize the symptoms of a disorder in himself, therefore, he needs the help of relatives or professionals.

However, often relatives or friends see no cause for concern, since psychological problems are still considered a frivolous or taboo topic. Some people think that a person just wants to be pitied. Others find it shameful to ask for help and acknowledge weaknesses.

That is why it is so important to be attentive to yourself. Remember that any of your feelings are normal, and if you feel bad, then you need to help yourself. Do not listen to advice that "it's all from boredom and idleness", this can only aggravate the situation.

Here are some popular disorders that many people have. Of course, this is not all, but they are the easiest to notice at an earlier stage.


This is a state of prolonged stress, after which a person experiences moral exhaustion. Most often, burnout comes from work, especially if you are a workaholic. It can be easily noticed: what used to make you run to the office or stay late until late now causes apathy or irritation.

Everything starts out quite calmly. You may become bored, want new tasks. But after the desire to receive emotions, fatigue and tension will come. You will start to break deadlines, be late, skip, conflict with colleagues. You will feel strong resistance if you need to go to work, up to tantrums.

The first thing to do is to rest. Take a vacation, get new emotions, for example, while traveling. Take a break from work completely. In mild cases, this will help. But if the burnout has already dragged on, sometimes you have to completely change the field of activity in order to feel happy again.


This word is used so often that it has long been depreciated. Therefore, the words “I have depression” are often perceived with derision or condescension. However, this is actually a serious diagnosis.

Depression is a long-term depressed state. A person constantly feels tired, he does not even have the strength for everyday things like eating or going to the shower, he tends to constantly criticize himself and drown in destructive thoughts. In severe cases, there may even be suicidal tendencies.

It is important to remember that depression cannot be cured by rest or meeting friends. Perhaps relatives will want to help, but in fact only a doctor can solve the problem. If you notice symptoms of depression in you, contact a psychotherapist immediately.

Panic attacks

If you have ever experienced a panic attack, you will not confuse it with anything. This is a paralyzing feeling of fear, which is accompanied by increased heart rate and shortness of breath. Unlike previous conditions that last for a long time, panic attacks manifest themselves in the form of attacks.

This phenomenon has become the hallmark of our generation. People live in constant stress, they are pressured by many tasks, constant competition and the desire to do everything at once. This is where the fast pace of life comes into play. It is not surprising that the body at some point ceases to cope.

Panic attacks are treated with medication or psychotherapy. Don't expect them to go away on their own. Moreover, such attacks affect both the mental and physical condition.


Everyone at least once met a person with an addiction. It could be an alcoholic, a drug addict or a gambler. Therefore, we all know perfectly well how addiction can completely change a person’s life and even kill him.

But there are also less popular, but also destructive habits. For example, workaholism, co-dependent relationships, even the desire to check email or social networks every minute.

It is about dependence that we can talk about when a person cannot live without it. He becomes irritable, tired, nervous, tense. Of course, one glass of wine at dinner with friends does not make you an alcoholic. However, if you cannot relax at the end of the working week without alcohol, it makes sense to think and observe your condition.


Eating disorders are so common that they have long been talked about separately as one of the terrible problems of the generation. We've all seen photographs of painfully thin or frighteningly fat people. Sometimes it was mental problems that brought them to such a state.

You can talk about difficulties in relation to food if you pay too much attention to it. Perhaps you constantly think about what to eat, seize stress, eat food in huge volumes. Or, on the contrary, you are always on a diet, scolding yourself for a piece of cake and “working off” the eaten burger in the gym.

You may think that this is just a way to get emotions or to take care of your figure. But an unhealthy relationship with food leads to serious health problems. Therefore, if you do not want to go to the doctors, try to eat according to the requirements of the body.

Treatment of mental health problems

Often we pay great attention to physical health. We pass tests on time, get treatment, go for massage and yoga. But if something is psychologically disturbing, we tend to ignore it. Of course, this behavior is fundamentally wrong. If the tooth is not treated, it will not stop hurting. So it is with mental problems. You can close your eyes to them, but they will not disappear.

The two most commonly used methods of treatment are psychotherapy and medication. The therapist conducts conversations, helps to reach the problem on their own. The psychiatrist has the right to prescribe pills to alleviate the patient's condition. Sometimes a combination of these methods is required.

Of course, this is often a last resort, when a person is no longer able to cope on his own. Therefore, it is so important to pay attention to your mental state, not to ignore the feelings that arise and to be able to help yourself. This is a skill that is needed throughout life.

What is alexithymia and how to understand your feelings

Alexithymia is not a psychiatric diagnosis, it is a condition in which a person is not able to describe and understand his feelings and emotions. It leads not only to problems in interpersonal relationships, but can also cause psychosomatic illnesses. We talked to people living with alexithymia and learned from experts how to deal with it.

"It's like not feeling the taste and smell"

Tatyana, 21 years old

I have schizoaffective disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and Asperger's syndrome - the first signs were in adolescence, the diagnoses were made several years ago. As a child, for the first time, I realized that it was difficult for me to define emotions and feelings. I could cry and didn't realize why. Because of the pain or because I'm sad.

When I realize that I feel something, I try to pay attention to the sensations in my body. If heaviness appears in the chest, most likely, these are negative emotions - sadness, sadness, resentment. If warmth is felt in the body and limbs, then it must be positive.

For a long time I did not understand what love and sympathy are and whether I can experience them. I was able to distinguish them from other feelings when I met my boyfriend at the age of eighteen. This is a completely different level of feelings that I felt physically : my heart beat faster when I thought about him, I wanted to be near him, when talking it became hot, my palms sweated, there was a feeling of intoxication in my head. And somehow I realized that this is something new and that I can love someone.

Fear also manifests itself more physically: lack of air, headache, severe tinnitus, spasm in the intestines, muscle stiffness, coldness in the body, trembling. It looks like the beginning of a cold - I would say so that it was more understandable.

The most difficult thing for me is to tell my relatives how I feel if they ask me about it or wait in a conversation for me to say something about emotions. I just feel like I can't find the words for this, it's like there aren't any, and I don't know what to say. At such moments, people think that I do not feel anything, and my silence confuses them.

Sometimes relatives get angry - apparently, they are waiting for an emotional response in the course of a conversation, and I often don’t know what to do, what emotion to show, squeeze out of myself. But I think that they are not angry on purpose. Once I talked with my mother about further education, I explained where and for whom I want to study, to which she replied that I was speaking without interest and emotions, as if I didn’t care.

You seem to be deprived of the opportunity to fully experience emotions. It’s like they don’t exist, and you don’t know what they are, because anger and joy feel equally insipid. For me, it's like living with a constant runny nose and not feeling the taste and smell.

I didn't tell my parents about alexithymia and Asperger's syndrome. They are of the old school, all people with autism for them are those who cannot speak and are kept in boarding schools. Also, we are not very close, and I don’t even know how to gently talk about my states. I tried to explain my mental disorder to my mother, but for her it’s “you can’t control yourself”, so all my stories and articles shown on this topic are useless. I have a physical disability - my parents treat me the way they treat people with disabilities in Russia: they consider me weak and unable to work. They are aware that I am mentally ill, but if you also tell them about problems with emotions and Asperger's syndrome, they will treat me with even more pity and think that I am not like normal children, and that this is their punishment from God. But my young man is aware of my problems, and after he found out about them, we began to understand each other better.

I am in therapy and it is very difficult for me to talk about how I feel about my emotions. But the more time passes, the more I learn to describe my emotions in images. For example, sadness is a dark and cloudy cloud . It's a strange experience, but I like it.

"I was considered a callous and unsociable person"

White, 35 years old

I have Bipolar 2 disorder. I am currently in remission and continue medication. I have long felt that it is difficult for me to describe emotions and feelings, but for the first time I realized this about ten years ago. Then we often played word games in the company, and several times I got questions of the format “what do you feel about ... (a person, phenomenon, event, and so on)?” Such questions plunged me into a stupor, and at the same time I noticed that other people had no problems with answers. I tried to understand how they find words so quickly, for a while I even suspected that they were making them up on the go. Later, I accidentally stumbled upon an article on alexithymia on the Internet and recognized the familiar symptoms.

In my case, alexithymia does not affect creativity and professional tasks: I love fiction based on the problems of human relationships, sometimes I write prose, poetry, songs myself. Feelings are easier to formulate on behalf of a lyrical hero, besides, this is verbalization training.

But in my personal life and communication with friends, alexithymia leads to problems: relatives often noticed that I had difficulties with expressing emotions - before, they were mostly angry and took the position “why can’t I immediately say normal.” For a long time I was considered a callous and unsociable person, because I did not understand how to express various kinds of empathy. Several times I quarreled with my girlfriend almost to the point of breaking up, because my reaction was “wrong”: it did not correspond to the situation and incorrectly displayed my own emotions.

After I started to warn about my problem, there were fewer conflicts, we started talking more about feelings with loved ones.

I also have trouble making decisions because of the inability to understand what feeling guides the opinion, but this is rather good: you have to learn to look at things from a rational position, fixing the pros and cons, instead of succumbing to emotions.

“My feelings are a mystery to myself”

Anton, 30 years old

Until recently, I did not know about such a problem as alexithymia, but I began to notice that I did not understand my emotions and feelings in my youth. I could not understand how to react to the actions of classmates and friends - when to laugh, get angry and upset. I still can't tell a joke from an insult if it's not obvious. For example, I can be offended to tears if they say “fool” to me in a friendly way, and laugh when I hear a mate addressed to me.

Trying to socialize, I repeated after other people, but it looked awkward, I did not catch the norms. I was bullied at school, but I didn’t know how to react: I was silent on insults, and for a slight irony I could get into a fight, then I was ashamed and apologized.

When I started working, I could not settle down in the team, because I did not read other people's attitude towards me and, accordingly, did not know how I should treat people. Many said that I was being arrogant, which surprised and upset me, because I was just silent all the time. My unsociableness leads to the fact that, despite high professional performance, career growth and a leadership position do not shine for me. In the humanitarian field in which I work, relationships with people, the ability to understand and read the emotions of others, are extremely important, especially if you want to manage a team.

Relations with friends and close people do not develop for the same reason - mutual misunderstanding, which even strong romantic or friendly affection could not overcome. I felt the difference in the direction of these attachments only by the presence of sexual desire, which manifests itself in a standard human way. However, his absence did not stop me from rash acts: I confessed my romantic love to my girlfriends and even friends, although I did not think about sexual relations with them, I was simply drawn to them and in their presence it became physically warm and comfortable. People, to put it mildly, were surprised in response to my proposal to meet, and the guys expressed dislike. Relations with many wonderful people were ruined once and for all, even an apology did not help restore friendship.

And after the breakup, I didn't understand what I was feeling - sometimes I was sad, sometimes I was happy, and it drove me crazy. When the ex-girlfriend moved out from me, my breath often took hold in an empty apartment, my pulse quickened, especially when I recalled our life. The reasons are not clear, because there is nothing to be offended and angry at, because we parted on my initiative. And somehow a friend posted a photo from the party, and everything boiled inside me, my breath also caught (it seems that this is my standard reaction to anything), but I did not understand what was happening inside me. I called him and asked why he went there, which sounded very stupid - he did not understand this question, and I no longer understood why I was asking it, and even in a breaking voice. My friends know that I am not a party lover in principle, and I know this about myself, so I did not hold any claims in my mind, but some emotions were overwhelmed, judging by the physical manifestations. I would call them meaningless, phantom.

Trying to explain to people that I have problems with emotions does not help: even those closest to me are sure that this is a whim and I just don't want to control myself and "try to understand others."

When I first went to a psychiatrist, he said that problems with emotions are a neurosis. I was treated with various drugs for a long time, but the situation did not get better, until now my feelings are a mystery to myself. Psychotherapy is weak, but it helps: the doctor taught to determine how feelings differ from emotions, but it is still difficult to recognize them. I learned that emotion is a small, short-term acute sensation, like a flash, lightning, you don’t have time to think about anything. And a feeling is a long-term state accompanied by a bunch of thoughts. For example, I hit a chair and screamed, my hands clenched, instinctively hit the chair in response - it means that the emotion of anger arose. But I had a colleague at a former job who set me up, and if we went on the same shift, then I felt muscle tension, heart palpitations and often thought about how he could be such a lousy person.

The hardest thing for me is to tell the doctors what I'm experiencing: no matter what words I choose, everything seems like a lie or a fantasy. This applies to both mental and physical sensations. As soon as I go into the office of a gastroenterologist or a therapist and start complaining, I listen to myself more carefully and start thinking that I dreamed the sensations. It’s the same with a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist: it seems that I’m actually a healthy dreamer, because I can’t convey exactly how I feel, and specialists are not telepaths and cannot understand.

"I can't put my feelings into human language"

Kristina, 28 years old

I went to a psychologist with borderline depression and borderline issues, one day he asked me to describe myself and I felt confused because I didn't know Who am I. I told him that I consist of layers: on the outside there is a polite shell, under it is an evil gopnik, and under it is a kind soul that saves everyone, and it is she who is protected by the gopnik. Then again something dark that I do not understand and am afraid to analyze, and so on ad infinitum. Later, these layers emerged into some subpersonalities, and their emotions were perceived as alien, which I cannot understand or control. I gave them names, and they speak in my head like separate parts of me: kind, aggressive, overly emotional, my ordinary.

I can describe my feelings with the help of a table of feelings, in psychotherapy pairs (I studied as a doctor) we were offered to use it to tell others about our feelings. But sometimes I experience things that are not in this table or there is no name for these feelings.

I have developed empathy, I easily understand others, but inside of me is either a mixture [of feelings], or nothing at all. This does not affect my hobby: I draw the necessary emotions for my characters, sometimes the drawing helps me figure out what I feel, or others begin to understand it - sometimes they are horrified. Due to alexithymia, I do not communicate with people much, because I cannot respond with the emotional reactions they need.

For example, if a person raised their voice at me, I may cry, even if I just feel like I'm being pressured, or I get too angry and yell. There is no average response to pressure. If they regret it, I roar.

The most difficult thing is to tell those who expect warmth from me that I experience this warmth, but I don’t show it, because I don’t know how. This feeling is blurred, it is impossible to concretize it in words. Also, I can’t tell people what specifically offended me, because words get stuck or I can’t put feelings into human language. It's hard to be locked up and not understand how I really feel . I ignore my feelings more often than I track.

Alexithymia often leads to psychosomatic manifestations: when I am nervous, the temperature rises to 37–37.5 degrees, pains in the abdomen, heart, head, teeth ache, allergies begin (I itch, I get covered with a rash), breathing problems (I can’t do breath or I don’t feel oxygen in the air), anything can hurt at all, regardless of the absence of physical pathology.

Why does alexithymia occur and how can it be dealt with?

Alexithymia is most characteristic of autism spectrum disorders, but can accompany any mental disorder (depression, personality disorders, etc.). It is associated with the mechanism of formation and maintenance of a psychosomatic symptom, but not the only reason for its occurrence. Clients with alexithymia, as a rule, first of all turn to somatic doctors with physical discomfort.

According to the results of some studies, difficulties with the expression of emotions are more common in men than in women, alexithymia is practically not studied in people of a different gender identity. However, the quality of most research on alexithymia is quite low.

The exact causes of this condition have not yet been identified. There is evidence that mirror neurons are involved in the occurrence of alexithymia, structures such as the amygdala, insula and cerebellum are involved. Violation of dopaminergic metabolism in these structures is associated with manifestations of alexithymia.

Nevertheless, the environment plays a significant role in the development of difficulties with understanding one's emotions: whether the child sees the expression of emotions, hears their names, whether they tell him what emotions are, how they manifest themselves.

Alexithymia can lead to difficulties in building or maintaining interpersonal relationships - in these cases, I would recommend contacting a specialist. If you notice that it is difficult for you to interact with people, there is a feeling that no one understands your goals, motives, and it is often difficult for you to understand people when they talk about their emotions, you can independently study materials about emotions, gradually learn to notice them from yourself and other people, observe them and express.

By itself, this problem does not require medical treatment. A psychotherapist works with alexithymia at the beginning of any psychotherapy, since it is important for a specialist to understand how the client feels in problem situations.

Relatives can help a person by talking about their emotions and thereby showing the experience of living them, and also by asking about the person's experiences, thereby drawing his attention to the emotional sphere.

Alexithymia is indeed common among my clients and makes interaction in the first meetings much more difficult. At the beginning of the work, the specialist collects information about what is happening with the client (about his behavior, thinking, emotions), of course, alexithymia hinders this process. In such cases, we dedicate several meetings to the client to find out what emotions are, how they manifest themselves, how they feel, learn to notice them in themselves, name them, observe them. The most difficult for me case of alexithymia in a client required eight meetings of work on the identification, observation, description and expression of emotions.

How does alexithymia affect physical health?

Alexithymia can lead to the occurrence of psychosomatic symptoms - pain, squeezing, bursting, tingling and others, but at the same time, according to tests and studies, doctors do not find anything.

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