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Weinryb, R.M. (1995). Alexithymia: Old Wine in New Bottles?. Psychoanal. Contemp. Thought, 18(2):159-195.

(1995). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 18(2):159-195

Alexithymia: Old Wine in New Bottles?

Robert M. Weinryb, M.D., Ph.D.

The aim of this review is to examine how character traits, now called alexithymic, and the relationship between disturbances in object relations and in symbolizing capacity have been conceptualized within a psychoanalytic theoretical framework. The term alexithymia (literally, “no words for feelings”) denotes a concept that has become prevalent not only in research into psychosomatic disorders, but also in theories of affects and in connection with patients difficult to treat with psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. Early writings on alexithymia described a clinical constellation, including inter alia disturbances in object relations. In psychoanalytic literature, similar disturbances in patients have been described, although with a focus on the apparent lack of symbolic content in the patient's symptoms, on his personality disturbances and object relations, and how these are interrelated. In alexithymia, the crux would seem to be what the words used signify, and

how the patients make associations, rather than their difficulty in finding words for emotions per se. It is suggested that alexithymia is not necessarily related to the so-called psychosomatic disorders, but may merely be the most conspicuous expression of an underlying personality disturbance, sometimes occurring in association with cleavage of the ego.

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