Autism and Alexithymia

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

Today I’d like to briefly elaborate on something that I’ve touched on in previous posts– autism and alexithymia.

So what exactly is alexithymia?

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Alexithymia is a personality trait wherein an autist may struggle to identify and describe emotions in themselves and in others. We feel emotions just like everyone else, we just aren’t always aware of what it is we are feeling. It can be incredibly frustrating (ironically I’ve often struggled to identify this emotion in the past 😛 ) knowing that you feel something but not having a clue how to verbalize it or process it properly. I’ve honestly spent days going “The thing is…it’s just…um..I dunno!” round and round my mind until I can figure out what it is I’m feeling!

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Thankfully as I’ve gotten older this happens less and less frequently.

Aoife’s Top Tip: as I’ve discussed previously, music can be quite beneficial when dealing with alexithymia. If I can’t identify an emotion, I tend to gravitate towards songs that sound like what I’m feeling or a particular lyric that resonates with my experience which can help get you past a rough patch 🙂

As many as 85% of autists may have varying degrees of alexithymia, but is there a scientific explanation for it?

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The science remains unclear, however some neurological studies may provide us with some clues.

Early studies proposed that there is a breakdown in communication along the corpus callosum between the emotional right and the logical left hemispheres of the brain when emotional information is transferred to the language regions of the brain. In one third of autists, the corpus callosum (a thick bundle of nerves which connect the hemispheres) is either partially or completely missing which could explain the struggles to identify emotions. Another study suggests that dysfunction in the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain may contribute to alexithymia, an area of the brain associated with empathy that appears to be weakly activated in social situations in autists.

So try not to judge us too harshly when we struggle to show empathy 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings!

Enjoy the weekend! 🙂

Aoife

Aoife’s Top Songs for Emotional Processing

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

Today I’m going to do something a little bit different and discuss with you some of the songs that I often find helpful for emotional processing.

Many autists struggle with alexithymia, (or an inability to identify emotions), which can make emotional processing challenging at times. How can you process anger for example, if you don’t even realize that you’re angry?

As I’ve discussed in previous posts (Autism and MusicAutism 101- Meltdowns), in my experience, music can play a very important role in helping  me to navigate and process my emotions. I may not be able to identify the emotion, but the right song can unlock and free my mind.

Now, I have amassed quite a large collection of go-to songs, albums and artists in times of need, all of which I can’t include in a single blog post, but for the purposes of this post I’ll tell you about some of my favourites 🙂

Jimmy Eat World- Futures (2004)

Futures‘, one of my top 3 favourite albums (which was interestingly given to me by a friend who was also diagnosed with AS as an adult!), is rife with lyrical inspiration. In times of muddled emotions I often find myself reaching for this album to verbalize and unlock my feelings so that I can find my way through the fog.

You can listen to (most of) the full album in the playlist below:

^^^copyright laws are making it much harder to track down albums on YouTube! 🙇

Their song ‘The Middle’ on their previous album ‘Bleed American (2001)‘ is also a great one for those days when you’re feeling lost and a little outcast from your neurotypical peers 🙂

Linkin Park- Meteora (2003)

RIP Chester Bennington! 😥

Taken too young, but your music shall endure.

During some dark and difficult times as a teenager, your lyrics were there for me in a very powerful way. I must have listened to ‘Meteora’ every day after school when I was 16. The lyrics expressed in this album verbalized the storm of emotions I was experiencing better than I could ever convey. Struggles with identity, bullying, feelings of depression- this album beautifully expressed in words the emotions that I could not make sense of and helped me through the darkness.

I also found the music of Nirvana to be quite effective in unlocking some of my more complex emotions.

The Gift- Seether (Karma and Effect, 2005)

Seether are my all time favourite band. I could write an entire post on the music of Seether alone- who knows maybe I will one day! 🙂 The music is heavy, but their lyrics are powerful! The 2011 album ‘Holding onto Strings Better Left to Fray’ got me through the grief of losing my dog to cancer (rather ironic given the title! 😛 ). Seether are often my first port of call when I’m struggling to process my feelings. ‘The Gift‘ in particular has always held a special place in my heart.

Other songs I find useful by Seether include Here and Now (try find the deconstructed version- just beautiful!), Breakdown, Rise Above This, Sympathetic and Tongue.

Foo Figthers- Walk (Wasting Light, 2011)

Man I love this song! 😀 One of my favorite memories is headbanging to this song in the rain at Slane Castle 2 years ago, just letting go of all my problems without a care in world! 🙂

Learning to walk again!

That’s exactly how it felt in the wake of my diagnosis.

The Foo Fighter’s have some great songs like this for emotional processing in their discography 🙂

The Kill (Bury Me)- 30 Seconds to Mars (A Beautiful Lie, 2005)

Don’t let the title fool you! As Jared Leto once said, “don’t be scared! It’s a nice song- about losing your mind.” Perfectly poignant for those days when you’re melting down! If you need something a little calmer, look up the acoustic version of this song- it’s amazing!

A Beautiful Lie‘ is a great album in general for emotional processing in my experience 🙂

Second Chance- Shinedown (Sound of Madness, 2008)

Again, like Seether, Shinedown have a lot to offer in their lyrics. I’ve been turning a lot to their music these past 3 years as I’ve been processing my diagnosis and found it to be quite therapeutic 🙂

I realize that many of these songs come from the alternative side of the musical spectrum, however, I do occasionally listen to music that falls outside of this genre 😛

A Window to the Past- John Williams (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Soundtrack, 2004)

Oh no- she’s off on the Harry Potter wagon again! 😛

OK! I know- buutttt, you cannot deny the genius that is renowned score composer John Williams! Without him we would not have the Star Wars theme, Superman, Indiana Jones, Jurrasic Park and everyone’s favourite Jaws!

Dun- dun…dun- dun.... 😉

On the third Harry Potter soundtrack there exists a song of pure magic (see what I did there 🙂 😉 ). Whilst the song is entirely instrumental, this beautiful piece is filled with emotion and has helped to calm many a storm within my mind 🙂

I’d tell you about a few more of the songs I find soothing outside of rock and roll, buuuttt as much as I like to tell you about my life in this blog, I don’t think I’m comfortable revealing some of my guilty pleasures quite so publicly (Yep, they are that bad! 😛 😉 )

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There we have it Earthlings! A brief insight into the contents of my ipod. I could go on for ages, but it’s better if I give you the highlights for now. So many bands, so little time!

If I have time I’ll circle back to this subject at a later stage with more music recommendations for autism management 🙂

Have a good weekend everyone!

Aoife

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