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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2013 5:46 am 
orange is a state of mind
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Seems like a good 'go to' - I've noticed I'm getting apathetic feelings mixed up with others!

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2013 9:06 am 
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Spender wrote:
Delenda, I get what you mean that these are just lists. I find them helpful because I really do not know the full range of human emotional experience, I cannot often put a name to emotions, and I don't know how many of them are supposed to feel. So when I am emotionally uncertain, I can go to a list (I'm a word person, not a picture person) and explore the words, try them on for size, maybe even look them up in some of my bookmarked dictionaries (how do you define "geek"?).


Geek is what hipsters call themselves to avoid being labelled hipsters. When Megan Fox said she was a geek, the word officially lost all meaning and now it's just kind of floating around there for anyone to grab at. Simon Pegg tried to take it back, but it didn't stick.

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2013 7:52 pm 
orange is a state of mind

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^^ hahahaha.


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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:15 pm 
orange is a state of mind
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Its so true the meaning of geek has totally gone -.-
Its printed on teeshirts all over the place here!

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:22 pm 
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Ok, back on point here. The absence of or inability to name, feel or understand emotions is called "alexithymia", something that occurs at higher rates in people with EDs than the general population. The Journal of Eating Disorders has just published a review of the literature around alexithymia and EDs, with some interesting points:

Quote:
Abstract (provisional)

Alexithymia is characterized by difficulties identifying feelings and differentiating between feelings and bodily sensations, difficulties communicating feelings, and a concrete cognitive style focused on the external environment. Individuals with eating disorders have elevated levels of alexithymia, particularly difficulties identifying and describing their feelings. A number of theoretical models have suggested that individuals with eating disorders may find emotions unacceptable and/or frightening and may use their eating disorder symptoms (i.e., restricting food intake, bingeing, and/or purging) as a way to avoid or cope with their feelings. The current critical review synthesizes the literature on alexithymia and eating disorders and examines alexithymia levels across eating disorders (i.e., anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and eating disorder not otherwise specified), the role of alexithymia in binge eating disorder, and the influence of alexithymia on the development of eating disorders as well as treatment outcome. The clinical implications of the research conducted to date and directions for future research are discussed.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.

Quote:
Review

...there is a robust body of literature illustrating that alexithymia levels, both a continuous and a categorical perspective, are elevated in individuals with eating disorders compared to healthy controls. Furthermore, individuals with eating disorders have specific deficits in identifying and communicating emotions. One question that arises is whether alexithymia is a state or trait variable. There is strong evidence that alexithymia is not simply a by-product of eating disorder symptomatology. However, the evidence is mixed regarding whether alexithymia is independent of general distress. Although some studies have found that individuals with eating disorders no longer display elevated alexithymia scores once depression levels are controlled for [4,26,36,39], other studies have shown that individuals with eating disorders continue to have elevated alexithymia scores, even when depression levels are controlled for [5,24,27,40]. Furthermore, research evidence from treatment studies suggests that alexithymia levels decrease even when depression levels remain stable [27] and pharmacotherapy with antidepressants decreases depression levels but not alexithymia levels in individuals with high levels of both alexithymia and depression [31]. Lastly, genetic studies have shown that alexithymia has its own heritability component that cannot be fully explained by depression or a genetic susceptibility to general distress and psychopathology [76]. Consequently, although the evidence is mixed, it does suggest that alexithymia, although significantly related to depression, is an independent construct that needs to be considered separately from depression.

From a developmental perspective, structural equation modeling has suggested that childhood maltreatment has an indirect influence on eating disorder symptomatology such that the association between childhood maltreatment and eating symptomatology is mediated by alexithymia and depression, although there are some sex and cultural differences in these relations [65-69]. The identification of children with a history of childhood maltreatment and early intervention focused on depressive symptoms and the identification and communication of emotions may act as a protective factor and decrease the risk for the development of later disordered eating.

With respect to treatment, alexithymia levels decrease significantly in response to psychological treatments that place an emphasis on identifying and describing emotions in addition to symptom reduction [27,71-75]. However, despite these significant decreases in alexithymia scores from pre- to post-treatment, alexithymia scores still remain elevated compared to control scores at post-treatment, suggesting that more intensive treatment focused on emotion regulation may be needed.

(Excerpted from the PDF)


Sound familiar to anyone?

Journal of Eating Disorders

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Jun 21, 2013 6:01 pm 
orange is a state of mind

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This was really good to read. It has been somewhat explained to me that I suffer from alexithymia and while I understood that and possibly some reasons why. I had never thought about it in terms of different severity or a scale of how affected by it you can be. I thought it was more black and white. It's either a problem or everything is fine. I know it's about not being able to identify emotions and often I'm left feeling either (or sometimes both) confused or disconnected, I wonder about the other aspect of alexithymia where you "lose words" or how ever you word it. (Insert alexithymia joke about not knowing how to word this heh ..sorry)
But with the problem of not having words when I need to say something, I thought it was those exact words that caused alexithymia but perhaps it's more because of the emotions they bring up? The words themself may not contain an emotion but the feeling they bring up might be why I simply lose words or can't speak.
(May not be making sense, it's early and I'm on my phone)


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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:40 am 
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I can relate to this a lot. I find it really hard to put how I'm feeling into words. I also feel like my feelings are dulled quite a bit.


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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:28 am 
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Quote:
“First, there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that individuals with AN have deficits in the ability to recognize and understand emotional experiences. For example, patients with AN report higher levels of alexithymia, defined as an inability to identify and describe emotions within the self, compared to controls. Further, AN has been linked to difficulties recognizing emotions within others, as assessed using tasks that require participants to identify emotional expressions from faces and from the eyes only. These emotion-processing difficulties are thought to be part of a larger set of deficits related to social, emotional, and cognitive functioning within AN. A few studies also suggest that individuals with AN pay less attention to, and are therefore less aware of, their emotions compared to controls. Allocating minimal attention to emotional experiences could reflect a tendency towards emotional avoidance—a hypothesized core-maintaining mechanism in AN.”

-Emotion dysregulation and symptoms of anorexia nervosa: The unique roles of lack of emotional awareness and impulse control difficulties when upset.
via Science of EDs (tumblr)


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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:44 am 
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Just read this really good article on alexithymia and eating disorders, and this explains exactly how I feel:
Quote:
My treatment team always used to get so mad at me because I’d always answer the question “How are you doing?” with “I’m fine.” No, no, they said, tell me how you’re really feeling. Although I had times where I did know what I was feeling and either didn’t feel like sharing or didn’t feel I could or should share, most of the time, I really had no idea.


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 Post subject: How am I feeling? Alexithymia and eating disorders
PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:49 am 
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This has long been a bug-bear of mine: going into any clinician's office to be asked, "How are you?" "Fine," I always reply, "How are you?" I finally started explaining to people that I didn't know what they meant or what they were asking: if I wasn't "fine", would I be sitting there in their offices? Did they want to know how I was feeling, or how my mood or nutrition had been? I asked them to be specific, to ask specific questions, because I was always going to say I was fine if they started with, "How are you?"

And I can't start getting into therapeutic issues from a place of, "How are you?", rather than a specific place to jump off and start trying to pry open the locked cages in my mind and soul.

Quote:
How am I feeling? Alexithymia and eating disorders
Carrie Arnold
August 15, 2013

My treatment team always used to get so mad at me because I’d always answer the question “How are you doing?” with “I’m fine.” No, no, they said, tell me how you’re really feeling. Although I had times where I did know what I was feeling and either didn’t feel like sharing or didn’t feel I could or should share, most of the time, I really had no idea.

Decoding your own emotions is no easy task. I mean, how are you feeling? Right now, I’m tired. It’s after 10pm and now that I’m an old fart, that’s getting late for me. But as for emotions? Hell if I know.

Researchers call it alexithymia, which literally means “pushing away your emotions.” The understanding of alexithymia as a subclinical condition in and of itself, as well as a predictor or risk factor for other mental illness, means that this translation isn’t the actual definition of alexithymia. In the research literature, alexithymia is characterized by the following:

1. difficulty identifying feelings and distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal
2. difficulty describing feelings to other people
3. constricted imaginal processes, as evidenced by a scarcity of fantasies
4. a stimulus-bound, externally oriented cognitive style (translation=focusing on the details of the events around you)

It has been associated with a variety of psychiatric conditions, including EDs. In a recent article in the Journal of Eating Disorders, a group of researchers from Canada reviewed the evidence for alexithymia in EDs (Nowakowski, McFarlane, & Cassin, 2013).

EDs and emotional difficulties

The researchers identified 24 studies that had been published on alexithymia and eating disorders since 1988, when the first clinical measure for alexithymia was published (the 20-question Toronto Alexithymia Scale, TAS-20). The papers they reviewed found higher levels of alexithymia in all of the eating disorders, although it appears that people with the restricting type of anorexia had higher alexithymia scores than the other EDs, meaning they had more difficulties describing their emotions than other subtypes. Whether this was a problem describing their emotions to another person or just describing their emotions is unclear. For someone with social anxiety (or who has the inability to shake the feeling that they are being judged all the damn time), it could be hard to describe your feelings to an outsider for reasons that have nothing to do with alexithymia and everything to do with interacting with another human being.

Specifically, people with EDs have trouble with two particular sets of behaviors: distinguishing emotions from physical sensation and describing feelings to others. Hence my “I’m fine” routine.

However, measuring alexithymia in people with active EDs can be difficult. Are the emotion recognition problems related to the malnutrition caused by the ED? By the increase in depression, anxiety, and general distress? Or are they stable? As with so many things, the answers are mixed. Some studies have found that alexithymia remains higher than expected in ED populations even when researchers factor in general distress and depression. This would indicate that, even if the distress of having an ED increases alexithymia symptoms, it was there beforehand.

Still, exactly what is causing this difficulty in interpreting and describing emotions may be different depending on diagnosis. Write the authors:

Quote:
Specifically, while depression may directly contribute to difficulties with identifying and expressing emotions in patients who restrict, it may be the increased impulsivity and affective instability that underlies the affective difficulties of patients with bingeing and purging behaviors.


So does alexithymia go away with treatment and recovery? Well, maybe. Several studies have found that ED treatment can decrease alexithymia levels. Although they found a significant difference between pre- and post-treatment, they didn’t actually compare these levels to population norms, so there’s no way to say whether the alexithymia levels returned to normal or if they remained elevated. It’s also unclear whether the improvement was due to targeted emotional therapies or a decrease in general ED symptoms. Again, no one has really compared the two. It’s relatively straightforward to do, but like so many psychology studies, the lack of a control group really interferes with our ability to interpret the results.

Lastly, there’s the question of whether alexithymia is the result of an ED or helps to cause the ED. Most of the studies that have been done on alexithymia being a causative factor in mental disorders has been done in people who were mistreated as children. While this could very well big a significant contributing factor to many types of mental distress and psychiatric illness later in life, it doesn’t tell us much specifically about EDs and in people who had relatively normal childhoods.

Rethinking alexithymia

Perhaps the most interesting part of the paper is near the end when they raised the question of whether alexithymia was the best term to use to describe these difficulties.

It is important to consider whether applying the term alexithymic to patients with eating disorders is accurate based on the research to date, or whether it would be more accurate to highlight specific deficits in identifying and describing emotions.

Alexithymia appears closely linked to problems with interoceptive awareness. There are differences between the two, to be sure, but they both require an ability to understand and interpret internal states. Such as emotions. Perhaps individuals with EDs aren’t so much alexithymic as much as the appear to be so as a result of problems with interoception. A separate study also found that alexithymia is linked to perfectionism, and from there to EDs (Marsero et al., 2011).

Regardless of whether you call it alexithymia or interoceptive difficulties, it appears that difficulties with identifying, expressing, and regulating emotions are a key feature in eating disorders. For me, anyway, addressing these difficulties has been key to ongoing recovery so I don’t get so dysregulated that I return to ED behaviors either as the only way I can calm myself down or I get into that “Screw it, I don’t care” state. Neither of which are very useful.

And, for the record, I still mostly say that I’m fine, my day was fine. Sometimes it’s a matter of I just can’t be arsed to put my finger on exactly what I’m feeling. Other times, it’s more of an I-just-don’t-want-to-get-into-it kind of a thing. But I mostly just don’t stop and think and ask myself how I’m feeling.

References:

Marsero S, Ruggiero GM, Scarone S, Bertelli S, Sassaroli S. (2011). The relationship between alexithymia and maladaptive perfectionism in eating disorders: a mediation moderation analysis methodology. Eating and Weight Disorders. DOI: 10.1007/BF03325130

Nowakowski ME, McFarlane T, & Cassin S. (2013) Alexithymia and eating disorders: a critical review of the literature. Journal of Eating Disorders. doi:10.1186/2050-2974-1-21


ED Bites

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 Post subject: Re: How am I feeling? Alexithymia and eating disorders
PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2013 5:00 am 
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Haha, I just posted this somewhere else (think it was The Function of Emotions thread). I can sooo relate to that first paragraph. I would be interested to see further research on it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:16 am 
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merged. i left Spender's because she quoted the whole article.


anyways.
if i don't answer that question with "fine", it's something like "i've been better" or "i've been worse".

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2014 12:36 pm 
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Quote:
Understanding emotion
By Janet Lowndes
March 10, 2014

Ok… lets be clear about something in our psychological world that seems to cause an awful lot of misunderstanding – there’s no such thing as a ‘negative’ emotion.

The language of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ emotion seems to be commonplace in our popular language about mental health. This positive/negative assessment of our emotions is one which is primarily based on perceived desirability. Happiness is highly desirable, therefore we refer to it as ‘positive’. Other emotions though such as fear or sadness are not quite as desirable, and as a result are often labelled as ‘negative’.

The problem with this positive/negative or good/bad language is that it perpetuates the notion that our less desired emotions are to be avoided and that we are somehow wrong if we’re experiencing them.

An emotionally intelligent attitude sees all emotions as having value, recognising that our emotions provide us with very important information regarding our experience of the world around us. No one emotion is more valuable than another, and none of our emotions are wrong or bad.

The diagram below illustrates a model of our healthy emotional range which I developed a few years ago when I was employed to design a depression education resource for year 9 students in Victorian schools. The approach we used was one which, rather than just focussing on depression, put mental health on the agenda by first focussing on the development of healthy coping strategies to enable us to cope with all experiences within the full emotional range.

Attachment:
4-emotions-293x300.jpg
4-emotions-293x300.jpg [ 11.29 KiB | Viewed 8072 times ]


This model is what I call the ‘Four Poles of Emotions’, representing emotions as directions in which we move within the emotional range. Just like the north, south, east and west perspectives on a compass, we will be drawn in these different directions by our reactions to experiences we have in our everyday lives. None of these directions is positive or negative, nor good or bad. They are all part of the range of healthy human emotion.

Consider for a moment some of the situations in life which give rise to these emotions:

Happiness – is an emotions we are likely to experience when life is going our way, our needs are met, and we feel satisfied with our current circumstances.
Sadness – is often a reaction to disappointment or loss in our life, it’s the way we respond to life being other than how we would like it to be.
Fear – is our inner alarm system asking us to ‘be careful’ and to pay extra attention in response to a perceived threat.
Anger – can be a reaction to threat, being wronged, or a perceived injustice. Anger is our greatest motivation to change.


Of course, all of these emotions have extremes, and when we get out into the extreme range we might see a continuation from these healthy changeable emotions to their more extreme states, which could manifest as:

• Extreme Sadness - Depression
• Extreme Fear – Anxiety
• Extreme Anger – Rage
• Extreme Happiness – Mania


People can move from the healthy emotional range to developing more significant mental health issues by becoming very stuck with a particular emotion, and/or by experiencing their emotions as extreme and too difficult to cope with.

Emotional Intelligence is a psychological approach which invites us to develop more adaptive and healthy ways to cope with our emotions when they occur. This approach suggests that if we can identify our emotions and develop healthy ways of coping with them and taking care of ourselves when they occur, then the emotions themselves will pass through our lives without causing too much damage… perhaps rocking our boat a little, but leaving us anchored to a place of resilience and calm. Try working on these emotional intelligence steps:

1. Welcome all emotions fully into your awareness and get to know them – when we identify and name our emotions we are more able to respond to them appropriately
2. Ask yourself ‘how can I help myself cope with this emotion’ (as opposed to ‘how can I make it stop’)
3. Check in to see if there is a lesson you can learn from this emotion, ie. something in your life which needs to be addressed
4. Notice if there are particular emotions you tend to avoid, and consider the cost of that avoidance
5. Remember that the two psychological processes which tend to cause us the most distress are a) avoidance, and b) rigidity. So if you are doing either of these, ie. avoiding your emotions or getting stuck in a particular pattern… it might be time to seek therapy to help you address change.



Quote:
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
– Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks


Janet Lowdes & Associates

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 Post subject: Re: The Function of Emotions
PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 2:02 pm 
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Just rediscovered this thread (Eureka! Both the WBB search function and the memory are working!). There are some interesting and thought-provoking posts, and I encourage members to take some time, maybe over a period of days, and have a look.

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