What is alexithymia?
Before we discuss the Alexithymia Test, let’s briefly discuss what Alexithymia is.
Alexithymia is a psychological condition where the person who has it finds it difficult to do the following:
- Recognizing their emotions,
- Describing them,
- And expressing them.
By having the aforementioned difficulties, by extension, the person will also find it challenging to:
- Differentiate what emotional responses are and what bodily sensations are (the ones that emerge when a person is emotionally aroused),
- Include emotion in their thinking, so they tend to exclude emotions and often lean toward realistic and logical thinking,
- And understand the feelings of other people.
Alexithymia negatively impacts the capability to establish new emotional bonds and maintain healthy ones. People with alexithymia have difficulty regulating emotions and become more prone to having emotional outbursts and making decisions or performing actions out of impulse. In extreme cases, they commit self-harm.
This type of psychological condition is found to be common in people who have post-traumatic stress disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and depression. Research into this condition resulted in the belief that genetics and even a person’s surroundings can contribute to the emergence of this condition in a person.
How to use the Alexithymia Test
There are numerous Alexithymia Tests. The kind we will discuss for this guide is the one created by Jason Thompson in 2007, which is called the Online Alexithymia Questionnaire.
This questionnaire is a self-administered assessment, so even non-healthcare professionals can use this to assess themselves. It’s also relatively easy to use because all a person needs to do is answer thirty-seven items using preset answers.
Here are some of the items that need to be answered:
- When asked which emotion I'm feeling, I frequently don't know the answer.
- I'm unsure of which words to use when describing my feelings.
- When other people are hurt or upset, I have difficulty imagining what they are feeling.
- People tell me to describe my feelings more, as if I haven't elaborated enough.
- Sex as a recreational activity seems kinda pointless.
- People sometimes get upset with me, and I can't imagine why.
- When I am upset I find it difficult to identify the feelings causing it.
- I am not much of a daydreamer.
- I sometimes experience confusing sensations in my body.
- Some people have told me I am cold or unresponsive to their needs.
The person engaging with the test will answer based on the following preset choices:
- Strongly agree
- Strongly disagree
As for scoring the test, just note the following:
- Strongly agree = 5 points
- Agree = 4 points
- Neutral = 3 points
- Disagree = 2 points
- Strongly disagree = 1 point
Items 3, 7, 8, 23, and 32 have inverse scoring, so if a person selects Strongly Disagree, that’s equal to 5 points, and if they pick Strongly Agree, that’s equal to 1 point.
The maximum score is 185. To calculate it, just add up the scores for all items.
The test has the following score ranges:
- 0 to 94 = No alexithymia
- 95 to 112 = Possible alexithymia
- 113 to 185 = Alexithymia is present
Do note that this is a screening test, so it’s best to conduct further testing. The current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders doesn’t have a criterion for it, so it’s best to conduct further tests and interviews before you diagnose a patient with alexithymia.
Alexithymia Test Example
Now you know the basic gist of alexithymia, plus what this Alexithymia Test is all about, examples of what items need to be answered, how to answer it, and how to interpret the score, it’s time to see what it looks like. The template that we have just takes the original questionnaire and scoring ranges. We added radio buttons that allow people engaging with the test to tick, whether with a pen or using the interactable buttons on the PDF.
If you like what you see and believe this will help you with your work, feel free to download our free Alexithymia Test PDF template!
When is it best to use the Alexithymia Test?
If you’re wondering when it is best to use the Alexithymia Test, well, the answer will depend on who you are and what it’s for.
If you’re a mental healthcare professional, the best time to use this is when you’re handling patients who have autism spectrum disorder (level 1), post-traumatic stress disorder, and/or depression. It’s best to break the ice first and make them feel that they’re in a safe and non-judgmental space.
You should also establish rapport and trust to get them to share what they think about their feelings. If you’re dealing with a person who has alexithymia, you’ll likely have a difficult time getting them to talk about their feelings because they themselves have a hard time articulating their thoughts about it. Establishing trust and rapport might help make things easy for both of you.
Once your patient feels safe and they trust you enough, discuss what Alexithymia is so that they are aware of this concept/condition (if they’re not aware of it yet), what the Alexithymia Test is and what it’s for, and what you’re planning to do with the test. If they’re comfortable taking the test, issue this to them.
Now, if you’re not a mental healthcare professional, do note that you are allowed to take the Alexithymia Test whenever you feel like it. Its purpose is to be a free self-assessment. While you may answer this whenever you want, please don’t use this as a substitute for therapy or counseling. Also, don’t diagnose yourself with it, even if there’s a score range with a designation that you have it. It’s best to see a professional first to get an official diagnosis and treatment.
What are the benefits of using the Alexithymia Test?
One of the main reasons why Jason Thompson created this test is that there was limited access to alexithymia tests. Since healthcare should be accessible to all, it’s only fitting that alexithymia tests were made to be easily accessible and free. Since this is free, any healthcare professional can use this to assess their patients who are suspected of having alexithymia as well as patients who have PTSD, ASD, or depression. Even non-professionals who are wondering if they have alexithymia can use it.
It accounts for the “shortcomings” of certain alexithymia tests.
Earlier, we mentioned that this Alexithymia Test is just one of several other alexithymia tests. In fact, this version is not exactly clinically validated; hence we mentioned conducting further testing to properly gauge the patient before making an official diagnosis. Despite this, the test is still based on clinically-validated instruments. Three notable things that this test accounts for are:
- Being free and easily accessible to anyone;
- Some of the questions were altered in such a way that they refer to a problem with “spontaneous” or “unconscious” imagination instead of “conscious” imagination;
- The wording of the questions were modified so that they can easily be understood by those with alexithymia.
It can be used to monitor patients or yourself over time.
Another great thing about this test is that it can be used again and again!
If you’re a healthcare professional and you’ve developed and applied a treatment plan to address a patient (let’s stipulate that you opted for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), it’s only natural for you to want to know how your patient is doing. If you want to see if they’re improving, you can schedule a routine checkup with them. Issue the Alexithymia Test to them again and see if their scores become lower. If they’re lower, they’re getting better, and your Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program is working. If not, check back at a later time. If they’re still not improving, you might want to adjust your treatment plan to see if the changes will do the trick.
How can Carepatron help with mental health-related work?
If you’re a psychologist, psychiatrist, mental health therapist, counselor, or an adjacent mental healthcare professional, we hope this guide served as a good introduction or refresher to you, and we hope that the template tied to this guide serves you well when assessing patients for alexithymia.
While we have you, we’d like to ask for your time to explore more of our platform. We’re confident you’ll find numerous features that will benefit your work. One feature we’d like to highlight is our resource library. This is one of the features that we’re most proud of. This library is a treasure trove of clinical resources that cover numerous healthcare fields, practices, and topics.
This Alexithymia Test can be found in this library, too! We have worksheets that can help your patient work through their mental health conditions. These worksheets can also serve you in the sense that you can see if your patient can apply whatever you taught them during your sessions. We have other assessments that you can use to gauge symptoms of PTSD, ASD, depression, anxiety, and a whole lot more! Just like this Alexithymia Test, all of these are free, so download as much as you want and need! If these resources help you improve the efficiency and quality of your work, we’re happy!