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What Is Alexithymia?

Find out how to spot the signs of this trait when you earn a MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and prepare to become a licensed clinical mental health counselor.

A licensed clinical mental health counselor encounters patients with a broad range of mental health disorders and personality traits. To work with these patients and have the qualifications to treat the gamut of mental health disorders, counselors must earn advanced mental health degrees and receive the proper training.

One lesser-known condition you might encounter as a clinical mental health counselor treating patients is alexithymia.

What Is Alexithymia?

A Confusing Condition

Alexithymia translates literally to mean “no words for feelings,” and patients with this condition have difficulty verbalizing their emotions or thoughts.1 This subclinical cognitive-affective impairment affects individuals’ ability to interpret their own emotional experiences, and it is estimated that about 1 in 10 people in the general population fall on the alexithymia spectrum, with significantly higher incidence levels among people with autism. Many people with alexithymia have neither autism nor psychopathic disorders and may be prone to difficulties having close relationships.

Other symptoms of alexithymia can include:2

  • Difficulty identifying different types of feelings
  • Limited understanding of what causes feelings
  • Difficulty recognizing facial cues in others 
  • Limited or rigid imagination
  • Constricted style of thinking
  • Hypersensitive to physical sensations
  • Detached or tentative connection to others  

For a licensed clinical mental health counselor, recognizing the symptoms of alexithymia is key to providing the proper treatment for a patient with this condition. To measure alexithymia, many professionals use the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), which helps experts assess a patient’s difficulty identifying feelings in the self, difficulty describing feelings, and externally oriented thinking style—the three components of alexithymia.3

Patients with a high TAS-20 score may be considered poor candidates for psychotherapy and be at higher risk for other psychological disorders.

Enroll in a Clinical Mental Health Master’s Program

For students ready to go back to school to earn a degree and enter a career in mental health, Walden University’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program can get you there. Whether you completed your bachelor’s degree years ago or are a recent graduate ready to earn a master’s, Walden is an ideal choice for students looking to earn their mental health degrees online.

Walden’s clinical mental health master’s program can give you the professional development, qualifications, and critical thinking skills necessary for a successful career as a licensed clinical mental health counselor. The MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program can prepare you to qualify to sit for licensing exams and to meet the academic licensure requirements of many state counseling boards.

If your college search has you looking for master’s programs in clinical mental health counseling that are academically rigorous and give you the flexibility you need around your busy schedule, online schools offer the best of both worlds. With a diverse range of degree specializations to choose from, Walden’s program has accreditation and is led by faculty members with extensive experience in clinical practice.

Get the training you need and the right college degree to help you have a fulfilling career counseling patients and improving the mental and emotional health of others. Learn more about Walden’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling today.

Walden University offers an online MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which is a requirement for licensure in many states. Expand your career options and earn your master’s degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,