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Context:

I'm a 25 years old, Brazilian, programmer, living alone for 5 years now. I acknowledge some bad traits that I have such as excessive laziness, huge need for hours of sleep, very connected to money, addicted to games and YouTube (I could spend hours watching a lot of random videos).

Problem:

Over the years, I find myself unwilling to connect with others' feelings and sometimes my own. I don't have a strong bond with family, I do not speak with my father (for neglect reasons), I don't have a friendship relationship with my brothers (one older and one younger) and just speak with them in family meetings.

My only connection with my family is my mother with whom I speak weekly and see two times a month max. My friends are present but we all have adult lives so we see each other once every two months or so (communication is present via WhatsApp but always small talk).

The daily communication and interaction is with my girlfriend. We have over 4 years together, and we have a lot of history (good and bad), and things are often (not always) in a "shaky" state. We communicate, chat daily and hang out every weekend, but I can say a fight occurs once a month, and it can be small and we resolve it in the same day, or it can be huge and we spend days not talking to each other, or fighting 3 days over the same thing.

I've begun group therapy, with 2 professionals and 1 member, and often I find myself not being able to connect with the other member's feelings, or even my own. I often use words like "good", "bad" - and that's it. Sometimes my mother calls me and cries about her poor quality of life and I can't connect with her. My girlfriend said to me that sometimes she feels alone with me, or not supported. But despite my efforts, I can't seem to connect with anyone feelings. I don't feel sorry, don't feel bad for them, don't feel happy for them.

That is starting to annoy me so much, mainly for the fact that I give everything I got at my work and often feel exhausted at the end of the day, not having attention for nothing other than something that I can be distracted by (games & YouTube). Sometimes this leads to fights with my girlfriend or my friends saying that I "vanish"...

I've done some research and at the therapy we came to a conclusion that I might have alexithymia, and this affects all my relationships. But I don't know how I can say this to my girlfriend or my friends/family in a way that does not seem like a excuse.

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But I don't know how I can say this to my girlfriend or my friends/family in a way that does not seems like a excuse.

First of all: don't talk about it after (or worse, during) a fight about your disconnectedness. Choose a time when everyone is calm and receptive to listening. If you were to say this in the middle of an argument it would probably sound like you were trying to win by saying "well, I have this condition, so there!", which is not what you want!

The best way to address it and not sound like an excuse is to reveal not only your potential diagnosis, but also what you are planning to do about it.

Some background... I have struggled with a few issues over the years like depression and anxiety. The first couple therapists I saw didn't actually tell me an official diagnosis, and eventually I said "ok so, am I actually depressed, or am I just dumb and bad at life?". My therapist responded that the reason she hadn't said is because in itself, knowing the diagnosis isn't that meaningful. In fact, often patients would hear the diagnosis and say "well, it's official, I guess this is just who I am!" and give up on making progress.

Think about it: what does knowing "I have alexithymia" give you? A label. That's all! It's just a word to describe things you've already known about yourself for a long time. With my issues, I definitely felt some initial relief knowing it was officially "a thing", but in the end, what's important is what you do with that information. Will it lead you to more effective therapy? Does it enable you to find resources? Does it help you identify strategies to improve your relationships?

Those are the sort of things to share alongside this news. This frames it as a useful, positive development: you've discovered what it is, and so ____.

The reason people don't like excuses is that they don't offer a solution or path forward, only reasons why they couldn't stop the bad things from happening. However, there appear to be ways to treat alexithymia (for example, I found this blog post), and of course being in therapy would indicate you are interested in improvement :) So if you explain how you're working on it, it will shift from seeming like an excuse to simply an explanation.

Another story from my experience: At one point a mental issue was manifesting itself physically, and my parents became concerned. They kept pestering me about it, to the point where they secretly made a doctor's appointment for me and were going to take me there to get it checked out -- fortunately right before that happened I decided on my own to seek therapy. Since I knew they had been concerned, I decided to tell them what the issue was (which is when I learned about the appointment...). The conversation roughly followed what I suggest above:

Mom, you know that thing you keep asking me about? It's not really [physical condition]... it's [mental condition]. I found this out kind of recently and I'm going to therapy for it now. It's not going to get better overnight, but I don't want you to worry any more.

OK, it was a bit more tearful than that, but you get the idea. She was relieved to finally understand what was wrong, and to know that I was actively working on it. Do be prepared to answer questions, as in your case my issue was fairly uncommon, and they may want to better understand what it means. In this case there wasn't a lot for her to do, but for yours you might include suggestions of how they could support you, if you or your therapist have ideas.

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Start by stating that they (the one you're talking to, friend/family) noticed your odd behaviour. The "vanishing" or whatever they pointed out to you in the past. Then tell them that you had this trait investigated by a therapist where the most likely cause would be alexithymia.

By setting it up this way you don't make excuses. The other person did the noticing and the therapist did the diagnosing. Be sure to explain this in a "matter of factly" kind of way. If needed (most likely) explain what alexithymia is and let them (again, target person) decide whether or not that explains your unusual traits.

Compare this to someone with a muscle disease who can't stand up or walk for more than 5 minutes. People around him perceive him as being really lazy because they don't understand it. If that person then states the fact that a doctor diagnosed this disease it'll at least let the people around him understand that it really isn't lazyness.

Does that mean he can just sit down on the couch all day and the people around him have to do everything for him? Of course not. But it does mean that the usual everyday tasks will take way more effort for him than for Joe Average. So the people around him might be willing to help doing a lot of things.

What those things are in your case I'll leave up for you to find out. I don't know what alexithymia does exactly or how to get around not getting empathy from you.

So start by stating the facts. What they noticed, what the therapist said, ... Then continue with acknowledging that it's a problem that you can't fix alone, or that you may not be able to fix at all.

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