New Series: Neurodivergent Book Reviews
I’ve been wanting to add neurodivergent book reviews since this blog was first conceived. I’m very excited to be finally starting this new series!
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I have already recommended this book to multiple people. This is why it’s only right I start my series on neurodivergent book reviews with it. Prior to reading this book, I had read a bit about alexithymia but not very in-depth. I had taken a few alexithymia questionnaires and had scores that indicated I have the condition. As a result, I wanted to read Emotionally Dumb to better understand that part of myself. Then I proceeded to read a book where the first quarter of it seemed to be written about me.
I learned so many things about myself in an almost eerie, but incredibly helpful, way. It gave me unexpected insight into multiple times in my life. Times when I had emotional outbursts and meltdowns without being able to place why I was having them. It explained why I often find myself working backward from an emotional reaction to figure out what actually caused it.
I felt supremely called out during one particular section. In that section, Thompson wrote about how many people with undetected alexithymia are known to be outspoken. This can initially seem inconsistent with perceptions of alexithymia. However, this outspokenness is actually a coping mechanism. In an attempt to fit in and be accepted by others while hiding our emotional deficits, we are really good at telling people what we think, not what we feel.
I should clarify what I mean by “emotional deficits.” People with alexithymia don’t have actual emotional deficits. We aren’t incapable of feeling or having emotions and we do not experience them any less than neurotypical people. Alexithymia makes it difficult for us to label what we’re feeling, understand what’s causing us to feel that way, and explaining how we feel to others. So, when I say “emotional deficits” I’m referring to it as neurotypicals see it. If alexithymic individuals don’t develop this coping mechanism, they can quickly find themselves socially ostracized and perceived as lacking empathy.
Who Should Read This Book?
So many people. Studies have found about half of people with autism also have alexithymia. If you’re autistic or have a loved one who is autistic, this book can provide some valuable insight. Alexithymia also commonly occurs in people with ADHD, depression, brain injury, trauma/PTSD, and more which is why it can be informative for many neurodivergent people, their partners, parents, or other loved ones. Therapists and mental health counselors can also greatly benefit from this book to expand their understanding and ability to recognize alexithymia.
Things I Liked
Thompson does a great job of giving a thorough overview of alexithymia. It’s not intended as groundbreaking information or new research to the field. It simply provides a better understanding of the condition by summarizing available information. It does provide sources and references that one could use to learn more information or look up research.
I also liked that Thompson included a list of available alexithymia questionnaires. He discussed how each was developed, what shortcomings it has and if those shortcomings have been answered for and revised in updated versions, and other helpful information about each test’s validity.
Another helpful part is the part about treating alexithymia. He discusses the complexity of developing treatments without knowing the cause of the condition in order to treat it. However, he does explain various therapy approaches, how successful they’ve been, and their limitations.
Things I Didn’t Like
Despite the helpful section about therapy approaches and how to improve our connection to our feelings, parts of the book felt a bit unnecessarily doom-and-gloomy. There’s a section about the alexithymic parent that bothered me but maybe that’s because it triggered some of my own anxieties about becoming a parent one day. I do think it made valid points about concerns and possible issues when a parent struggles to process or read emotions and their potential negative impact on their children.
However, Thompson wrote it in a way that felt too definitive to me that alexithymic parents will emotionally damage their children. While some alexithymic individuals struggle to perceive, process, or understand other people’s emotions, that’s a generalized view. I think many of us read other people’s emotions quite well. We just get confused about what to connect those emotions to when someone’s social or verbal cues don’t match what we read on them. While alexithymic parents will need to be more mindful about how to navigate emotional overwhelm, this doesn’t mean by default we aren’t able to recognize and see the emotional needs of others, especially in regard to our own children.
If alexithymia is a new subject to you, Emotionally Dumb is a great place to start. It also includes some self-help exercises that you can do and personally, I’ve found them to be really helpful. With the guide to questionnaires, you can make confident decisions about which to take or what to keep in mind while you take them. In terms of reading commitment, Emotionally Dumb is a pretty easy read without too much jargon. Thompson does a great job of simplifying some pretty complex topics.
I hope you enjoy this first part of my new series: neurodivergent book reviews! What book would you like me to review next? Let me know in the comments!