Wednesday, June 22, 2005
I learned a new word today: alexithymia, the inability to accurately describe one's feelings (and, by extension, one's symptoms). PubMed finds 8203 citations for it as a search term. This month's Pain Medicine (whose full-text I don't have access to) has an article probing whether alexithymia may partially explain differences in pain reporting amongst different racial and social groups. Answer (per the abstract): "maybe." Nevertheless this is a phenomena that we all encounter and struggle with in our patients, and it's nice to see it has such an important sounding name. I'll never forget the patient whose chief complaint was that she was having "total body shutting down spells." I've yet to decide whether this was full blown alexithymia or actually a precise descritption of what she was experiencing.