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Affectionate Communication Can Help Ease Emotional Disconnect

Affectionate Communication Can Help Ease Emotional DisconnectMost people at one time or another have had difficulty identifying or describing how they are feeling — a temporary case of what experts call alexithymia. But for some, it can be a chronic problem, and one researcher suggests it can be remedied in part with some simple interventions.

“We know how important it is for people to empathize and be open with the people around us, because that makes someone more competent as a communicator,” said Colin Hesse, Ph.D., an assistant professor of communication at the University of Missouri.

Hesse and other communication experts are studying the ways alexithymia sufferers can ease the physical and mental costs of the disorder and succeed at relationships.

Experts estimate 8 to 10 percent of people suffer from high alexithymia. Those who have high alexithymia have trouble relating to others, as they tend to become anxious around others or avoid forming relationships.

Emotional distance often accompanies varies levels of autism, as well as post-traumatic stress disorders. Studies have shown that alexithymia has been related to eating and panic disorders, as well as substance abuse.

For individuals who have serious issues with sharing emotions, surrounding themselves with affectionate people may help improve their quality of life.

“We still need to study the best approaches, but we believe that affectionate communication ranging from hugs, touching, or even the posture taken during communication – can make a positive impact, even if it only relieves anxiety,” Hesse said.

Prior research has shown that affectionate communication can releases hormones that relieve stress.

In a paper published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, Hesse and Kory Floyd of Arizona State University surveyed 921 people and measured shared affection, attachment levels, and the number of close relationships.

“Because there is so much gray area with alexithymia, the potential for what we learn could have benefits for people with conditions such as emotional distance and autism spectrum disorders,” Hesse said.

Source: University of Missouri

Affectionate Communication Can Help Ease Emotional Disconnect

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Affectionate Communication Can Help Ease Emotional Disconnect. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 23, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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