(See also The Healing of Cassandra)
What is Affective Deprivation Disorder (AfDD) - The easiest way to understand it is to relate it to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is caused by sunlight deprivation; this can cause a neurochemical imbalance in the brain.
The symptoms of SAD usually occur regularly each winter, starting between September and November and continuing until March or April. A diagnosis can be made after three or more consecutive winters where the symptoms, including a number of the following, continue to recur.
Sleep problems: Usually desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake but in some cases, disturbed sleep and early morning wakening
Lethargy: Feeling of fatigue and inability to carry out normal routine
Overeating: Craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, usually resulting in weight gain
Depression: Feelings of misery, guilt and loss of self-esteem, sometimes hopelessness and despair, sometimes apathy and loss of feelings
Social problems: Irritability and desire to avoid social contact
Anxiety: Tension and inability to tolerate stress
Loss of libido: Decreased interest in sex and physical contact
Mood changes: In some sufferers, extremes of mood and short periods of hypomania (over activity) in spring and autumn.
Most people affected by SAD show signs of a weakened immune system during the winter, and are more vulnerable to infections and other illnesses.
SAD is very, very real! However where SAD is about sunlight deprivation - AfDD is about emotional deprivation caused by living in an intimate relationship where the one partner is affected by a low emotional intelligence or Alexithymia.
My research strongly indicates that AfDD can develop as a consequence of being in an intimate relationship with an adult with a disorder that produces a low emotional/empathic quotient or Alexithymia, a Greek term meaning literally without words for feelings (Parker, Taylor and Bagby 2001).
Alexithymia levels found in Autistic Spectrum Disorders are [85%] (Hill, Bethoz and Frith 2004), Anorexia Nervosa [63%] and Bulimia [56%] (Cochrane, Brewerton, Wilson and Hodges 1993), Major Depressive Disorder [45%] (Honkalampi et al. 2001), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder [40%] (Shipko, Alvarez and Noviello 1983), Panic Disorder [34%] (Cox, Swinson, Shulman and Bourdeau 1995).
The prevalence of Alexithymia is highest in people with an Autistic Spectrum disorder (85%) which is further hindered by a lack of theory of mind (Beaumont and Newcombe 2006).
AfDD is a secondary disorder which is based upon the situation a person is in and is transitional - it is a consequence of lack of awareness in the relationship and is NOT a personality disorder. This of course is not caused intentionally; it is due to lack of awareness or denial of one or both partners that they both have difference needs. Emotional reciprocity, love and belonging are essential human needs, if these needs are not being met and the reason why is not understood, then mental and physical health may be affected. Awareness and understanding can eliminate this and the affects of AfDD can be elevated once acceptance and understanding of how both have very different needs is reached. This is why self-diagnosis or diagnosis by a professional can make so much difference and have a positive effect on both in the relationship, because there is the realisation that neither is to blame.
The effects of AfDD can be eliminated or reduced with the realisation of the cause but only if both partners accept it. Acceptance allows for steps to be taken to restore the lack of emotional input the AfDD partner has been experiencing. The results from this will help restore the self esteem and self worth of both partners in the relationship. From this some couples are then able (if the diagnosis is accepted) to relate the problems they are struggling with, to the condition and not each other.
Just as sunlight restores the balance in SAD - emotional input and understanding can restore the balance in the person affected by AfDD. However if the adult, affected by a low emotional intelligence or Alexithymia is unaware or in denial of their condition, it is more than likely the affects of AfDD will continue.
Beaumont,R. and Newcombe, P. (2006) Theory of mind and central coherence in adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome, Autism: The International Journal of Research & Practice 10.(4) 365-382.
Cochrane, C.E., Brewerton, T.D., Wilson, D.B. & Hodges, E.L. (1993) 'Alexithymia in eating disorders.' International Journal of Eating Disorders 14, 219-222.
Cox BJ, Swinson RP, Shulman ID, Bourdeau D (1995): Alexithymia in panic disorder and social phobia. Comprehensive Psychiatry 36, (8)195-198.
Hill, E., Berthoz, S., & Frith, U (2004) 'Brief report: cognitive processing of own emotions in individuals with autistic spectrum disorder and in their relatives.' Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 34, (2) 229-235.
Honkalampi, K., Hintikka, J., Laukkanen, E., Lehtonen, J. and Viinamäki, H. (2001) 'Alexithymia and depression: a prospective study of patients with major depressive disorder.' Journal of Psychosomatics 42, 229-234.
Parker, J.D.A., Taylor, G.J. and Bagby, R.M (2001) 'The relationship between emotional intelligence and alexithymia' Journal of Personality and Individual Differences 30, 107-115.
Shipko, S., Alvarez, A., & Noviello, N. (1983). Towards a Teological Model of Alexithymia: Alexithymia and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics, 39, 122-126.