A New Light on Human Intimacy

Feb 29 2016

Affective Deprivation Disorder (AfDD)
... Lack of Human Intimacy
Richard P. Johnson, PhD
I ran across a new emotional diagnosis recently: Affective Deprivation Disorder, or AfDD. This discovery raised a question in my mind... might some people suffer from Spiritual Deprivation Disorder, or SpDD? I'll discuss AfDD in this blog and SpDD in the next.
What is Affective Deprivation Disorder, or AfDD?
AfDD refers to a decided lack of emotional support in one's closest relationship. AfDD is most commonly seen in married persons whose spouses cannot communicate on a feeling or empathic level. The non-emotional spouse generally suffers from any number of difficulties, that may include: 1) alexithymia (inability to name feelings), 2) low emotional IQ (inability to see that emotional issues underscore almost all human communication), 3) certain personality disorders, and/or, 4) have experienced some lack or disturbance of nurturance in childhood. Any of these, or some combination, renders the non-communicative partner almost blind to the intangibles of what psychologists call the "affective domain" of human functioning, i.e., the realm of feelings and emotions.
Persons with such emotional "holes" seem unable to effectively achieve and sustain true intimacy (interpersonal sharing) in their close relationships, especially their marriages. Typically they are baffled when their spouse shows dissatisfaction. I remember one man in marital counseling reacted incredulously, when his wife questioned whether he loved her, "What do you mean I don't love you; I always bring home my paycheck!" The emotionally healthy spouse is left feeling befuddled, dismissed, and eventually lonely and disconnected as though she/he is on another planet. The two spouses are unable to deeply "touch" each other's affective core: they consequently remain emotional strangers.
Such a situation leaves the necessary relationship condition of intimacy (true and deep sharing) still-born. Consequently, the more emotionally healthy spouse gradually becomes unhealthy her/himself, and begins showing the symptoms of AfDD; she/he becomes progressively disappointed and disillusioned, which easily slips into resentfulness, and eventually into contempt. Over time, of course, this all leads to more and more disharmony, emotional estrangement, "frozen marriage," and perhaps divorce.

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