Paratymy: symptoms and causes of impaired affectivity - psychology - 2023

Paratymy: symptoms and causes of impaired affectivity - psychology
Paratymy: symptoms and causes of impaired affectivity - psychology


The psychopathology of affectivity It is a specific field of psychology that encompasses the different disorders or alterations of affectivity, that is, those that are related to feelings, emotions and affections.

Today we will talk about a specific alteration: parathymia. How do you explain that a person behaves incongruously to the situation they are experiencing? Have you ever seen someone laugh at a funeral? What happens when these experiences turn out to be pathological? That is what parathymia is all about, and in this article we will analyze it in detail.

  • Related article: "The 8 types of emotions (classification and description)"

Human emotions

Emotions allow us to adapt to the world we live inas well as our internal world. Together with them, feelings and affections constitute emotional management phenomena and tools. These, in turn, influence our perception and our life experience.

Emotions are a channel of expression: their proper management contributes to the personal well-being of each one and predisposes to good mental health. The inadequate management or repression of them, on the other hand, can cause discomfort and psychological suffering in the person.

Affective psychology encompasses these concepts. The psychopathology of affectivity, for its part, would include the alterations that occur in the emotional, affective and sentimental sphere of the person.

Psychology of affectivity

The affectivity or affective life encompasses all those experiences that define and limit the emotional life of a person. It is a set of tendencies and states that the person experiences in his own and immediate way.

Affectivity influences our personality and in our behavior, especially in its expression. It is generally distributed in dichotomous poles such as pleasure / pain or joy / sadness. For this reason, as we will see, the effects of parathymia extend to many areas of life.

That said, we are going to learn about the different concepts that affective psychology encompasses:


Emotions are internal affective responses that may be accompanied by somatic symptoms and that appear in response to an experience. This experience can be internal (a thought, a feeling ...) or external (an event).

Emotions maintain or end the triggering event. Some of them are fear, joy, anger ...


The feelings are the subjective experience of emotion. They are longer lasting and less intense than emotions and, unlike them, they are not accompanied by somatic or vegetative symptoms. For example, feelings are love, jealousy or pride.

Mood or mood

It is the basal state of the person, of long duration, stable and persistent, which accompanies the vital experience. Unlike the previous ones, it is established more slowly and progressively.

It is a willingness to react with a certain kind of emotion to different events. It can be reactive to a situation (external or internal) or appear spontaneously. For example, it would be a sad, happy mood ...

Paratymy: affectivity disturbances

There is a great variety of alterations that affect the spheres discussed. These they can appear in isolation in the individual, or within a more global psychopathological picture (for example schizophrenia, mania, depression ...). Within the affective and emotional sphere, we find parathymia.

Parathymia, also called ideo-affective discordance or incongruity, is the lack of relationship between what is expressed verbally and the affective experience. That is, the subject experiences inadequate or incongruous feelings for the situation he is living or for the thoughts he is having.

Thus, it is a discordant affective reaction: for example, showing irritation in happy situations, laugh in sad situations (for example at a funeral) or cry at a funny thought. This inappropriateness can include quantitative (intensity) or qualitative (tone, hue or quality) aspects.

Parathymia appears frequently in schizophrenia (especially when there are negative and defective symptoms), in organic brain disorders and in primary affective disorders (although in the latter exceptionally).

  • You may be interested: "What is schizophrenia? Symptoms and treatments"

Types of parathymias

There are, in addition to the commented parathymia, two more types, although with quite different meanings from the original parathymia. Is about positive parathymia and negative parathymia.

Positive parathymia or pathology joy appears when the subject remains in a characteristic euphoric and hyperactive state. It manifests itself in the manic episodes of bipolar disorder or in organic pictures (moria).

In negative parathymia or pathological sadness, just the opposite happens; the subject feel especially sad or sorry. It appears especially in depressive episodes.

Its differences with affective indifference

We must not confuse parathymia with another alteration of affectivity: coldness or affective indifference. This consists of the lack or loss of the ability to present affective responses, or the inability to modulate and be flexible with emotions.

People with affective indifference are cold, insensitive and unable to get emotionally involved with other people or in their actions.

Like parathymia, this alteration appears in residual schizophrenia and organic brain disorders. On the other hand, it can also manifest itself in some personality disorders.