What Is Emotional Numbness? How to Overcome It and Feel Again


Emotional numbness is a state of feeling detached, indifferent, or unable to experience emotions. It can be a temporary response to stress, trauma, or depression, or a chronic condition that affects your quality of life and relationships.

What Causes Emotional Numbness and How to Recognize It

Emotional numbness can have different causes, depending on the person and the situation. Some of the common causes are:

  • Stress: When you are under a lot of stress, your body and mind may go into survival mode and shut down your emotions to cope with the situation. This can help you in the short term, but if the stress persists, it can lead to emotional numbness in the long term.
  • Trauma: Traumatic events, such as abuse, violence, accidents, or loss, can overwhelm your emotional system and cause you to dissociate from your feelings. This is a natural defense mechanism that protects you from the pain and shock of the trauma, but it can also prevent you from healing and processing the event.
  • Depression: Depression is a mood disorder that affects your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. One of the symptoms of depression is anhedonia, which is the loss of interest and pleasure in things that you used to enjoy. This can make you feel numb, empty, and hopeless.
  • Medication: Some medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, or painkillers, can affect your brain chemistry and alter your emotional responses. This can be a side effect or a desired effect, depending on the medication and the condition it is treating. If you are concerned about how your medication is affecting your emotions, talk to your doctor about it.
What Is Emotional Numbness
What Is Emotional Numbness

Signs of Emotional Numbness

Some of the signs that you may be experiencing emotional numbness are:

  • You feel nothing or very little in response to situations that would normally elicit strong emotions, such as joy, sadness, anger, or fear.
  • You have difficulty expressing or identifying your emotions, or you feel disconnected from them.
  • You have trouble empathizing with others or caring about their feelings.
  • You avoid situations or activities that involve emotions, such as social interactions, hobbies, or intimacy.
  • You feel bored, apathetic, or unmotivated most of the time.
  • You have a sense of detachment or unreality as if you are watching your life from a distance.

The Negative Effects of Emotional Numbness on Your Mental and Physical Health

Emotional numbness may seem like a coping strategy, but it can have negative consequences on your mental and physical health. Some of the negative effects are:

  • Reduced quality of life: Emotions are an essential part of being human. They help you to enjoy life, connect with others, and make decisions. When you are emotionally numb, you miss out on these aspects of life and may feel dissatisfied, isolated, or meaningless.
  • Impaired relationships: Emotions are also the basis of communication and intimacy. When you are emotionally numb, you may have difficulty expressing your needs, feelings, and opinions, or understanding those of others. This can lead to conflicts, misunderstandings, or distance in your relationships.
  • Increased risk of mental disorders: Emotional numbness can be a symptom or a cause of mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or personality disorders. If left untreated, these disorders can worsen and affect your functioning and well-being.
  • Decreased physical health: Emotions and physical health are closely linked. When you are emotionally numb, you may neglect your self-care, such as eating, sleeping, or exercising. You may also engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as substance abuse, self-harm, or risky activities. These can harm your physical health and increase your risk of diseases and injuries.
What Is Emotional Numbness
What Is Emotional Numbness

How to Overcome Emotional Numbness and Reconnect with Your Feelings

Emotional numbness is not a permanent condition. You can overcome it and reconnect with your feelings with the help of some strategies and professional support. Here are some steps you can take to overcome emotional numbness:

  • Identify the cause: The first step is to understand what is causing your emotional numbness and how it is affecting you. You can do this by keeping a journal, talking to someone you trust, or seeking therapy. By identifying the cause, you can address it and find solutions.
  • Seek professional help: If your emotional numbness is caused by a mental disorder, trauma, or medication, you may need professional help to overcome it. A therapist can help you to explore your emotions, process your experiences, and heal your wounds. A psychiatrist can prescribe or adjust your medication if needed. Do not hesitate to reach out for help if you are struggling with your emotions.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment, without judgment or distraction. It can help you to reconnect with your body, your sensations, and your emotions. You can practice mindfulness by meditating, breathing, or doing yoga. You can also practice mindfulness in your daily activities, such as eating, walking, or listening to music. By being mindful, you can become more aware of your emotions and accept them as they are.
  • Express your emotions: Another way to overcome emotional numbness is to express your emotions in healthy ways. You can do this by talking to someone, writing, drawing, or singing. You can also express your emotions through physical activities, such as dancing, running, or punching a pillow. By expressing your emotions, you can release them and feel lighter and freer.
  • Do things that make you feel: Finally, you can overcome emotional numbness by doing things that make you feel something, anything. You can do this by engaging in hobbies, passions, or interests that you enjoy or that challenge you. You can also do this by exposing yourself to new experiences, such as traveling, learning, or volunteering. By doing things that make you feel, you can stimulate your emotions and rediscover your zest for life.

Frequently Asked Questions About Emotional Numbness

Here are some of the common questions that people have about emotional numbness:

Is emotional numbness normal?

Emotional numbness is a normal response to stress, trauma, or depression. It is not a sign of weakness or a flaw. It is a way of coping with overwhelming or painful emotions. However, if emotional numbness persists for a long time or interferes with your life, it may indicate a deeper problem that needs attention.

How long does emotional numbness last?

Emotional numbness can last for different periods, depending on the person and the situation. It can last for a few hours, days, weeks, or months. It can also come and go, depending on your mood, environment, or triggers. There is no fixed timeline for emotional numbness, but it can be overcome with time and effort.

Can emotional numbness be cured?

Emotional numbness can be cured, or at least improved, with the help of some strategies and professional support. You can overcome emotional numbness by identifying and addressing the cause, seeking therapy or medication if needed, practicing mindfulness, expressing your emotions, and doing things that make you feel. You can also prevent emotional numbness by taking care of your mental and physical health, managing your stress, and building supportive relationships.

What is the difference between emotional numbness and alexithymia? 

Emotional numbness and alexithymia are both conditions that affect your emotional awareness and expression. However, they are different in some aspects. Emotional numbness is a state of feeling detached, indifferent, or unable to experience emotions. It can be a temporary or a chronic condition, and it can have different causes, such as stress, trauma, depression, or medication. Alexithymia is a personality trait that makes it difficult to identify, describe, and communicate your emotions. It is a stable and enduring characteristic, and it is often associated with autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, or brain damage.


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