emotional numbness

What Is Emotional Numbness?

Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions in your life? It’s natural for everyone to feel a bit disconnected from the world around them at times, but if you feel this way more often than not, you may be experiencing what is known as emotional numbness.

Emotional Numbness Defined

In short, emotional numbness is a general lack of emotions, and it can manifest in several different ways. Here is a look at how emotional numbness might feel.

  • You may feel empty or despondent like you have no future or your numbness has no chance of ever fading.
  • You may feel like you are unfocused or ungrounded, like that feeling of zoning out that often comes just before going to sleep. Dissociation, a feeling of being disconnected from your thoughts and body, is a type of emotional numbness.
  • You may feel like the world is happening around you and you are invisible. Some people have likened it to feeling like a ghost or as though there is an invisible barrier that stops them from engaging with those around them.
  • You may be unable to describe what you’re feeling or feel as though you are experiencing no emotions whatsoever. You might also experience memory loss.
  • You might find that you no longer enjoy hobbies that once brought you pleasure.
  • You may feel exhausted all the time, either physically or mentally, even if you are getting adequate rest.

Why Do I Feel Emotionally Numb?

Emotional numbness can be a symptom of several mental health conditions or a side effect of medication. Here is a closer look at some of its most common causes.

  • Depression: Depressive episodes sometimes present with a lower attunement to your feelings and a dulling of emotions.
  • Anxiety: People with various anxiety disorders can experience emotional numbness in response to high-stress levels or excessive worry.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Emotional numbness sometimes starts a way of coping with trauma or abuse to protect yourself from terrifying, painful, or confusing circumstances.
  • Grief: Severe sadness, such as the grief of losing a loved one, can cause your brain to emotionally shut down.
  • Medication: Some medications, particularly those for mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, can dull your emotions. If you are taking antidepressants and feel emotionally numb, be sure to mention it to your doctor as a change of dosage or medication could be in order.

Getting Relief from Emotional Numbness

Emotional numbness is a complex condition that requires a multi-pronged approach to alleviate and potentially overcome. Here is a look at how you can get some immediate relief, along with some long-term approaches that can make a big difference in how you feel over time.

Getting some immediate relief

Emotional numbness is not something that can go away overnight. It is necessary to address its underlying causes to make real progress toward regaining your emotions. Nevertheless, there are a few things you can do to get some immediate relief when you are feeling particularly disconnected.

Exercise

Although motivation can be hard to find when you are feeling numb, moving your body is a great way to start flooding your brain with endorphins. Whether you’re going for a quick walk around your block, swimming, running, or doing some yoga, you can take the edge off of any stress, anxiety or depression that is causing your numbness and feel better temporarily.

Get your sleep in order

Getting plenty of sleep can cause a dramatic turnaround in your emotions remarkably quickly, so try to get at least eight hours of high-quality sleep each night and see if you are feeling more present after a couple of days.

Reach out to your support system

Although many people experiencing emotional detachment have trouble connecting with others, try to reach out to your loved ones anyway. They may know you better than you think and might be able to get you to connect a little, but if not, just talking to them about what you are currently experiencing can be a form of relief in itself.

Make an appointment with a therapist

Getting professional help is actually a long-term approach to addressing emotional numbness, but just taking that first step of making an appointment can help you feel better about the future. You can ask friends or family members for recommendations, but keep in mind that you may get the most out of therapy if you look for someone who specializes in emotional numbness.

Online therapy is a great way to get access to therapists with the specific knowledge you need to get to the bottom of your feelings (or lack thereof), no matter where you happen to live. Many people find it is more convenient to get therapy online from the comfort of home, and you may be able to schedule your first session very quickly.

Getting long-term relief from emotional numbness

As we mentioned earlier, true relief from emotional numbness is a longer process. Here is a look at some long-term approaches that can help turn your situation around.

Minimize stress

Although minimizing stress is easier said than done, it can be incredibly useful to devise a plan to tackle whatever has been stressing you as stress is a significant contributor to emotional numbness.

Make a list of the stressors in your life, and come up with some ways that you can reduce them. If there is an ongoing situation at work, it may be time to talk to someone in management. If your problems are family-related, consider addressing a problematic family member directly but politely to try to resolve them.

If like many people, your stress is related to scheduling, there may be some ways of alleviating the pressure, such as asking to work from home once or twice a week, shifting your working hours forward or backward by an hour, or carpooling so you don’t have to drive to school or your children’s after-school activities as often.

Manage stress

On a similar note, you need to find ways to manage stress when you do experience it. The suggestions above for minimizing stress may be helpful, but there is no way to eliminate stress from your life entirely. Therefore, learning techniques to manage stress can go a long way toward keeping you feeling connected. Meditation and mindfulness are both very helpful to some people, and you might also find that yoga helps you get that all-important balance that can give you a better perspective when things aren’t going well.

Get therapy

As we mentioned above, a therapist can help you overcome emotional numbness. While making an appointment is an important first step, you need to know that therapy is a process that may take some time before you fully feel its effects. If you have been emotionally numb for many years, you are going to need help identifying and processing various emotions, and that is where therapy can prove helpful. Therapists can also help you address any underlying causes of your detachment. Consider an online therapist to help you tap into your emotions and turn things around.

The bottom line

Emotional numbness is an unsettling feeling, but there are several effective ways you can address it and get back in touch with your emotions. Reach out to the people you love and consider therapy. With small steps and a lot of practice, you’ll learn to experience your emotions.

 

Kate Skurat

Kate Skurat

Licensed Mental Health | Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. Read more