Personal emotions are constantly fluctuating. Even when the cadence is steady and predictable, there is still movement. When you are in the midst of feeling emotionally numb, however, all that movement stops. This can be disarming because it likely is unnatural for you not to be able to feel anything. Whether this is the first or fiftieth time that you have been in this place, it is important to devote an appropriate amount of attention to learning about the potential causes, symptoms, and treatments for this occurrence.
What it means to be emotionally numb
In general, feelings of numbness are in reference to a lack of being able to feel anything, and when spoken in terms of your emotions, the same holds true. Those who articulate that they are unable to feel emotions of any kind would fall into this category. It is safe to assume you have gone numb when you can no longer generate emotional responses to things. For many individuals, this is a temporary state of being and certainly one that can be overcome.
As with many other examples of mental illness, the symptoms are often disguised as something else. This is our minds’ way of tricking us and is unfortunately quite common. Suppose you are having a tough time distinguishing between emotional numbness and another variety of mental health struggles. In that case, this list can help you do a deep dive towards trying to understand your own emotions.
- Sudden loss of interest in people, places, or things that previously brought you joy and excitement
- The compulsion to isolate and pull away from your network
- Spending your day going through the motions and not fully investing in tasks and activities
- An inner dialogue with yourself that nobody understands you
- A sudden inability to feel emotions, both positive and negative
This is a basic and simple collection of some of the most common symptoms. Every mental health condition is subjective, and there is no one-size-fits-all. As you digest this information, use it as a way to kickstart your own thought process regarding where you think you do or do not, fit within these suggestions, and move towards healing from there.
Sometimes we experience emotional numbing seemingly out of nowhere, while other times, we can trace it back to its exact origin. You may even consider thinking back on if you have experienced emotional numbness in the past, and if so, what were the circumstances surrounding it?
Whether you find yourself feeling emotional numbness at this moment or are interested in possible causes in general, below are a few suggestions to ponder.
- An addition of or change in prescribed medications
- Substance abuse
- Severe stress
These examples are not exclusive and are certainly layered. Resist the urge to self-diagnose and rather look to these suggestions as a jumping-off point towards healing your emotional pain.
Substance abuse can add another tricky component to this mental health issue. When we choose to alter the chemicals in our bodies with drugs or alcohol, we do not always understand the long-term consequences that can arise. According to the American Psychological Association, cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention is a great tool to have to make an effort to break from the constraints of an addicted life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is also something that can lead an individual to experience emotional numbness. As a response to the trauma, our emotions go numb to prevent us from feeling additional pain. When we go through a traumatic event or specific experience, the physical and emotional responses will vary, but it is important to know that sometimes an isolated incident can be the reason that we all of a sudden cease to be able to feel our feelings.
What does emotional numbness feel like?
Emotional numbness can manifest itself in many ways. The upside to that fact is that if you are having a hard time allowing yourself to come to terms with the fact that you might be experiencing this, there are various examples for you to consider as you work to figure it out.
Some sufferers report that their emotional numbness feels like isolation, while others describe negative emotions such as hopelessness. A lack of visibility is also quite common. If you are someone who feels unseen, unheard, and misunderstood, that can lead to a period where you feel emotionally numb as a result.
Physically this can manifest itself into things like an extreme and sudden decline in your energy, restlessness, sudden weight loss or gain, and even sudden acne or hair loss. When we are going through a trauma of any sort, our bodies go into fighter mode. Emotional numbness is a unique type of trauma that can feel anti-climactic in the moment, but that is, in essence, the summation of the condition in the first place.
While you should always put your own health and well-being at the forefront, do put some energy into considering how this will affect the people in your life as well. It is important to remember that you need to come first and that other people should not hold more weight than you do concerning your own emotional health, but the people who love and care about you will be affected by your disparity; it is only natural.
As you investigate treatments and remedies, think about how the option to include them, or not, in your journey can alter the results of your hard work. Or perhaps these loved ones might want to do some individual work themselves separate from you while still all working towards the same goals.
Treatments and remedies when we feel numb
As with a variety of other illnesses and conditions, the readiness to move towards recovery and resolution is the first and most crucial step, and this is no different. Once you have acknowledged that you are dealing with emotional numbing either chronically or intermittently, you can seek out treatments and remedies to help you heal and grow past it.
You can consider booking an appointment with a mental health professional so that you can be guided through this journey by someone with insight into the problem, who has an objective perspective, and whose main and only goal is your emotional well-being. These advocates can not only serve as a listening ear and informational mouthpiece but also offer professional medical advice with actionable steps for you to follow in the time you spend outside their office as well.
If you are struggling to determine for yourself if you think that you do, or do not, need professional help, Online-Therapy is an affordable and convenient option to find a suitable therapist where you can speak with a therapist from the comfort of your own home.
Medication and inpatient care
In some scenarios, medication is an option. For people who suffer from emotional numbness due to depression, for example, certain psychotherapy medications can help. Treatment facilities can offer periods of reprieve from emotional numbness, but aftercare is important to continue with the work that you would be doing during your stay.
In some cases, routine lifestyle changes are great options to help treat emotional numbness. Changing your diet, exercise habits, and even sleep patterns can all give you a natural reset. Sometimes emotional numbing and burnout can have mirrored symptoms. In either case, taking time out to put yourself first and make an effort to increase positive emotions through daily change can minimize stress and also help treat depression that affects your emotional processing.
How to talk about your feelings
Sometimes emotional numbness is a secondary result from not the inability to feel your feelings but not knowing how to talk about them. If this is the case, work with your support system to discuss ways to express emotions that feel safe and respectful to everyone involved. Certain subjects are simply just tough to articulate, but emotional avoidance or stuffing your feelings can be dangerous to your well-being.
Here are some quick strategies for learning how to talk about your feelings:
- Pick a time and place that are appropriate and comfortable
- Be honest and direct
- Do not hide the fact that you are new to this and seek empathy and understanding
- Practice your approach and delivery ahead of time
- Write down your feelings in case your tongue gets tied
Mental health issues are incredibly personal, and it can be a huge sign of emotional intelligence that you are even willing to share your struggles with someone else.
While it is important to fully understand that you cannot control your audience’s thoughts, words, or reactions, you should be confident in the fact that the people with whom you decide to share your feelings support you unconditionally and have your best interests at heart.
Some individuals attempt to distract themselves from the facts of emotional numbness by filing those voids with other activities or emotions that will stand in the way of overcoming the emotional numbing they are experiencing. And in some scenarios can lead to additional issues down the road. Do your best to try to avoid ignoring the absence of your ability to feel with things like:
- A-typical sexual behavior
- Drugs or alcohol
- Not eating, or binge eating
- Compulsive spending
It is quite common to take extreme measures to test out what you are experiencing. Emotional numbness can be frustrating, especially if you are dealing with it for the first time.
Distractions can become triggers as well. Alcohol and drugs, for example, can create a vicious circle. You recognize your feelings have gone numb, so you drink to try to create some semblance of emotion, then feel empty once the alcohol wears off and you realize that plan did not work. While this will not be the case for everyone and is just a general example, it is worth your consideration. Creating one problem in an attempt to solve another just pushes your progress backward.
First and foremost, treat yourself with kindness and empathy. If you are in the midst of a period where you are unable to feel your emotions, know that you are not alone and that beating yourself up over this will not move you in a helpful direction.
Consider your network. Who are the people that you hold the closest and that you trust to help you navigate this? If there isn’t anyone you feel comfortable chatting to about this, consider seeking professional support.
It is also important to give yourself permission to accept all possibilities. When you open yourself up to this, you are opening yourself up to the greater advantage of finding relief from your struggle because you have not ruled anything out before even trying it.