Emotional Numbness, Help is Available!
Emotional numbness is a very widespread problem in our society today, and it has been on an upward trend for many years. It affects everyone, regardless of age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, occupation, etc. No one can escape the effects of emotional numbness. The only way to overcome this problem is to learn how to feel again.
What is Emotional Numbness?
Emotional numbness refers to a state of detachment from one’s emotions caused by either trauma or other life experiences. The person is emotionally spent, utterly exhausted to the point where they are unable to feel any emotion except pain. People who experience this firsthand describe it as “emptiness or despondency…as though they have no future or that there is no hope for the numbness to ever fade. (1) There are no emotional responses such as happiness, sadness, fear, and so on; they just feel unpleasant sensations. They might be unable to cry or laugh, or even experience what has been considered the normal range of human emotion. This emotional numbness has some characteristics similar to mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.
Emotional numbness is a coping mechanism many people use when dealing with physical or emotional life events that result in detaching themselves from their feelings. For some people, the numbness may be temporary, but for others, they use the numbness as protection against further emotional or physical pain. To never address the unresponsive feelings inside can lead to more serious problems later down the road.
6 Common Signs People May Struggle With Emotional Numbness.
- Low energy – Exhibits low energy and is usually tired all the time unwilling to be involved in any physical activities. There is a lack of motivation even towards those things they previously enjoyed doing. Instead, they find themselves constantly thinking about how much they dislike something, or how bored they are. Negative emotions have a tendency to consume the mind completely.
- Lack of empathy – Do not understand what other people are feeling. This person might say something like “I don’t care” when someone asks him/her whether he/she is happy or not. Or an emotionally numb person might say “That doesn’t affect me” when asked whether he/she’s sad or not.
- Flat Affect – Not only are they unable to identify and express their own emotions, but they also show little to no interest in another person’s feelings, thoughts, opinions, or problems. They tend to be apathetic and indifferent toward the world around them.
- Hypo-arousal – Unable to respond appropriately to situations. This makes it difficult for people to deal with them on a daily bases. They are often found sleeping excessively, having difficulty concentrating, and being easily distracted.
- Anxiety – May experience panic attacks, which can be triggered by any number of situations. These attacks are characterized primarily by intense physical symptoms including dizziness, sweating, tremors, shortness of breath, and nausea. The attacks last anywhere from five minutes to several hours and can occur at any time.
- Isolation – Tends to isolate themselves from others. They don’t seek out people they know for support and comfort. Instead, avoiding people becomes their primary coping mechanism. They may also lack empathy and compassion for others.
What Causes A Person To Become Emotionally Numb?
This question is a difficult one to answer. However, there are several factors that may contribute to this with the overall mental health condition of this person playing a key role in determining if a person becomes emotionally numb. Some of these factors include:
- Stressful life events – Experiences a stressful event, such as losing a loved one, being fired from work, or experiencing a natural disaster, the ability to cope with stress may decrease. Overwhelming stress causes the body to release chemicals called neurotransmitters into the brain. which changes the way the brain processes information. As a result, the person feels less capable of dealing with the situation. This could then lead to emotional numbness. Other stressors, which have a biological factors, may include brain injuries, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, and terminal illness like cancer.
- History of trauma – Is a witness to or was a direct victim of a traumatic experience(s). Possibly diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or another form of PTSD. Trauma which leads someone to become emotionally numb could be physical, psychological, or some combination of the two. For example, If a child witnesses his/her father beating the mother, he/she might become emotionally numb. A woman who has been raped may feel emotionally numb.
- Depression/Anxiety – Has a long-standing depression or anxiety disorder which are two common mental health issues that, if not addressed professionally, could lead to emotional numbness. Other mental illnesses can also cause emotional numbness. For instance, bipolar disorder, dissociative disorders, schizophrenia, and borderline personality.
- Grief – Loss of someone or something that was important to the person. During the grieving process, emotional numbness is often experienced. After the death of someone you loved, it is normal to feel sad, angry, fearful, guilty, etc. However, it is not normal to experience no feelings whatsoever. Grief is an extremely painful experience and should never be ignored or suppressed as numbness will only worsen over time.
- Drug abuse – Substance abusers are more likely to develop emotional numbness than non-substance abusers. This is because substance abuse causes brain chemistry changes, affecting how the body processes emotions. The numbness can overtake the person’s entire existence.
- Lack Of Support System – Alone and isolated can develop emotional numbness. There needs to be a strong support system for people suffering from this; to identify the triggers and learn coping strategies. Emotional numbness has a negative way of impacting a person’s life. A person will not be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Relationships with other people will continuously suffer as he/she avoids not expressing his/her true emotional feelings. A person who cannot express emotions will find it extremely difficult to work through conflicts with others. He/she will also find it hard to make decisions and take action when needed. A person who suffers from emotional numbness is strongly encouraged to seek help from a licensed therapist.
Get Support From A Mental Health Professional
If you or someone you love is dealing with difficulties in expressing their emotions, or lack of emotions, or is experiencing numbness in their daily life, there are treatment options. Help is available to guide you back to a more healthy quality of life. Despite how it may seem, emotional pain is temporary and there are treatments that can provide both immediate relief and long-lasting remissions. You first need to recognize the underlying causes. And for this, your medical doctor can help and you may also be referred to participate in mental health therapy.
The staff at New Heights Counseling & Consulting, LLC wants you to know, that you’re not alone and help is available. Pick up the phone and call 850.757.1552 to schedule an appointment with one of our professional therapists who specialize in helping individuals overcome emotional issues. Read the staff’s biographies on our website at meet our team. Therapists at New Heights will work with you at your pace and walk alongside you in your battle to overcome the emotional numbness. Reach out and call us today.
What is Emotional Numbness? – VeryWellMind, Sara Linberg
Feeling numb: What you need to know – MedicalNewsToday, Marney White
I Feel Nothing: How to Cope with Emotional Numbness – PsychCentral, Bethany Juby
Counseling for Depression Works – Find Happiness Again! by Colleen Wenner
Other Mental Health Services We Offer At New Heights Counseling
The staff at New Heights Counseling provides both individual sessions and couples therapy, not only for emotional numbness but for a wide variety of mental health concerns and mental disorders. Our services are for children, adolescents, and adults and we offer in-person sessions at our Fort Walton Beach, FL location and online therapy for the state of Florida and Virginia.
Our office is located on the 2nd floor of WorkSpace Suites at 1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 1057, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547. Get directions to our office from Google Maps or visit our office location webpage. Our office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM. Call (850)757-1552
About the Author:
Founder & Clinical Director of New Heights Counseling, Colleen Wenner is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Master Certified Addiction Professional. In addition, Colleen is a qualified supervisor in the state of FL. and an EMDR trauma-certified practitioner and consultant in training. She is also licensed to provide professional counseling in the State of Virginia. Colleen is dedicated to her clients’ care and services the Fort Walton Beach, Crestview, Niceville, Destin, and surrounding communities.
Colleen has always advocated for mental health issues and she has dedicated herself to raising awareness among the general public. She has been featured on a variety of podcasts such as Practice of the Practice (The #1 Podcast for counselors in private practice), Shrink Think Podcast, and The Salty Christan Podcast to name a few. Colleen uses compassion and authentic communication to help people understand themselves better and feel confident about their ability to change their lives.