top of page

Why do I feel emotionally numb?

Ever felt like your emotions were muted and distant?


Emotions play a significant role in our lives. They help us navigate and connect with the world around us. When things get too much, though, some of us will start to feel disconnected from our feelings.



Black man lying down on his bed, napping


We may find ourselves feeling emotionally “numb” and unable to experience the full range of emotions. This state can be distressing and confusing, to say the least.


Wondering why you’re feeling this way? In this article, we will look into the potential causes of emotional numbness and offer practical tips on what to do if you're feeling disconnected from your feelings.


What’s emotional numbness?


Emotional numbness refers to a state in which individuals feel detached from their emotions. It can manifest as a lack of joy, sadness, or even empathy towards others.


People experiencing emotional numbness often describe feeling as though they are "going through the motions" without any real emotional depth. They feel like they’re on auto-pilot, existing rather than fully living their life.


While occasional emotional numbing can be a temporary response to stress or trauma, persistent emotional numbness may be indicative of an underlying issue or mental health problem.


Why am I feeling this way?


There are several potential causes of emotional numbness. It’s important to have a look at other symptoms and events that may have triggered it to better understand why you’re feeling numb emotionally right now.


Here are some of the most common causes if you’re feeling disconnected from your feelings.


Psychological trauma

Past traumatic experiences, such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing a distressing event, can lead to emotional numbness as a defense mechanism. The mind may shut down emotions to protect itself from further harm.


If you think that might be the case, it could be helpful to talk to a mental health professional about your experience to help you overcome this difficult experience and reconnect with yourself.


Depression


Emotional numbness can be one of the signs of depression. Feelings of sadness, despair, and emptiness can become overwhelming, prompting individuals to detach from their emotions as a coping mechanism.


If you suspect your emotional numbness might be caused by depression, it can be helpful to ask yourself if you’re experiencing any other telltale symptoms of depression.


Other common symptoms of depression include low mood, loss of energy, interest or motivation, sleep problems, and withdrawal from others. Check out our self-directed module about depression in the Wellness Center to learn more.


Anxiety


“I’m feeling emotionally numb, but I still worry about the future.” Has your emotional tank shrunk down to only allow fear and worry? You might be dealing with an anxiety problem.


Chronic anxiety can be emotionally exhausting, leaving individuals feeling drained and detached from their emotions. The constant worry and fear may overshadow other emotional experiences.


Do you think this might be the one? Click here for 8 anxiety tips to overcome your worries.


Dissociation


In rarer cases, emotional numbness can be a symptom of a dissociative disorder, where individuals experience a severe, ongoing, or reoccurring disconnection from their thoughts, memories, emotions, or even their own identity.


Dissociation can act as a defense mechanism against overwhelming experiences or trauma. Other symptoms include physical numbness, forgetting about certain events and information, and feeling uncertain about who you are.


While experiences of dissociation can be completely normal, such as daydreaming, they are also found in common mental health problems, such as depression, and in more severe mental illnesses including dissociative disorders.


If you think you might be dealing with a dissociative disorder, please talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to find out about the most appropriate solution for you. Talking therapies are often recommended to help you overcome it.


Medications


It might seem counterintuitive after the previous sections but certain medications, such as antidepressants, may have side effects that contribute to emotional numbness.


That doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop them! Please talk to your doctor about your feelings of emotional numbness so you can find the best solution together.


Substance abuse


Substance abuse can interfere with emotional regulation, leading to a numbing effect. Symptoms of substance abuse include feeling like you need to use the substance regularly, getting intense urges for it, and needing an increasingly large amount of it to feel the same effects.


If you think you might suffer from substance abuse, please talk to someone. There are programs and treatments available to help you overcome it. You don’t have to do this alone!


How to cope when you’re feeling emotionally numb


Feeling numb emotionally? Here are some strategies you can try to help you reconnect with yourself and your feelings.


Do something creative


Engaging in creative outlets such as art, writing, or music can provide a safe space to explore emotions you’re struggling to express. Creative expression allows for the processing and release of emotions that may be difficult to access directly.


Try to remember a creative activity you enjoyed as a child and give it a try. It could be doodling, dancing, some Pinterest-inspired DIY, or following a journaling prompt and seeing where it takes you.


What’s something you could try right now?


Give mindfulness a chance


Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga, can help you reconnect with your body and mind. These practices promote self-awareness and enable you to observe and acknowledge your feelings without judgment.


For one TalkLife user, it’s the best way to ground yourself and get out of a depressive episode. "I try to get up early and sit outside in the early morning with that early morning breeze. Take some deep breaths, ground yourself with your senses – what do you feel, see, hear, smell, etc.?"


Like them, you can use the 5-4-3-2-1 method to help you feel more connected and present in the moment. Breathe in and out slowly and identify:

  • 5 things you can see

  • 4 things you can touch

  • 3 things you can hear

  • 2 things you can smell

  • 1 thing you can taste


Talk it out


Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or support groups who can provide a listening ear and understanding. Sharing your experiences with others can alleviate feelings of isolation and help you gain perspective.


This TalkLife user finds talking to someone the easiest way to get out of a depressive episode. “I think the easiest option to get out of an episode is not being alone and connecting with people."


Practice (proper) self-care


Prioritize activities that bring you joy and relaxation to reconnect with your emotions. And we don’t mean emotionally numbing activities such as watching TikTok videos until 2 am!


Self-care is about taking real, active care of your physical and mental health. That means engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, getting sufficient sleep, and spending time in nature.


All these activities can positively impact your overall wellbeing and emotional state, helping you overcome emotional numbness.


Try journaling


Let’s dig out those feelings, shall we? Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a diary can serve as an emotional outlet and help you reconnect with yourself.


You might struggle at first but it will only get easier with time. Reflecting on your experiences and emotions can help you gain insights and identify patterns or triggers.


Why not try one of our self-discovery prompts to check in with yourself?


Attempt gradual exposure to emotions


Your emotions are still there. They’re just out of sight right now. Emotional numbness is often the result of not feeling ready or strong enough to deal with certain emotions. But you are!


You don’t have to feel everything at once. Take things step by step to allow yourself to progressively get in touch with your emotions again.


Start by focusing on smaller, less overwhelming emotions. Gradually work your way up to experiencing more significant emotions. This process allows for a gradual reconnection with your emotional world.


Seek professional help


If emotional numbness persists and significantly impacts your daily life, consider consulting a mental health professional. They can help identify the underlying causes and provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.


Emotional numbness can be a distressing and confusing experience, but it is essential to remember that you are not alone.


Recognizing the potential causes and seeking support are crucial steps toward healing and reconnecting with your emotions.


By implementing these strategies, you can gradually overcome emotional numbness and cultivate a healthier relationship with your emotions, leading to a more fulfilling and authentic life. We believe in you!


Comments


bottom of page