Emotional Numbness- An After-Effect?

Are You Emotionally Numb?

Contending with emotional numbness? Numbness is not the most talked about experience or the most prominent experience of a depressed patient. How would you describe it?

Rosemary* relates her experience with numbness when she was depressed after her sister died. “The world and everything around me often seems useless, [like] I am simply going through the circles and doing the same things again. Everything is just routine and i can’t connect to anyone,” she explains. I am unable to communicate with anybody or think deeply about anything.”

Alan* recalls “Something bad just happened, you see people reacting in various ways and you should feel sad,angry or surprised, but i did not. Instead i feel indifferent, numb, empty and completely detached. At times, i ask myself “What could be happening, why am i emotionally numb?”

*Names have been changed at the request of those interviewed

Is that how you feel sometimes? You might wonder ” Am I okay or is this normal?”

Most times, we speak about overwhelming emotions. We analyse the intensity, their persistence and their consequence which sometimes lead some to suicidal thoughts, thus some consider the question, “is it better to feel nothing at all from all of them?” What is your opinion?

Emotional Numbness- What It Is

Emotional numbness refers to a different person subjective experiences of an inability to feel the emotions, sometimes accompanied by a lack of concern and care for oneself and others. Some other symptoms/signs of someone who is emotionally numb may include:

  • Feeling alone while around other people.
  • An inability to react towards the environment.
  • Being unable to express in front of others through talking, emotions, or crying.
  • Sense of feeling to self-harm.
  • Feeling trapped.
  • Feelings of hollowness or emptiness
  • Lack of interest, motivation, or pleasure in any of the activities in life.
  • Being unresponsive and dull to the environment
  • Staying away from social life.
  • Feeling of heaviness.
  • The feeling of detached from one’s body or mind.
  • Having out of the body experience.
  • Diminished mental alertness.
  • Creating risky behaviours to feel something (rare case scenarios)

Why do we experience emotional numbness?

Emotional numbness can be thought of as an after-effect of exposure to what one might call stressful horrific situations and thus depletion of the emotional resources which following a period of the hyper arousal. In other words, whenever we are exposed to the high levels of stress or the emotional turmoil for an extended period, it feels like our body shuts down the emotional system to protect us from this immense painful experience.

Feelings of an emotional numb person have also been described in a state of depersonalising – this refers to a state in which our sense of self and subjective experience are modified and we feel aloof from people around us.

Whenever healthy people exposed to dangerous or potentially life-threatening situations, then many of them report experiencing some of the symptoms of depersonalizing, suggesting which is a typical after-effect of the extreme emotional pressure like experienced by the person with depression.

Hence, it has been theorized that the person who is emotionally numb or depersonalise persistently may have a lower verge due to the duration and the intensity of this negative emotional situation. It is also unsurprising that there are many people with PTSD who may also experience the emotional numbness in a state of hyper-arousal over a while.

What happens in the brain of an emotionally numb person?

Studies and researches had shown that when compared to healthy controls, individuals experiencing emotional numbness show the reduction in neural activity in some areas of the brain, which is associated with emotional processing, especially the limbic system when they were exposed to the averse images.

Additionally, this region was naturally more active in the patients who reported improvement in their experiences of the depersonalization as opposing to those who had not improved.

What are the causes of emotional numbness?

There are so many different things that can cause emotional numbness. Anxiety and depression and are two of the most common causes of emotional numbness.

In some cases, your body can become so stressed that you become overtaxed emotionally and physically fatigued. That depletion of both emotional and physical energy can create feelings like that of one who is emotionally numb.

Severe levels of acute elevated nervousness or stress can also trigger feelings of emotional numbness. Post-traumatic stress disorder, which can be connected to anxiety and depression, can cause a person to feel numb too.

Few medications can also cause numbness in patients. Some most common offenders are medications that are used to treat depression and anxiety. Some of these medications can affect the brain process of mood and emotions. The Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors at higher doses can cause this.

2015 study published in the journal Sociology found that emotional numbness was among the dominating experiences of antidepressant use among young adults, and a 2014 study published in the journal Elsevier cited that 60 percent of the participants who had taken antidepressants within the past five years experienced some emotional numbness.

Will Emotional Numbness Go Away After Treatment?

Regardless of the cause, people want to know if and when numbness will go away when they avail themselves for treatment. The real truth is that it you will not get over it immediately. The progression of recovery usually starts with a person looking better to other people and talking more and being responsive. You may still feel awful on the inside,but usually those feelings go away later in the course of treatment.

Treatments For Those Who Are Emotionally Numb

The first step towards treating the emotional numbness is to identify it and treat the underlying causes of this problem. Your doctor can help you in this, yet your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or therapist.

And by them, you will be asked about what type of medications you take and what kind of other symptoms you are suffering from. If your doctor/ therapist thinks one of your drugs is not working, then your doctor may substitute it with some other medicine or therapy.

Talk therapies like CBT or trauma therapy can also help dispatch the underlying causes of emotional numbness and developing coping strategies to work through all of these.

Everyday activities which allow us to get in the touch with our bodily sensations like getting a massage, exercising, swimming journal writing or catharsis (e.g., screaming into a pillow, using negative or sad thoughts to stimulate sadness and crying etc.) may also be very useful strategies to put into practice on a regular basis.

Feeling emotionally numb can also be debilitating and alienating experience; while we may lighten the experience of emotional pain, we can also become emotionally numb to the positive experiences.

All the way must keep in mind that with the right supports, help, and coping strategies, a patient who is suffering from emotional numbness can overcome.

These Will Also Help

Find A Support System

Confide in your family and closed loved ones about what you are going through.find relief in telling them what you are experiencing. If you don’t find that easy, get someone to pour out your heart. Speaking out about your problem is the first step to recovery and it will help relieve the stress you carry.


Exercise is one of the best things you can do. Running, jogging, swimming, yoga, tai chi, and basketball are great to get relief from stress, even taking a walk around your neighborhood can also help flood your brain with endorphins. Do exercise daily to get the best results.

Get plenty of sleep 

If you can get at least 8 hours of good quality sleep every night, it will surely help you to improve your mood very quickly.

You Are Not Alone

Even as we don’t like pain, it is a reminder that we are alive and have a steady pulse. When you lose access to your feelings and can’t feel the sadness of an important loss or the aggravations that used to make you feel alive.

If you feel emotionally numb, don’t lose hope. It will not disappear immediately but it is something you can and will overcome if you really want to. Are you on treatments already? Don’t get tired. In time, you will get better.

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