What is Emotional Numbness?
Numbness means a loss of sensation, Emotional numbness is simply a coping mechanism used to shut out feelings and emotions. The person gets to a point where they no longer feel anything inside; no emotions, they simply feel nothing and just move with the motion of life. Basically, the person is unable to think, feel or react normally; there is a lack of emotion.
What does Emotional Numbness feel like?
Emotional numbness can feel different for people. Generally, it feels like you’re disconnected and unable to react to people and situations around you. Things that would normally get you excited no longer excite you. Things that would cause you to give a reaction like anger or offense no longer get fazes you.
You also wouldn’t be able to feel pleasure and sometimes, things around you seem bland. You simply are indifferent to a lot of things that you normally wouldn’t be indifferent to.
Ever feel like you feel nothingness? That could be it. Ever wanted to cry so but the tears wouldn’t just come? That could be it. Sometimes, if feels like you just watch yourself go through life in the motion.
What causes it?
Emotional numbness is mostly caused by stress and trauma. It can also be a pointer to or a sign of depression.
Let me try to explain this in such a way that is very simple to understand.
You know how life hits us and we have challenges, hurt, pain and so on right? Sometimes when we get this often and it’s beyond our threshold, we as humans sort of have this defense mechanism that protects us from more hits of life.
What happens is that your brain tries to find a way to protect you subconsciously and it does that by saying enough is enough and basically shuts down feelings; it shuts down emotions and sometimes it does so temporarily, which isn’t bad. It seems like a good idea, I mean, if you keep getting hurt regularly, why not be in a position where you don’t feel this hurt right?
Makes sense but when you get to this stage and it lingers, it becomes a problem. You see, during this stage, you’re unable to feel, so you can’t exactly process anything, neither can you walk through your feelings. This makes it difficult to make sound judgments and of course, it begins to affect your everyday life.
With time, you’d begin to realize that though feeling numb protects you from negative events and feelings, it also doesn’t let you enjoy the positive things like happiness or joy. You notice that you’re not happy and at the same time, you’re not sad.
Due to this feeling of nothing, people tend to do things that would prompt a feeling; anything. This could be doing things that gives a lot of adrenaline rush (thrill-seeking) like speeding, diving and so on, or even cutting themselves just to feel pain.
This is a bit similar to stress. With emotional avoidance you’re simply avoiding negative and unpleasant emotions. It’s usually done because you’re not ready to address or deal with the emotion and so you push them away and basically go numb. Sometimes you could numb with substances and sometimes, you just trigger your brain to do so.
It’s kind of like when someone breaks your heart and you make up your mind not to have feelings for anybody and so you train yourself not to give in to emotions; to shut down emotions because you’re not going to be fooled again, so basically emotionally unavailable. Well, that works and makes sense actually, but you could also be setting yourself up and end up sabotaging good things. What you truly need is to heal.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post traumatic experiences can cause you to feel emotionally numb especially when you encounter emotions or triggers that remind you of the trauma. Triggers could be a place, person, or object that is related to the traumatic event.
Like I mentioned earlier, emotional numbness is sometimes a coping and protective mechanism.
Emotional numbness could be a pointer to depression especially when it’s on a regular basis and you’re unsure of the cause.
How do you deal with this?
Well, the obvious and primarily most effective way is to see a therapist. A therapist would walk you through the cause of your emotional numbness and even help you by using professional techniques and even medications unique to your situation. However, I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of seeing a therapist. On the bright side, if you’re emotionally numb and had no idea, now you do and that’s a great step to being better; acknowledgement.
With emotional numbness, idea behind getting better is to increase happy hormones like serotonin and endorphins. You can do so by engaging in activities that spike these hormones such as exercise, being around loved ones, doing things you love even though they don’t make you as happy as they normally would.
Music is also a very good therapy, drawing also and writing in such a way that you express yourself even though you feel nothing.
I’d like to add knowing God and drawing near to Him can help emotional numbness. There’s a peace God gives and a void He fills. Not that people who know God don’t have troubles, more like, we know someone is there that has got us. Finally, I’ll like to let you know that someone cares and you’re loved. You’re not far gone, He really wants you.
If you have questions, opinions, suggestion and even criticism, don’t hesitate to send me an email. Also, I’m always available in case you’d like someone to express yourself to. I might not provide a solution but I’ll actively listen.