Have you ever felt like the world around you doesn’t make sense at all? Or as if you were just going through the motions and not living the moment? You might feel isolated, confused, and overwhelmed with your emotions that you have decided to shut them off completely. Rather than diving into your emotions, you decide that not feeling anything will be easier.
This state is known as emotional numbness. And while it is a normal coping mechanism, it is certainly not a healthy one in the long term.
When you are overwhelmed by the intensity of your emotions, shutting them out can feel like a good option. It is easier to shut down your feelings rather than confront them. Emotional numbness can make you feel in control of your situation.
Now, we get it. Confronting your emotions is hard, and feeling numb emotionally will only make dealing with them harder. Not having to worry about breaking down in the grocery store or bearing the excruciating weight of your feelings in the middle of a workday is a relief. Emotional numbness protects you from getting more hurt, and when you are dealing with something painful, that’s all you want.
But this constant numbing of emotions can become second nature in the long term. This can be detrimental to your mental health. Eventually, it can restrict you from functioning properly and hinder your ability to feel true, genuine happiness. If the numbness is associated with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), things can get even more complicated.
Do you feel like you are dealing with emotional numbness? Not even sure what emotional numbness feels like? Wondering what to do when you feel numb?
Worry not. We have compiled a complete guide about what is emotional numbness. It will answer all your questions, like ‘What causes emotional numbness?’ ‘What does it mean to be emotionally numb?’ and ‘How to cope with feeling emotionally numb?’
Let’s dive in.
Firstly, What Is Emotionally Numbness?
People who have dealt with emotional numbness describe feeling like they were on autopilot and living without emotional depth.
If you are wondering what does numb feel like, it actually feels like existing rather than living. When you are emotionally numb, you might feel like living in a shell. It can make you feel too heavy or too empty from the inside. Things that would have made you feel something, good or bad, now leave you feeling like nothing.
If you have ever wanted to imagine what does it mean to be emotionally numb, think of yourself as a ghost or as if you are in a glass bubble that does not allow anything to affect or touch you. Simply put, emotional numbness can make you feel disconnected from the world. You might feel like you are constantly zone out.
But, What Causes Emotional Numbness?
There are multiple causes of emotional numbness. It most commonly is a reaction to feeling constantly overwhelmed by your emotions. When stressed out, your stress response can flood different areas of your body, making you numb.
Our life is constantly filled with stuff that’s making us feel awful. Sometimes, the obvious response to this stuff is to block them out, which can also lead to emotional numbness.
For others who take medicines like anti-depressants, dulling of emotions is a potential side effect. Emotional numbness is associated with mental health conditions like:
- depersonalization disorder, and
Additionally, feeling emotionally numb can also happen when you have been exhausted and haven’t appropriately rested in a long time. While occasional numbing of emotions is not a big deal. However, it is unhealthy if it becomes a regular habit.
What does it mean when you feel emotionally numb?
Now that you know what is emotional numbness and its potential causes, let’s move on to the signs. If you have been wondering whether you are emotionally numb or not, here are the possible signs of emotional numbness that can help you analyze your condition properly:
- feeling heaviness,
- lack of motivation or interest in activities that previously interested you,
- being unresponsive toward what is happening around you,
- social withdrawal,
- feeling alienated from others,
- lack of concentration,
- feeling trapped in your own body,
- engaging in risky behaviors,
- having difficulty in expressing your feelings, etc.
What to do when you feel numb emotionally?
To deal with emotional numbness, it is essential to have a list of day-to-day coping mechanisms that can keep you from shutting down. Here are a few excellent coping mechanisms to help you figure out your personal ways to cope with feeling numb emotionally.
1. Talk it out.
When it comes to coping with feeling numb emotionally, leaning on your support systems is a great first step. People around you can help you figure out what’s been going on in your life and help you understand things from a fresh perspective. They can also help you talk about things that affect you, reducing the overwhelming amount of stress you feel.
2. Move your body.
A lot of people report feeling frozen as a result of emotional numbness. If that’s the case with you, getting up and going out to exercise is probably the last thing on your mind.
However, moving your body and indulging in any form of physical movement can be a good way to move your attention away from your mind and toward your body. Even simple things like moving around in your room, shaking your hands, and dancing to a lively song can be a great way to cope with feeling numb emotionally.
If exercising feels too much or doesn’t sound too appealing, another way to deal with feeling numb emotionally is to spend time doing the hobbies you loved as a child. Maybe it is pottery, skating, or horse riding – re-engage in these activities to feel better again.
3. Do something creative.
If your emotions have been feeling emotionally numb lately, having a creative outlet for your emotions can be a great way to deal with this. Music, poetry, painting, and DIY are creative outlets that provide a safe space to express and explore emotions you have been having trouble dealing with.
Try to flex your creativity through words, art, or follow a journaling prompt and see where it takes you. Want some inspiration? Here are a few journaling prompts to help you get started.
4. Gradually try exposing yourself to your emotions.
Your emotions are still there, even if they are out of sight. Emotional numbness is often a result of protecting yourself from the pain your feelings bring. You feel you aren’t ready or strong enough to confront your emotions. But you are.
Now, you don’t have to feel all your emotions all at once. Take small steps forward to reconnect with your emotions slowly.
Begin by focusing on the smaller, less overwhelming emotions. When you start feeling confident, you can slowly move on to the more significant ones.
5. Understand and analyze your go-to numbing behaviors.
Since we are talking about what to do when you feel numb emotionally, it is essential to analyze your numbing behaviors. Basically, numbing behaviors are anything that you do to avoid dealing with your feelings.
Immersive entertainment activities like video gaming, binge-watching shows, or unhealthy mechanisms like drinking, binge-eating, or drugs are classic choices for most people. While these are easily noticeable, some sneaky behaviors like busyness or burying yourself in work are challenging to spot.
Now, obviously, all these things can be practiced in moderation. In fact, it is pretty difficult to spot what’s healthy and unhealthy. Therefore, go with your gut. If you feel you are using these behaviors to avoid your emotions, it is time to take action.
6. Get professional help.
Dealing with feeling numb emotionally can be tough and can be incredibly frustrating to deal with. Having an experienced individual to help you healthily deal with your emotions during such challenging times can greatly help.
This is precisely what you get with professional help. Proper professional help, including talk therapy and medications, combined with adequate lifestyle changes like yoga and meditation, can be a great way to deal with emotional numbness.
Emotional numbness is the state where a person cannot feel or express emotions, including happiness, sadness, or even basic empathy for others. When asked ‘what does it mean to be emotionally numb,’ people describe feeling like they are on autopilot. They describe feeling numb as going through the motions of life without feeling any emotional connection with the world around them.
Dealing with emotional numbness is tough. However, identifying numbing behaviors, talking about your feelings, having a creative outlet, and getting professional help are healthy ways to cope.
Emotional numbness can leave you feeling extremely emotionally exhausted. To learn more about how to deal with emotional exhaustion, click here.
To continue learning more about emotional and mental health, subscribe to Your Mental Health Pal.