Have you ever felt you have difficulties experiencing positive or negative emotions? Have you ever felt disconnected or detached from yourself or others? Or have you ever felt like you cannot participate or live your life to the fullest? This could be known as emotional numbing. Emotional numbness can be illustrated as living in a world where one’s feelings have gone silent and they are left feeling like one is watching their life from the side instead of participating in it.
The What: Emotional Numbness and Symptoms
It is a psychological state where you feel like you have lost the ability to experience or show emotions such as happiness, anger, sadness or love. It is as though your emotional capacity has diminished, which could lead you to be unable to experience or express your emotions in the way you once did. Emotional numbness might also cause someone to feel disconnected from their own life, as emotions play an essential part in the human experience of connecting with others.
Imagine that your emotions are like colours, and you are using these colours to paint your life. Now, try picturing emotional numbness as someone who takes away the colours, and you cannot paint the world as you once did. You have shades of nothing, making it difficult for you to express joy, love and sadness. It can manifest in various symptoms, such as lacking emotions, losing interest in activities that once brought joy, a sense of disconnection from oneself and others, feelings of emptiness and difficulties expressing emotions. This psychological state can be distressing, and it can have an adverse impact on one’s life and relationships.
The Why: Factors Contributing to Emotional Numbness
Some factors can contribute to emotional numbness. One common cause is trauma. Individuals with traumatic pasts may use emotional numbness as an avoidance coping mechanism to manage any emotional and physical pain. Emotional numbing serves as a short-term survival strategy to protect oneself from experiencing intense pain and distress.
Depression is also another significant factor that contributes. Individuals going through depressive episodes would often report experiencing intense feelings of emptiness and detachment from their emotions. These intense feelings can leave them in a state of emotional inertia, leaving behind a persistent cloud of sadness and hopelessness.
Having constant anxiety can also lead to emotional numbness as a response to emotional exhaustion. Anxiousness leads to individuals feeling in a constant state of hypervigilance (i.e., constantly assessing for potential threats) and hyperarousal (i.e., keeping your body on high alert mode). Therefore, high levels of anxiety can result in emotional numbness as a way to shield oneself from further emotional distress.
How Does It Affect Your Life?
Emotional numbness can have distressing effects on your life. It often leads to difficulties in interpersonal relationships. Imagine trying to connect with friends and family when your emotions “antenna” went down. Your loved ones may perceive you as distant and not understanding, which can strain relationships, leading to feelings of loneliness.
It can also impact one’s well-being. Individuals might not be able to enjoy hobbies or activities that once brought them joy. They might feel less enthusiastic about living their lives. They might also struggle to make decisions due to the lack of emotional input needed to judge the situation effectively.
Moreover, it also reduces self-awareness and self-understanding as well. When individuals are emotionally numb, they may have struggles in recognising and understanding their feelings and needs. This can lead to hindrance of personal growth and self-improvement.
The How: Coping With Emotional Numbness
The good news is that emotional numbness is not permanent, and there are ways to cope with it! Taking the step to seek professional help is often the first step to coping with emotional numbness. Counsellors and psychologists can help explore the underlying causes of emotional numbness and develop healthier coping mechanisms to regain one's emotional awareness.
Mindfulness practices are also a valuable tool for reconnecting with one’s emotions. Being mindful can help individuals to be in the present moment and observe their feelings and thoughts without judgment to increase emotional strength.
A sound support system from friends and family can play an essential role in coping with emotional numbness. Loved ones can provide a safe environment where individuals can express and experience emotions without judgment. Patience, encouragement, and empathy are essential for helping individuals navigate emotional numbness.
Emotional numbness is like living a life without emotions, which can be challenging to connect with yourself and others. It can result from factors ranging from trauma to anxiety issues. If you resonate with what was discussed above, remember that it is possible to regain your emotional awareness by seeking professional help, being mindful along your life journey and having support from loved ones.
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