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Emotional Numbness: 23 Ways You Could Slip Into It & How to Snap Out

From time to time, everyone feels emotionally numb. Life throws us curveballs and it’s hard to handle. Learning how to manage emotional numbness is key.

emotional numbness

If you have never dealt with the feeling of emotional numbness, it can be nearly impossible to describe. It comes in many forms and can be linked to a romantic relationship, familial relationships, or even all your personal interactions. It can come out of nowhere or it can be linked to an event or a thought.

Being emotionally numb is similar to depression because you exhibit a lack of interest, engagement, and focus. Emotional numbness can also lead to other issues, including struggling to communicate with others. And it’s actually far more common than you might think.

Whenever life throws you a difficult situation, you can either feel way too much, or it can lead to you shutting down and turning off your emotions instead. That’s exactly what it means to be emotionally numb. [Read: Signs of emotional maturity – 20 traits to look for in someone]

What does it mean to be emotionally numb?

Emotional numbness can be a symptom of PTSD *post-traumatic stress disorder*. The sufferer feels void of any positive emotion. Contrary to popular belief, emotional numbness does not always mean the person is void of all emotion.

In fact, they can sometimes feel anger, depression, and irritability very intensely, but fleetingly. Yet, more often, it means they don’t feel much at all. When that happens, the emotions are still there, they’re just bubbling under the surface.

If you are suffering from emotional numbness, you will feel very negative. It makes sense because this happens to people who have experienced trauma in their life. They’ve been through some very negative things, and following the trauma, it can be difficult to look at the positive side of life. But here’s the thing, you’ve gotta. [Read: How to be more positive – 24 steps to a happy and dramatic life shift]

Emotional numbness can vary in severity

Now, be aware of the fact that becoming emotionally numb can be very serious. If it is brought on by a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, see a licensed professional to ensure you are dealing with it in the most beneficial way. But, it isn’t always this far down the severity level.

But, aside from that, being emotionally numb can be singled out to one relationship or part of your life. In these situations, it can be brought on by emotional pain, stress, or a repeated pattern of emotions. [Read: How to be a happier person – 20 joy-filled steps that can help you change your life]

Being emotionally numb feels like you’re just not interested in anything anymore

An emotionally numb state of mind is pretty much the exact opposite of what you normally feel. You know how it feels to be hurt by someone. You know how it feels to be pissed when someone cuts you off. And, you know how it feels to be let down and disappointed.

Becoming emotionally numb takes all of that away. Your reactions to things that would normally provide insight just don’t.

Your interest level in things you used to love may cease entirely. Even your desire to be involved in outings and events may go away. You may even find yourself putting up with things you never would have in the past because you don’t care. [Read: 19 signs of emotional damage and ways to get past each of them]

The clearest signs to know if you’re becoming emotionally numb

It can be hard to determine whether or not you are becoming emotionally numb because it is a lack of feeling. It becomes a tedious way to live. You will be living your life and going about your routine but feel indifferent to things.

Rather than distaste for your life and experiences, you feel dull or unconcerned. It is as if you are on autopilot. And once that begins, it can be hard to identify and crawl your way out. [Read: Are you losing interest in life? Here’s what you need to do]

The first step? Spot the signs you’re becoming emotionally numb and take steps to combat it.

1. You consider yourself to have “thick skin”

Do you know how people in the entertainment industry refer to themselves as growing a thick skin to face rejection? Well, this is the real-life version.

If you tell people or yourself that you have a thick skin or are tough, it may be due to becoming emotionally numb. You feel “used to” the negativity.

This is something toxic masculinity has led to for many men that grew up being told not to cry or show emotions. Referring to yourself as manly or tough may just be a mask for emotional numbness brought on by punishment or repetitive lessons. [Read: 15 male gender stereotypes we need to let go of for good]

2. You may have been abused

Whether you have been abused mentally, emotionally, or physically in the past or present, becoming emotionally numb is often a result of the trauma. The pain that comes from abuse is so strong it is more than we can handle.

To survive, we shut down so that we no longer feel those bad feelings. But, it causes us to miss out on the good ones as well.

3. You’ve endured a trauma of some kind

You do not need to have endured repetitive abuse for emotional numbness to take over. One traumatic experience that lasted under five minutes can lead to it.

A sexual assault, witnessing a crime, or even losing a loved one can trigger emotional numbness. This is a hard sign to notice. We push those feelings down so deep, facing them seems impossible. Often, people block those memories out and cannot even remember them because they are so painful. [Read: Repressed anger and 15 steps to let go of it before it eats you]

4. Your trust has been broken

When your trust is broken by someone you care for or even by people you barely know, you lose faith in others and your own judgment.

That can be draining, and instead of carrying on, it can be easier in the moment to forgo that risk. [Read: How to stop caring about someone who hurt you and start healing instead]

5. You remain neutral

Emotional numbness does not have to be focused on your relationships but even on controversial topics. If a topic you once felt passionate about arises, but now you stay quiet, it can be due to emotional numbness.

A sudden or even gradual disinterest in being involved in conversations or activism could be a sign you are dealing with emotional numbness.

This has been seen in politics recently. Someone that once argued for their beliefs may feel so shut down by the media or the powers that be that they have stopped fighting or even talking about these issues. [Read: Why does love hurt when it goes bad? The truth you need to hear]

6. You avoid confrontation

Yes, even without emotional numbness, a lot of people feel wildly uncomfortable with any sort of confrontation. But, most of us still engage in arguments with our siblings, roommates, or parents.

Becoming emotionally numb will make even the slightest comment about dirty dishes feel exhausting and not worth it. [Read: The best ways to cut the drama and resolve conflict]

7. You feel foggy

If you struggle with allergies, you may understand feeling foggy. When your eyes are itchy and your sinuses are congested you feel functional, but everything is in a blur. That is how life with emotional numbness can feel.

You are aware of what is happening around you but not to the level you normally are.

8. Your relationships have suffered

Emotional numbness will make it difficult to actually spot that your relationships have suffered because you may not feel a sad sensation.

When you are busy with work and miss out on seeing friends, you miss them. But when becoming emotionally numb causes you to refrain from your friends and family, you won’t pick up on it right away. In fact, it is your friends and family that point out the change in you.

Look out for texts, phone calls, or comments from the people closest to you saying they miss you or asking how you are. [Read: Why do I push people away? The real reasons why you do this to others]

9. You prefer to be alone

Not only do your relationships suffer when you are dealing with emotional numbness, but you want to be alone because it feels the least exhausting. You won’t have to function in social settings.

You may not even feel lonely when alone, just well, numb.

10. Fleeting strong emotions cause you to break down

It is nearly impossible to completely shut down our emotions as humans. So, when someone who is emotionally numb breaks that wall and lets even the slightest bit of emotion through, it will come in like a tsunami.

You may lose your patience over something small. Or you could burst into tears over something minor. It is as if your emotions were being held back by a dam, but one small crack let an entire wave through. [Read: How to learn to cry, let out all your emotions and feel better]

11. Physical sickness

When your emotional reflexes cause you to become emotionally numb, those feelings will not manifest in a normal or healthy way.

There is no box within your mind hiding those feelings away from you. They are released in some way, and if not through words or tears, they may manifest physically. You could feel nauseous, achy, or worse because those emotions aren’t coming out the way they need to be. [Read: How to heal yourself and find your happiness again]

How to fight back and overcome emotional numbness

While it can be difficult to overcome, it is highly important that you work to overcome emotional numbness. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

1. Accept the truth

Once you accept the fact that you are suffering from emotional numbness, you can begin to heal, but you cannot begin to heal until you accept the truth. [Read: 14 easy mantras that will transform your life]

2. Seek professional help

Seek help from someone who is professionally qualified to help you. They know what they are doing, and a one-to-one session can help them understand your specific issues.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. If you’re struggling and you feel like you just can’t do it alone, reach out and find someone who can give you the helping hand you need.

3. Create a tribe of like-minded individuals

Since emotional numbness can be a symptom of PTSD, you need to get a group of people that are also suffering from PTSD *no matter where they fit on the spectrum*.

They will get you and everything you are going through. Sometimes that’s all you need, someone who knows what is going on in your life and in your mind. You are not alone. Find comfort in knowing that. [Read: Good friends are like stars – 18 ways to build lasting friendships]

4. Surround yourself with positivity

When you are surrounded by people that radiate positivity, it is hard not to start feeling that way as well. Positivity is contagious, and at this point in your life, we think that is exactly what you need.

You need a change of pace, and preferably a change for the better. Wouldn’t you agree? Seek positive people and interactions, and positive things will come your way. Feeling positive is still feeling something, okay? [Read: Positive vibes – 17 ways to welcome positive energy into your life]

5. Analyze the situation

Think about the trauma. What made you enter this state of emotional numbness to begin with? We know this is a difficult thing to do, so ensure that you are doing it at the right time. Don’t do this right away. Allow yourself to heal slightly before diving back into the trauma.

When you are ready, you will need to analyze and process what happened and why. Understanding that it is not your fault is an important step to recovery.

There is nothing that you could have done to change the situation, and even if you could, what’s done is done, so there is nothing you can do now. Let it go. [Read: How to let go of resentment, stop feeling bitter and start living]

6. Let it be free

As we said, you need to let it go. We know, easier said than done. It will take time but with every small success, it will spur you to keep going.

Mental health is something that takes time and it will never be perfect. You have to constantly work to maintain it.

7. Be patient with yourself

Understand that it takes time to heal, and that healing isn’t linear. You will have your good days and you will have your bad days.

Try to make the most out of all of your days, regardless of how you are feeling. This will make it exponentially easier to heal. You are trying your best, and one day you will feel your best as long as you put the work in. Don’t give up on yourself.

8. Be patient with those around you

Understand that it can be very frustrating to be around someone suffering from emotional numbness, especially those close to you. They may get frustrated with you, but understand that they are trying too. [Read: Do you have the patience for dating or are you frustrated by it?]

9. Explain your situation

Don’t leave your loved ones hanging out to dry, here. You need to explain to them what is happening in your life and in your mind so that if you have an “episode” or feel a little bit off, they won’t be taken off guard. They need to help you on this journey.

So make sure they know what they are signing up for, because not every day is going to be sunshine and rainbows. [Read: How to find yourself again after a seriously low point in life]

10. Set goals and objectives

While you cannot put a time restraint on your healing, it is important to have something to strive for.

Telling yourself that you will be better in a year might seem ridiculous, but the law of attraction works in funny ways. If you keep something in your mind, it will manifest into your life. [Read: How to manifest love – The steps to draw in your best love life]

11. Try alternative therapies, such as mindfulness, yoga, and meditation

Practicing mindfulness may seem silly to you, but it is an effective way to realign your mind and body.

Yoga and meditation are two wonderful options to help you slowly come to terms with your emotions inside of pushing them down. And you easily find thousands of videos on YouTube to guide you through these practices.

12. Start a journal

Writing out your thoughts improves your mind and body connection. Taking your thoughts on the routine of the day and turning them into something physical is cathartic and therapeutic. In time, these notes will go from summarizing your day to responding to your day, and engaging your emotions.

However, while journaling will help you identify problems and start to deal with them, therapy is the best way to overcome emotional numbness.

A licensed professional will not only be able to spot the signs of being emotionally numb, but will likely be able to find the root cause and help you work through it so that you can deal with your emotions in the healthiest way possible. [Read: Nothing makes me happy – How to make happiness your default state]

It’s time to take control back into your own hands

Emotional numbness is not a weakness or sign that you have given up. In fact, the sensation of being emotionally numb is a way for our minds to defend against pain. We shut down to protect ourselves from being overwhelmed, hurt, or traumatized.

Instead of choosing the two most common options of fight or flight when you are in conflict, you freeze. As understandable as this is, it is wildly unhealthy for your mind, your heart, and your body.

Holding back both the good and bad emotions causes an emotional breakdown not to mention broken relationships. It can also lead to depression and other serious problems. So, any sign of emotional numbness should be reacted to with action.

[Read: Emotional wellness and the roadmap to living your life with intention]

Emotional numbness isn’t something that you can overcome in a day. It takes time, hard work and patience. But you can use these signs and steps to find your way out. With a little help from others, of course!

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...