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Causes of Emotional Numbness

Updated on August 29, 2016

How to Cope When You Have No Feelings

Why can't I cry? Why can't I feel joy or happiness? Not being able to feel emotions is symptom of many different mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder are just a few of the disorders that can leave a person feeling numb and detached from their feelings.

Having diminished emotions can be devastating because you start to withdraw more and more from life and the people who care about you. You start to think you're some kind of freak. You can't feel love for your husband, wife, or family, and you can't find any joy for life.

Health professionals call this mental symptom of emotional detachment from feelings, blunted affect. Blunted emotions can be very distressing to someone who is experiencing it. You feel lonely and disconnected from life and the people around you. Being emotionally stunted can seem daunting, but it is possible to feel again and regain your emotional feelings.

The Price You Pay For Suppressing Your Emotions

When You Can't Cry and Are Emotionally Numb

Suppressing your emotions often comes with a high cost. We detach from our emotions in order to suppress the unwanted ones such as sadness and grief, however in doing that we also inhibit joy and pleasure. You can't suppress just the unpleasant emotions in isolation without affecting the pleasant emotions. When emotions aren't expressed you may find your feelings coming out in ways that you don't expect such as anger, irritability, and sarcasm. You also feel disconnected from others as our emotional feelings allow us to find human connection and comfort.

Discover Dead Feelings

Feelings Buried Alive Never Die
Feelings Buried Alive Never Die

Discover what's holding you back. Transform repressed feelings into growth and happiness.


Causes of Emotional Numbness - A Normal Reaction to Overwhelming Situations

There can be many causes of emotional numbness. In times of grief, extreme stress, or trauma shock we may numb our emotions in order not the feel the overwhelming sadness that emotional shock brings. We may feel that if we allow ourselves to feel the sadness we will be consumed by it. Sometimes emotions are frozen for a brief period of time and this emotional shock is quite normal, but in other cases it can stay with us for years, and that's when it becomes problematic.

The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You
The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You

Every emotion can give us self understanding and inner awareness. Discover your true inner feelings.

  1. Depression
  2. Grief
  3. Anxiety
  4. Divorce
  5. Loss of a job
  6. Post traumatic stress
  7. Car accident
  8. Relationship breakup
  9. Life-threatening illness
  10. Loss of a loved one
  11. Humiliating experience
  12. Childhood sexual abuse
  13. Rape
  14. Victim of violent crime

Feeling the Full Range of Emotions

Experiencing the Bad Along With the Good

It's normal to feel sad or blue some of the time, as well as experiencing joy and happiness. Often times people think they should feel happy all the time and that's not the case at all. There are times when we experience acute stress and feel unable to have loving feelings and are numb emotionally. Acceptance that sometimes there will be overwhelming sorrow clears the way for our understanding that these sad and sometimes overwhelming emotions are normal and should be brought into our consciousness and experienced rather than suppressed.

What Do Our Emotions or Lack of Emotions Tell Us - Find Self Understanding

Most of us run from difficult emotions and avoid letting ourselves feel. In The Language of Emotions author Karla McLaren teaches us that all of our emotions are equally important. Rather than overreacting or repressing our feelings, emotions are a gateway to healing and fulfillment.

How to Stop Feeling Emotionally Numb

Releasing Emotions for Emotional Healing

Set aside a specific time to feel your emotions. For example, tomorrow from 8:00 to 8:30 pm clear your agenda and just allow yourself to concentrate and identify feelings. Sometimes we use being busy as a way to avoid feeling distressing emotions. If we are preoccupied with other tasks then the emotions that are inside us can stay unfelt. Sometimes allowing yourself to feel takes a conscious effort to bring those emotions to the surface.

Have you experienced emotional numbness? How did you overcome it? - Or just leave a message to say you stopped by.

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    • DaydreamerJay profile image


      4 years ago

      I think most of us have experienced dissociation/numbness when it comes to emotions at one time or another. Some of us have it constantly, while others are lucky to only experience it one or a few times throughout their life. It's always good to call attention to the fact that people aren't alone and let them know the reasons why these things happen. Sometimes it's easier to cry over something that isn't related to our own pain, like a TV show or a book, or someone else's problems, but when faced with our own we shut down to protect ourselves.

    • rebekah-grelen profile image


      5 years ago

      YES. I have certainly experienced it. And goodness, it is devastating. It keeps you from feeling love. That is the hardest part of it for me. I've always been very involved with people. After a build up of traumatic events, I slowly disconnected from others and realized that I did not care - about anyone, about anything, about myself. I just floated through life. BUT THERE IS HOPE. I did silly things to feel again. I listened to pandora comedy stations and forced myself to laugh. I watched sad movies and tried to cry (it took a looonnggg time, but I did, eventually). Every time I was able to truly feel an emotion, I just let it happen. When I got angry, I let myself get good and angry (of course, as long as it wasn't hurting anyone). Therapy was helpful, but it was ultimately MY decision to feel again. To not give myself a "break" from the healing process, even though it's long and it's so very hard. I'm not there yet, but I celebrate every little victory. Life is good. I'll be checking out your resources too! Thanks for sharing. <3 Blessings.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I don't know how to over come it. I know I have emotion in not having emotion. I just want to..for being sad,happy or mad. I want to feel guilty for the wrong I do and I can't. I want to feel compassion for who loves me, loyalty, respect. I can't make myself feel anything. I know hat emotion I should be feeling at the time...but can't feel it. Does it mean I don't care? I believe I do, but why don't I feel the care?

    • Klaartje Loose profile image

      Klaartje Loose 

      6 years ago

      Oh yes, for many years! A year of extensive therapy, 13 years ago, helped me to reconnect with myself again. Now I suffer from it form time to time, but know what to do. I pinned your lens to my Journey to Emotional Freedom board on Pinterest.

    • siobhanryan profile image


      6 years ago

      Blessed-emotionally numb for more than 20 years-with all the therapy just inable to reconnect with self

    • BlackSunflowerB profile image


      6 years ago

      When I was a kid, I had emotional numbness for many years. I just didn't want to feel anything.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      There were times when I did and when it happens, I meditate.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      6 years ago from Washington KS

      This is a very helpful, meaningful lens. I call that emotional numbness you describe, "shell shocked" as a sort of metaphor when one shock or trauma after another piles up on a person.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I think most of my life I was emotionally numb. I started reading self help books and recognized I had a problem and then went for counseling.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      From time to time... I just tend to try to release things slowly, and eventually I'm back to normal again. Well, as normal as I get. Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      I have and I've found that once you allow the emotions to release, they come flooding out.


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