The fact is; we are emotional beings. We go through one or more emotions at different stages in our lives, depending on our environment and those around us. These emotions, coupled with desire and knowledge, determine how we behave. However, not all emotions are pleasant. A painful period may trigger awful negative feelings that can lead to emotional numbness. Here, the body is temporarily blocking any further negative emotions that are harmful to the body and mind. So how can you tell that you are going through emotional numbness? And, what can you do to cope? Read on.
10 Signs of Emotional Numbness
Emotional numbness is a period of emptiness. Typical triggers of emptiness include infidelity, boredom, and bereavement, communication breakdown in families, substance abuse, and mental health issues like depression.
In such a situation, you may lose purpose in life, studies, work, or hobbies. For example, the loss of a partner changes the structure of your life overnight. All of a sudden, you question the validity of your dreams.
#2: Disconnections between Body and Mind
Are you grieving, facing hatred and discrimination at your place of work, or have crushing anxiety about the outcome of your medical tests? Well, all these events can cause your body to disconnect from your mind. You may find yourself absent-minded in most office meetings.
Alternatively, you could be going with the flow, taking medication, and eating a special diet as per your nutritionist’s recommendations. Yet, when you look back, you have no recollection of why or what you just did.
#3: Disconnection with the World
Emotional numbness makes us cold to those we care about. In turn, we lose touch with local events, special days, or even forget our daily routines. For example, a spouse who is grieving the loss of a child may forget their wedding anniversary. Or, a mother who just underwent a painful delivery may find it hard to soothe a child, despite hearing the baby crying for hours.
#4: Withdrawal from Friends and Family
Now, when you do not share emotions with your family and friends, you become detached. Sometimes, you feel numb when listening to your loved ones sharing their challenges and wins. Or, a heart-felt movie feels indifferent.
#5: Autopilot Mode
Now, emotional numbness switches our brain to autopilot mode. Here, we do things because we know them as per our subconscious mind. However, we have no desire to grow our potential or further this knowledge in any way. You may wake up, shower, take your morning toast and coffee, and hop on the tram to school. A few minutes you remember that electrical fault at the cooker, that can start a fire once you are gone. Or, realize that you picked the wrong clothes from the laundry mat, after getting those weird looks in class.
#6: Loss of Sense of Time
When you are lost in your world due to emotional numbness, time comes to a standstill. You forget significant dates. And, a mention of, say Thanksgiving rings no bell about the season of the year.
#7: Living on the Edge
Severe stress can make you live on the edge. You feel like you no longer have control of the events in your life. Like you are a guest in your own life. In turn, you no longer find pleasure in your hobbies or career. Or, your concentration is almost zero even in the simplest tasks.
#8: Overall Insensitivity
Emotional numbness diminishes your ability to process thoughts or respond to physical signals. You are always in a constant dream-like state.
#9: Dislike of Persons with Strong Emotions
Since you are unable to express strong negative or positive emotions, your numbness makes you detest others who do so.
#10: Panic Attacks
Finally, as the period of emotional numbness comes to an end, you may start to experience overwhelming and confusing feelings. You start questioning your state of mind, as you have no clue what is happening to you. In turn, you may have severe panic attacks.
Managing this final phase of emotional numbness full of emotional imbalances is critical. You do not want to trigger another stressful event that may prolong the disorder.
Note that, emotional numbness is always due to underlying stress. Your first step to overcoming this disorder is by addressing the stress.
You can achieve this by:
#1: Reorganizing Your Lifestyle
Do you feel you are in the wrong career? Go back to school and study another course. If you are struggling with obesity, enroll in your local gym for regular fitness exercises. Where you struggle with insomnia, use guided audio sleep meditations to get enough deep sleep.
These lifestyle changes will relieve you of the stress, and get control of your life.
Many people try to fill the emptiness in their lives by engaging in unhealthy compulsive behaviors. These include compulsive shopping, alcohol abuse, overeating, or under-eating. Doing so only worsens the situation.
#2: Breathwork (Pranayama)
Breathing exercises are a simple and easy way to help you mindfully move through whatever you’re experiencing. Pranayama is particularly useful when intense feelings such as fear or rage breakthrough. There are many tutorials with breathing techniques you can easily find online. Stick to something simple. The point is to use your breath (in whatever way suits you), to calm your mind and body. Try to breathe slowly, deeply, and softly instead of forcing deep breaths (which can actually increase anxiety). Let your breath be natural.
Get a journal and spend 5-10 minutes a day writing down everything that triggers even the slightest bit of sadness in you. This simple habit will help you to express your emotions, even if in an indirect way at first. Your journal will serve you as a catalyst for feeling and letting out your emotions.
Catharsis may involve screaming into or punching a pillow to stimulate sadness and crying. This intensively emotional exercise may also involve impassioned dancing or dynamic meditation.
Regular catharsis should be a must on your journey. Without regularly ‘letting it all out,’ you may run the risk of experiencing the repercussions of festering emotions.
#5: Inner Child Healing
Practice inner child healing and find ways of comforting and nurturing this vulnerable place within you.
#6: Creative Expression
Write a song, paint a picture, dance, find some way of expressing what emotion you last felt. If you struggle to feel anything at all, express that artistically. Pay attention to how you feel afterward. Notice if there is even the slightest feeling of satisfaction within you.
#7: Ask for Help – Psychotherapy
Often, you may find that you are struggling to maintain a regular self-care routine that can help you snap out of the temporary emotional numbness. That is quite normal. Tap yourself in the back for taking the initiative to deal with this disorder, even when your mind is not into it.
However, if you find your routines are too inconsistent, seek professional help.
Psychotherapy involves working with a counselor or doctor to address your cognitive behavior. It is about checking and correcting how your thought process affects your behavior. By doing so, you reduce bouts of anxiety, depression, fear, or a sense of helplessness.
Note that, emotional numbness is quite common; affecting most people at various stages in their lives. It is the body’s way of overcoming being helpless as you undergo prolonged physical or emotional trauma. If you feel empty, seek help.