Emotional numbness is something we have all prayed for at some point. You know exactly what I’m talking about: those times when you feel like you’ve reached your breaking point and like you can’t take it anymore.
I’m talking about the times when you’d rather feel empty than sad and miserable. I’m talking about the times when the possibility of closing your feelings feels like heaven.
But be careful what you want – you just might get it. What happens when you reach emotional numbness?
Well let me tell you this is nothing like your dreams. In fact, not having any emotions is so scary that it makes you dead from the inside out.
When you reach this stage, you will give anything to have your capacity to feel back. However, things don’t always go so smoothly.
It’s not like you can snap your fingers and reverse the whole process. Instead, there are some steps you need to take before you are successful in overcoming the emotional numbness.
But before that, let’s see what emotional numbness is and what causes it.
Sense of emotional numbness
Emotional numbness or anhedonia is not a mental illness, but it certainly does impact your mental health. Simply put, being emotionally numb means feeling nothing and being immune to all possible stimuli.
Yes, you don’t cry anymore, but you don’t laugh either. You are saved from sadness, but you are also deprived of happiness.
It is a state of total indifference. On the outside you live a very normal life, but on the inside there is nothing but this immense and endless void that disconnects you from the world.
Symptoms of emotional numbness
You don’t suddenly become emotionally numb. In fact, there are certain red flags that make it clear that you are embarking on the path of emotional detachment.
Some of the symptoms of emotional numbness are similar to the symptoms of depression. They include depersonalization, derealization, dissociation… Look for these alarms and see if you can relate to most (or all) of them.
1. Take a step back from your loved ones
The first and most common symptom you will experience if you suspect yourself that you are emotionally numb is detachment from loved ones.
I’m not talking about the people who hurt you here (yes, you can still love those who hurt you – in fact, it happens more often than you might imagine).
I’m talking about your closest friends and family members. All of a sudden, you feel like you’re not as connected to your best friend or sibling.
The worst part is that there is absolutely no reason for this to happen. They haven’t done anything to you, the two of you haven’t had a fight, and you are still physically present in each other’s lives.
But, somehow, you feel like the bond that held you together is gone. It’s like someone cuts the cord that connects you to everyone else, and you stay like a balloon floating around the clouds – all by yourself.
You are trying to change that. You are trying to literally force yourself to love these people like you did before.
Nevertheless, it seems that all your attempts are in vain. You are moving further and further away from everyone and it seems like there is nothing you can do about it.
Loneliness and isolation
Even though you were a true extrovert, lately that has changed. There is no sign of the social butterfly you once were.
Instead of spending time with your friends, family and coworkers, lately you prefer solitude to everything else. You are off all social networks, you avoid all types of gatherings, and you spend all of your time alone.
Make no mistake, there comes a time in our lives when we all want and need some free time. You want to recharge your batteries and can use some privacy.
But, when it comes to you, this period has been going on for quite some time now. In fact, it seems like it’s past a phase – it’s become your lifestyle.
You have voluntarily isolated yourself socially and you avoid all possible human contact – except the one that you are forced to maintain.
2. Love and hate don’t stand a chance against indifference
People assume that love and hate are the strongest emotions. Even though these two feelings are two sides of the same coin, there is something that surpasses them.
There is something stronger than all emotion: the absence of emotions.
If you think about it, that’s exactly how you’ve been feeling these days: nothing. Isn’t that ironic? The fact that you don’t feel anything overwhelms you.
When you are in emotional pain, you go out of your way to achieve indifference. You think it as the best way to live life.
After all, almost nothing and no one can touch you. You don’t mind people’s efforts to break your heart just because you don’t have one.
You can’t seem to get mad and forgot what it means to hate. You don’t cry, and you don’t go through stages of grief or sadness.
You don’t miss people, you don’t hold a grudge against them and you are convinced that you can live on your own in this world since the loss of no one would shake your whole world.
It almost sounds too good to be true.
But let’s not forget one thing. When you become indifferent, you not only lose bad and unwanted emotions.
Not only do you lose the ability to hate, you also become incapable of loving. Sadness isn’t the only thing that goes away – positive emotions, including happiness, follow it too.
This is exactly what happened with you. You have become emotionally unavailable and unresponsive.
Losing interest in the things you like to do
Suddenly you are not looking for a new day. All the little things that brought you joy have become totally irrelevant.
You lost interest in the activities that made you happy. You have stopped impatiently waiting for the weekend, you are no longer anticipating your vacation, your hobbies have become boring and no accomplishment can satisfy you anymore.
You are empty and all you feel is this abyss within you. All of a sudden, this numbness isn’t that bad, is it?
3. It’s when you lose control that you suppress your emotions – not when you’re in control
Most people think that those struggling with emotional numbness have lost the ability to feel. All of their emotions are erased and died out, but the truth is quite different.
You see, your every feeling is still there – you just buried it deep inside you. I’m not saying you did it on purpose or even knowingly, but it happened anyway.
So now everything is building up inside of you. These huge piles of happiness, sadness, love, hate, anger, resentment, joy and compassion have all mixed together.
They don’t go away over time. Instead, the piles get bigger and bigger, and the more you try to push them down, the bigger they get.
Finally, you become unable to reach them. You’ve spent so much time training yourself not to feel anything your emotions have been hiding from you, so now you can’t access it even if you want to.
It seems like you can’t make yourself feel anything. You’ve suppressed your emotions to the point of forgetting how to use them properly.
Not only that: you are also afraid to even glance at them. You are terrified of what you might find there and, more importantly, wonder if you will be able to handle it.
What you need to be aware of here is that suppressing your emotions is a red flag that you have lost control of yourself, even if you think otherwise.
You think ignoring your feelings is an act of emotional and mental strength. You think that by doing this you have finally learned to rule yourself while doing the complete opposite.
You are making the most cowardly move ever – running away from parts of yourself in the hopes of erasing them. You consider yourself too weak to have real control and to look your demons in the eye.