Having a wide range of emotions and feeling them to varying degrees is part of the human experience. There are times, however, when someone may not feel certain emotions as strongly as other people do or at all. Emotional blunting is an inability to feel the wide range of human emotions, and it can last weeks, months, or even years.
What Is Emotional Blunting?
Emotional blunting refers to a limited variety of emotional reactions or the absence of any emotional reaction. Despite something being knowingly funny, generous, romantic, and so forth, the emotional reaction to these events remains flat. Those who deal with emotional blunting often describe feeling numb or apathetic.
Emotional blunting is when a person displays little emotional reactivity or expresses/feels little to no emotion at all, similar to anhedonia and blunted affect. It can impact your relationship with others and how you experience the world.1
Symptoms of Emotional Blunting
There are many signs that you may be experiencing emotional blunting, even if it is short term. These include an inability to feel happy, fatigue, inability to concentrate, and feeling disconnected.
Emotional blunting symptoms include:2
- Inability to feel happiness and sadness
- Fatigue and mental fog
- Inability to concentrate
- Feeling disconnected to others
- Forgetfulness and difficulty making decisions
- Loss of sexual desire
- Lack of empathy
- Feeling numb
- Attempts of self-harm behavior
Causes of Emotional Blunting
There could be many reasons why someone may experience emotional blunting, including medications, underlying mental health issues, or substance use.
Causes of emotional blunting may include:
- Antidepressant medication: some believe that some medication for depression can at times exacerbate the symptoms of depression, thus making it harder to experience the full range of emotions3
- Major depressive disorder (MDD): depression (including MDD) includes symptoms such as flat affect and an inability to experience positive emotions.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is marked by a disconnect that happens when triggered, often leaving people feeling dissociated and numb
- Schizophrenia: a marker of schizophrenia is the inability to function in socially acceptable ways, including the ability to manage and feel the wide range of emotions that exist
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD): when experiencing severe mood swings, people with BPD can experience dissociation that leads to an out of body experience and emotional detachment4
- Substance use: there are certain drugs, including alcohol and heroin, that can temporarily shut down the nervous system and stunt the user’s ability to feel emotions5
7 Ways to Cope With Emotional Blunting
As challenging as emotional blunting is, there are ways to cope with it, including stimulating other senses, participating in a support group, doing something you enjoy, and talking to a medical professional.
Here are seven ways to cope with emotional blunting:
1. Stimulate other senses.
Taking time to stimulate each sense can help trigger certain memories that elicit positive emotions. Stimulating the senses can also improve mood.
2. Join a support group.
Support groups are a good way to gain community and be around those who deal with similar issues. Groups have a powerful healing power and can help break down emotional barriers.
3. Try to get back into activities you enjoy.
Remembering the activities that used to bring you joy is a good way to attempt to feel emotions again. Even if we don’t feel happiness at first, the body still releases oxytocin.
4. Talk to your doctor about changing medications.
If you feel that your medication is the issue, talk to your doctor about what you’re feeling. Your doctor may try to put you on a different medication or begin a new treatment plan.
5. Talk to a therapist.
Talking to a therapist is helpful as sometimes this can be related to an undiagnosed mental health issue. Talking to a therapist can help uncover where these issues come from and how to move past them.
Writing is an empowering way to keep track of what is happening even if we don’t feel a wide range of emotions. It can also cause us to feel the things we write.
7. Avoid substance use.
If you find yourself feeling numb, it’s important to avoid substance use, especially if you are concerned it may be contributing to the symptoms.
When to Seek Professional Treatment
You may want to speak with a therapist or counselor if you feel any kind of distress, including the exacerbation of general insecurities, anxiety, depression, anger, rage, and jealousy. It’s especially important to seek help if there’s an underlying issue like a personality disorder, anxiety/depression, or trauma.
Working to understand where these feelings may come from and how to respond can be helpful to ensuring the relationships and commitments around you stay intact. Couples or family therapy may also be considered, depending on individual situations.
A therapist can help make sense of where these behaviors come from and how to change them. You can search an online online therapist directory to find a therapist who can assist you with emotional blunting. Also, speaking with a doctor in addition to psychotherapy should be strongly considered if you are already on medications.
Emotional blunting can feel confusing and discouraging, but you are not alone. Working with a therapist and having a supportive network to lean on are great ways to get the help and encouragement you need to keep moving forward.