When Depression Is Not Sadness: Being Emotionally Numb
By Sarah Fader
Updated December 14, 2018
Reviewer Patricia Corlew , LMFT, LPC,
When we see Depression depicted in the media and entertainment, we are often exposed to people who are breaking down, crying, and spending all day in bed. Despite what you have been led to believe, this common depiction of depression is not its only face. Depression, in fact, has many faces. While there are common symptoms, people experience Depression in their own unique way.
One of the faces that we are going to talk about today is emotional numbness. What does it mean to feel emotionally numb, how do we become emotionally numb, and how can we recover from these feelings of numbness as well as our Depression?
What Is Emotional Numbness?
Emotional numbness cannot be clinically described; and that is why it is so hard for people to identify it within themselves. The best way to describe emotional numbness is to say that it is like being inside a vacuum. While you may have Depression, you cannot feel it. In fact, you cannot feel very many emotions at all. It is as though all feelings and expressions have been erased from your mind.
Besides the lack of emotions that one experiences, the numbness branches out into the physical realm as well. When you are emotionally numb, you may feel hollow or dead inside, you may feel that everything you are experiencing is not real, and you may feel disconnected from yourself and the people and the world around you. In a nutshell, being emotionally numb is likeliving your life as a robot.
How Do We Become Emotionally Numb?
Emotional numbness is not something that mentally healthy people experience. Emotional numbness is usually a side-effect of several different traumatic situations or mental illnesses. The list of things that may trigger emotional numbness includes:
- A Major Depressive Episode
- Severe Anxiety or a Major Anxiety Attack
- Drug abuse
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Overwhelming Stress
Keep in mind that these are only a few of the situations that may trigger emotional numbness within you. If you work on some of these areas and you feel as though the symptoms aren't going away or are getting stronger, it may be a part of a larger problem: Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder. Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder is a disorder that includes some of the above symptoms of emotional numbness as well as more concerning symptoms such as feeling as though your body and your memories aren't yours, feeling that you're outside your body, and feeling as though your reality is distorted.
If you can relate to these symptoms, visit a mental health professional as soon as possible. This also applies if you are dealing with any of the situations listed above.
How Can One Battle Emotional Numbness?
The road to recovery from any mental illness is a difficult one. It is also one that often requires the help of someone who is well-equipped to deal with our situations and feelings, a mental health professional such as a therapist or counselor.
However, there are ways to cope with feelings of numbness on your own. Here are a few methods that you can use to battle your emotional numbness:
- Scrap Your Routine
Feeling numb can make doing daily tasks an impossible feat. To counteract this lack of desire, try switching up your routine and doing something new. You don't have to go out and skydive to make a change. You can do something as simple as taking a different route to work. This kind of adventure and change may be just the push you need to wake up the dormant emotions inside of you.
- Start a Journal
A journal is one of the best ways to work through your feelings, even if you may feel as though you have none in the moment. Every day, sit down and take some time to go through some of the events that occurred. Always ask yourself, how do I feel about this? With practice, you will begin to identify and work through some feelings that you didn't know you were having.
- Do Things That You Used to Enjoy
Feeling numb prevents us from taking part in activities that usually bring us joy. Although it will be difficult, challenge yourself to get back into these hobbies. If you used to paint, paint as much as you possibly can. If you used to sing, write a bunch of songs on how you are currently feeling. You may not feel connected with yourself at first, but these types of activities will help you to get back to your feelings.
- Relax And Take Care Of Yourself
The amount of stress people deal with today can be tremendous; and as a result, it can lead to the events that trigger emotional numbness. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your life, apply the brakes. Take some time to figure out what is adding to your stress and how you can cut down on those stressful aspects. You will also need to search for some activities that will help you become healthier, happier, and more relaxed.
One way to assure that you get the care you need is by creating a routine. A daily routine that helps you practice self-care may look a little like this:
- Wake up and stretch your body
- Meditate for 10 minutes
- Pray, show your gratitude, and say some positive affirmations
- Take an amazing, warm shower while using aromatherapy body wash and shampoo
- Eat a healthy breakfast to help you get energized for the day
- Listen to some uplifting music as you get ready for work
- Do some exercise during your lunch break
- After work allow yourself to unwind with your favorite activity
- Take a warm bath and read before bead
- Go to bed at a decent time to make sure that you get at least 7 hours of sleep
Remember, this is just an example routine. Feel free to adjust it where you see fit; but make sure that your routine focuses on producing a healthier, happier you. A routine that adds stress will only set you back on your path.
- Latch Onto Whatever Emotions Come Your Way
The next time that you are doing something, and you feel an emotion latch onto it. Acknowledge that emotion and accept it into your life. If you feel enraged, allow yourself to feel that emotion fully. If you feel unbearably sad, let the tears flow. No matter what comes your way, let yourself know that it is okay to feel and love the fact that you are finally able to feel these emotions.
Don't mistake this advice and use it as a reason to dwell on your emotions, however. That is not what this exercise is intended to do. The idea is to acknowledge your emotions and work through them. Dwelling on them or focusing on only one emotion will feed your mental illnesses and make you feel worse.
- Do Something That Makes You Feel Alive
Remember how I stated earlier that you don't have to skydive to spark a feeling? While you certainly don't have to, if it is something that appeals to you, then check in to it. Activities that get your blood pumping and your mind racing can restart that life inside of you. Go bungee jumping. Take a solo ride in a small airplane. Race down the world's largest waterslide. The options are endless.
If you prefer not to do activities like these, you can achieve the same effect by doing something that scares you instead. Maybe you are afraid of telling someone that you like them. Maybe you are afraid of telling your boss that you want to quit so you can pursue a better position at a competing company. Whatever it is that excites you and terrifies you, go after it. Make a list of them and commit to crossing off one item daily. Feel the exhilaration that comes with taking life into your own hands.
After you've finished this article and made notes about what you can start doing on your own, you should start looking into receiving help for coping with the bigger issues in your life. Do you need some direction? A great place to begin your healing journey is at https://www.betterhelp.com/start/. Betterhelp is the world's largest e-counseling platform that will help you connect with accessible, affordable, and convenient online counseling. Click on the link above to take a short questionnaire that will connect you with the right counselor for you!