What Is Emotional Detachment Disorder?

By: Sarah Fader

Updated July 02, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

Everyone is affected by feelings and emotions.  Emotions are a mental reaction that is experienced as a strong feeling.  They are usually directed toward a specific person or object and may cause physical or behavioral changes in an affected individual.

Changes in emotion occur from time to time and those changes may be the result of a stressful event or a change in life circumstances.  For most people, the fluctuations in emotion and mood are temporary and do not cause any significant disruptions in relationships or daily life.  However, when an inability to fully engage with one’s personal feelings or the feelings of others, this could be a sign of emotional attachment disorder.

What Is Emotional Detachment Disorder?

Emotional detachment disorder, also referred to as dissociation, is a psychological defense mechanism that is used to cope with overwhelming or distressing emotions.  It can present as a temporary response to an extremely stressful or traumatic event or may be an ongoing condition.  For many people, emotional detachment disorder begins with avoidance of memories of past experiences or traumatic events. 

Emotional detachment may cause feelings of sadness or negativity.  However, in most cases, emotions are minimally felt.  When emotional detachment disorder occurs, even those people who may have experienced happiness or joy previously may find it difficult to imagine feeling that way again or to even recall what it felt like at all.  The length of time a person experiences symptoms and the severity of symptoms varies from person to person.  While there are ways to address emotional detachment and learn to form healthy emotional attachments, the process can take a great deal of time and requires consistent dedicated effort. 

Attachment Disorders

The American Academy of child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests two types of attachment disorder that children may experience. 

Reactive attachment disorder is believed to develop in response to negative experiences that a child has with an adult during their early years of development.  It is characterized by appearing afraid, unhappy or irritable, especially when engaged in activities that involve their primary caregiver.  Children with reactive attachment disorder often have trouble calming down if they are upset, do not seek comfort from primary caregivers and show little or no emotion when interacting with others. 

Disinhibited social engagement disorder involves a child’s lack of caution even if he has been taught otherwise.  They may talk to strangers they have never met, allow strangers to pick them up or hold their hand, or not check with their caregiver when they are in an environment with strangers. 

Causes of Emotional Detachment Disorder

Emotional detachment disorder may be caused by life events or by other mental health disturbances, such as personality disorders.  For some people, the symptoms of emotional attachment are temporary, and they can learn to express emotions in a healthy way.  On the other hand, some people may experience issues with emotional detachment disorder for longer periods of time.

Children are believed to have a greater chance of developing emotional detachment especially if they experience difficult circumstances early in life.  Some reasons children may develop emotional detachment may include experiencing abuse or neglect, a significant loss, such as the death of a parent, or growing up with an unstable family environment, or having parents who show little or no affection or emotional attachment to them.  Children who are chastised for being “overly emotional” or who are ridiculed for crying are often conditioned to detach from their emotions. 

Many of the behaviors we learn in childhood are carried into adulthood.  People who struggle to express emotions in a healthy manner or who feel unable to connect emotionally at a younger age may experience increased risk of developing emotional detachment disorder later in life.  An inability to connect with and express emotions may lead some people to experimenting with unhealthy behaviors as an outlet for their frustration. 

Abuse and Neglect

Many people who experience severe neglect or abuse learn to cope with the trauma by separating or detaching from their feelings.  Some abusers tell their victims that crying or showing emotion will not be tolerated.  Therefore, victims may learn to suppress showing outward emotions to prevent suffering harsh consequences.  Although this is a coping mechanism and may be helpful to get someone through a difficult or traumatic time, if emotions are ignored or if a person tries to detach from feelings rather than addressing them, there can be long-term consequences that impact mental well-being.  Once patterns of emotional detachment that were once helpful become adopted as a person’s “new normal,” it can continue for longer periods.  Seeking help to learn how to connect with and express emotions is an important step in fostering good mental health. 


While there are times when taking medications is necessary, all medications have the risk of side effects and adverse reactions.  Some medications used to treat depression or anxiety may have an adverse reaction and cause feelings of being emotionally detached or distant. 

Some medications are safe and have few side effects when taken alone.  However, when combined with other medications, especially those that affect mood or behavior, the combination may cause emotional disturbances and feelings of detachment. 

If you feel like you are experiencing symptoms of emotional detachment and that medications you are taking may be the cause, make an appointment with your prescribing doctor right away.  It is important that prescribed medications, especially those that are used for mood disturbances or other mental health conditions, not be abruptly discontinued.  Some medications require tapering off slowly to prevent unpleasant or adverse symptoms.  Your doctor will be able to discuss your concerns and help to determine if medications you are taking are affecting your ability to experience healthy emotional attachments.  If they feel that a medicine should be changed or discontinued, your care can be monitored until you feel stable again.

Troubling Thoughts or Ideas

People who are unable to express or cope with stressors effectively may experience symptoms of emotional detachment.  Exposure to negative behavior or violence, whether in person or by following current events can have an emotional impact, especially if a person is already susceptible to having difficulty expressing emotions.  While some people may react with anger or frustration regarding events or circumstances, a person with emotional detachment disorder may become even more desensitized and begin to show fewer signs of emotional response.

Unfortunately, society tends to follow negative news and often anticipates the next bad event.   Whether a school shooting, an attack on a group of people, gang violence or war occurs, the negative thoughts that accompany one’s awareness of these events can become toxic.  People who have difficulty connecting with their emotions may experience even more interruptions in the way they process and respond if they are continually exposed to negative or troubling thoughts or events.

In some cases, an affected person may be able to combat the negative effect of troubling thoughts, ideas, or events by purposefully limiting their exposure to things that impact them emotionally.  Many people refer to this as positive psychology.  Basically, it means focus on positive things, things that feed your mind and try to stay away from anything that makes you feel negative or emotionally drained.

Lack of Excitement in Life

While emotional detachment disorder can be caused by severe or traumatic experiences, some people experience symptoms of emotional numbness or detachment because nothing has changed in their life.  Think of children who have been home for a few weeks in the summer.  After they become bored with the days that aren’t filled with structured activities and interaction with others, they complain of being bored and having nothing to do.   Adults and children alike need stimulation to invoke emotional responses. 

Performing the same job or activity day after day can lead a person to feel that there is no need to have an emotional investment. It may be necessary to try new activities, even if you don’t feel like it at first.  Engaging in new activities or hobbies can give one a sense of purpose and belonging which can help promote emotional responses that are healthy.

A few ways to try to encourage emotional responses include:

  • Consider getting a pet. Pets are naturally affectionate which can help promote emotional bonding. The purr of a cat can create a sense of calm and may help ease anxiety or stress which may have contributed to the need for detaching. 
  • Go for a walk or a drive. Instead of isolating and ignoring thoughts and feelings, go outside in the fresh air and look for something that attracts you.  You may enjoy watching birds in the park or feeding seagulls if you are near the water.  Anything you can do that promotes interaction with others or the environment can help associate feelings of pleasure with activity and may help reduce the symptoms associated with emotional detachment disorder. 
  • Learn a new skill. Practice your speech and body strength. Find a new hobby. Challenge yourself as a means of coping. It's never too late to try something new. Some formally emotionally detached people find success and improved emotional intelligence at an older age.
  • Connect with new friends. Having old friends are great, but new friends, especially beyond your comfort zone, can help.

If you are still experiencing an inability to connect on an emotional level, there is no shame in talking to a therapist about what you're feeling. Your lack of emotional sensations may be due to stress disorders, a traumatic event, and other situations that trigger a lack of emotional response.

Other Mental Health Conditions

Emotional detachment can be a symptom associated with other mental health conditions.  For example, people who have post-traumatic stress disorder often report feeling no emotion or feeling “disconnected” from their feelings.  Personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder often cause symptoms of a flat affect or no emotion.  Additionally, while some people with depression experience a general sadness or low mood, others feel emotionally numb or devoid of any emotion at all.

Bipolar disorder is another mental health condition that is characterized by alternating moods from periods of mania to depression.  In the depressive state of bipolar disorder, some people show little to no emotional responses.  If you suspect that you or someone you know is having symptoms of a mental health disorder, it’s important to seek the advice of mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and to establish a treatment plan. 

When Being Emotionally Detached Is a Choice

For some people, the best way to protect themselves is to remove themselves from a situation that creates emotional turmoil.  While this can be a great way to avoid someone who creates problems or to keep yourself from having to engage with people who upset or offend you, it’ is important to be able to recognize the difference between when this avoidant behavior is a necessary defense mechanism and when it may be a sign of emotional detachment disorder.  Choosing to emotionally detach from a person or situation is okay if you use that time to prepare for handling the situation and moving forward.  If you are unable to cope with the situation on your own, however, it may be helpful to seek the help of a counselor or therapist to help you work through your thoughts and feelings. 

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Symptoms of Emotional Attachment Disorder

Everyone experiences times when expressing feelings or emotions is more difficult than others.  Stress at home, school or work, relationship changes, illness or fatigue may the cause at times.  However, when a person is incapable of feeling or is able to turn off emotions seemingly whenever they want, this could be an indication of the presence of emotional attachment disorder.  For some people it may be easier to recognize the symptoms of emotional detachment disorder in themselves before they can in another person.  In other cases, it may be easier to identify behavior associated with the disorder in others, especially those you know well.  Some common symptoms of emotional detachment disorder include the following. 

  • An inability to express emotions
  • Emotional numbness
  • Treating others in a disrespectful manner and being oblivious of the behavior
  • Avoiding emotions when a situation warrants emotional expression
  • A lack of empathy toward the emotions of others
  • The inability to identify your own emotions

Emotional Detachment Disorder Can Affect Psychosocial Development

The inability to have healthy attachments can result in an altered sense of self-perception or an altered world view.  People with emotional detachment disorder may feel that they are bad or unlovable or that no one cares for them.  Children with emotional detachment disorder view their caregivers as threatening, unresponsive and unreliable.  They may seem to be in a constant state of anxiety as they are incapable of effectively responding to outside stressors or triggers and may be unable to know when they are safe.  It’s important to respond to children with emotional detachment disorder in a calm and empathetic manner instead of with strict disciplinary measures or anger, which can worsen their sense of anxiety or fear.

Many researchers believe that the inability to work through adverse childhood experiences has a later effect on an adult’s ability to communicate with and respond to others effectively.  Adults who did not learn to form healthy attachments in childhood often find it difficult to develop healthy relationships later in life.  While the development of emotional detachment disorder in childhood may have an impact on adults, with the right help, it is possible for adults with the disorder to learn ways of processing their emotions and to form emotional attachments later.  

Struggles of People with Emotional Detachment Disorder

People with emotional detachment disorder may experience a wide range of struggles or difficulties.  Emotionally detached people may think about interacting with others and may have a deep desire to express emotions to others but find themselves unable to connect with or express their feelings.  If a person with emotional detachment disorder is married or in a relationship, it can have a significant impact on their relationship.  If the problem is not addressed, it can result in the loss of relationships and difficulty developing new ones later.

Often people who have emotional detachment disorder are mistakenly believed to lack empathy for others.  While some personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder do cause a lack of empathy or concern for others, emotional detachment disorder alone is not usually a cause for lack of empathy.  Although the perception of total lack of empathy is understandable, it’s important to acknowledge that people with emotional detachment disorder are capable of feeling.  They are unable to connect with and act upon those emotions with what is generally considered an appropriate response.

Inability to Respond to Circumstances Like Others Would

The media and other sources of news and information bombard every part of individual’s lives.  Everyone seems to have an opinion about how others should react or respond to things that happen in society.  People with emotional detachment disorder may be aware of events and may have opinions about things that are happening.  Even in the most horrific situations, they are likely to be unable to express those emotions. 

People with emotional detachment disorder are often the “go-to” person

In times of conflict, it is not uncommon for others to seek out people with emotional detachment disorder as a support person for their cause.  Because people with EDD seem to have no opinion, they are often viewed as the perfect person to be a go-between or neutral party in a discussion or conflict.  While some people may find this flattering, people with emotional detachment disorder usually find this intrusion into their personal space offensive.  It may even lead them to become more isolated or detached. 


Because emotional detachment disorder has symptoms that are similar to mood disorders, it can be difficult to diagnose.  Some people who have emotional detachment disorder may be diagnosed with and treated for major depression.  While depression symptoms may also be present, it is possible that emotional detachment is a conscious choice made by an individual.  When misdiagnosis occurs, it can lead to improper or inadequate treatment.  For an accurate diagnosis, it is important to consult with a doctor who knows what emotional detachment disorder is and who is open discussing your symptoms and concerns. The earlier emotional detachment disorder is identified and diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment and the development of healthy attachments.

Detached People Are Often Seen as Rude

People who do not understand emotional detachment disorder or who do not realize a person has the disorder may think that the person is rude or obnoxious.  The lack of emotional responses may be seen as passive-aggressive behavior.  To avoid being misunderstood, some people with emotional detachment disorder may distance themselves from others which can lead to worsening of symptoms. 

Emotional Detachment May Negatively Impact Relationships

Emotional unavailability is the most common symptom of emotional detachment in relationships.  The symptoms generally do not extend beyond the relationship.  It is understandable that experiencing emotional detachment in a relationship can feel overwhelming. 

For some people, the lack of emotional connection may lead to fear that the relationship cannot be salvaged.  Although it will take work and commitment, emotional detachment disorder does not have to lead to the end of a relationship.  Seeking help of a professional to guide the people in the relationship and to help teach communication and coping mechanisms can be beneficial. 

Some causes of emotional detachment in relationships may include:


An overabundance of stress is not healthy for anyone.  When there is increased stressed in a relationship, it can make one partner feel like he/she needs to separate from the emotional turmoil to feel better.  Although taking a break from a stressful situation is a great way to regroup and refocus, it is important to work together to address the source of stress and try to move forward. 

Limited Time Together

Healthy relationships require interaction with partners.  If a couple begins to feel as though time together is limited, it can cause feelings of frustration or hurt.  To cope with these feelings, one person in the relationship may choose to detach emotionally.  It is important to take time to spend with one another and to foster a healthy and supportive relationship where thoughts and feelings can be discussed. 

Issues with Body Image

As people age, changes in the physical body are inevitable.  Men and women alike may feel less attractive or self-conscious about their looks.  Weight loss or gain can cause an altered self-image.  When these changes occur, if an individual is not accustomed to dealing with emotional issues, it can be easy to detach from the relationship emotionally.  Because altered self-perception can lead to other issues, it is important to acknowledge if this is happening and to seek help as soon as possible. 

Problems with Sexual Intimacy

Sexual intimacy is an important part of any marriage or romantic relationship.  If a person feels their ability to perform sexually is altered or lacking, it can take an emotional toll.  Physical conditions, such as erectile dysfunction in men may make it difficult to perform sexually.  As women age and experience menopause, sexual intercourse can become painful.  Discussing feelings and concerns about sexual intimacy with a partner is a great way to build strength in a relationship.  For some, medical intervention may be necessary to remedy physical problems.  In other cases, emotional disturbances may be the cause of these issues and counseling may be helpful in resolving the issues. 

Are They Hiding Something?

If one person in a relationship feels rejected, they may begin to question the other person’s commitment to the relationship or whether they have other motives.  These concerns may lead to attempts at self-protection by detaching from emotions, whether consciously or subconsciously. 

In some cases, a person who becomes emotionally detached in a relationship may have a history of a past traumatic event or failed relationship.  For them, the fear of being hurt again often outweighs their desire to be open with their partner.  They may have post-traumatic stress disorder, and something they experienced may have triggered it. Speaking about their problems makes them anxious or uncomfortable.

Alternatively, they may have financial support difficulties, such as dishonest spending, or may be practicing detachment because of infidelity. If someone is emotionally detached, it may be that they are trying to cope with something they’ve done wrong and they may feel that not talking to their spouse or partner may “make the problem go away.”

Feeling Like a Failure

Feeling unable to reach a desired outcome or that one is unable to accomplish a certain goal or task can lead to feelings of disappointment and frustration.  To help reduce the risk of increased feelings of negativity, some people may try to detach emotionally.  If you are experiencing these feelings, you are not alone.  You do not have to struggle alone or feel like there is no help.  If you know someone who is exhibiting signs of emotional detachment and who may appear to have some issues with poor self-perception related to perceived failure, encourage them.

Other Problems

Relationship detachment can be the result of issues that have nothing to with the relationship itself.  Feeling stressed or anxious about work, family, or other life demands can cause some people to feel like they need to separate themselves from their emotions. While taking some time to unwind and think about what is going on is okay, completely detaching from emotions can lead to negative impacts on both personal and professional relationships.  Therefore, if you or a loved one is experiencing feelings of emotional detachment that may be related to other stressors, talk to one another and reach out for help, if needed.

How to Fix Relationship Emotional Detachment

It can feel like a difficult decision trying to decide if a relationship is salvageable.  This is especially true in the presence of emotional detachment disorder.  Even the strongest people can experience relationship troubles.  The most important thing to consider is that your personal mental health and well-being is crucial. 

It can be helpful to find a counselor or therapist who works with personal and relationship issues that you can discuss your thoughts, feelings, and hopes for the future with.  Consider your personal goals and dreams and ask yourself what you are willing to do to accomplish them. 

It is unlikely that any relationship that is experiencing difficulties will improve with only one person putting forth effort.  Therefore, it is important to communicate with your spouse or partner as much as possible.

Other Types of Detachment

Mental Detachment (Depersonalization and Derealization)

Mental detachment generally occurs as the result of stressful situations.  It can cause an affected person to feel as though they have lost touch with reality.  Depersonalization is a form of mental detachment that results in a person feeling as though they are on the outside of their body watching what is going on around them.  Derealization is experienced as an intense feeling that reality has been altered or that it is unrecognizable.

Physical Detachment

Anxiety, fear and stress can cause some people to feel like they need to distance themselves from others.  One of the most common ways people deal with stressful situations is to isolate from others.  Although there are times when taking some personal time to relax and reflect can be helpful, it is important to also take time for social interaction with others.  Physical detachment, or self-isolation, can have a countereffect and cause increased feelings of anxiety, stress and even depression. 

 Learning to Cope with Emotional Detachment Disorder

If you are experiencing symptoms of emotional detachment disorder, it is important to reach out for help.  In addition to mental health care, there are some things you can do to try to shift your internal focus and learn to connect with the emotions that you have detached from.

Try Meditation

Meditation is a mental exercise that focuses on training one’s awareness and attention.  It is believed to be helpful in reducing a person’s negative feelings and thoughts.  Meditation helps to increase focus, promote calm, and reduce stress.  There are several apps that are available to teach meditation.  Calm, the Mindfulness app, and Headspace are a few of the most popular apps used for meditation.

Keep a Journal of Your Emotions

Most people do whatever they can to hide from negative thoughts or feelings.  However, learning to face emotions gives one power to embrace even the most uncertain feelings or circumstances.  Finding ways to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings can be a helpful step in learning to connect.  If you are experiencing an influx of emotions and feel overwhelmed, instead of ignoring, suppressing or detaching from the emotions, take the time to write down what you are feeling.  Carve out a set amount of time each day to write about your thoughts and feelings and how they have affected you throughout the day.  Ask yourself questions like, “What triggered these feelings in me?” “What am I feeling at this moment?” “How do I want to feel right now?”  As simple as this may sound, it can be a challenge to write down your emotions at first.  However, with practice and consistency, it will become easier.  Later, you will be able to refer to your journal and make connections with triggers that affect your emotions and see how you have changed with the way you respond to your emotions. 

Practice Self-Soothing Techniques

If you begin to feel emotions that are overwhelming or that make you feel like you need to hide or detach, take a deep breath, count to ten and try to relax.  If you are frustrated or angry, go for a walk.  Exercise releases endorphins which create feelings of happiness or euphoria.  It can help you calm down and begin to find joy in the moment.  Give yourself permission to relax.  If you are tired or stressed, light a candle and take a bubble bath.  You can give yourself a break without breaking away from your emotions. 

Listen to Your Body (Body Mindfulness)

Often, our bodies experience physical responses to emotion before we realize there is a change in our feelings or thoughts.  People with emotional detachment disorder may find it difficult to recognize what their body is saying.    Taking the time to learn what your body is saying and to allow your body’s natural responses the chance to promote balance can make dealing with your emotions easier.  Try to purposefully pay attention to each part of your body and the sensations you feel as you think about each part of your body.  This process will help you learn to connect with emotions and sensations.  Practice deep breathing exercises and try to connect with your emotions rather than detaching from them.  When you feel emotions that feel troubling and you feel like you need to detach from them, try to focus on where the emotion is coming from.  If you feel nauseated or anxious, you can speak positive affirmations to yourself such as, “My emotions will not make me feel anxiety.  Instead, I will embrace my emotions and find balance within myself.”

Don’t be so hard on yourself

It is not uncommon for people with emotional detachment disorder to blame themselves for their inability to develop healthy relationships or to connect to others.  Keep in mind, whether you have detached from others on purpose because you felt the need to protect yourself or you never learned effective ways to communicate and develop relationships with others, it is possible to learn to develop healthy emotional attachments.  Seek help and don’t be so hard on yourself!

Allow yourself to experience vulnerability

Feeling vulnerable can cause a sense of fear, especially if you are accustomed to being detached from emotional responses.  However, learning to be vulnerable can be a helpful step in learning to connect with emotions.  This doesn’t mean that you have to give another person total access to everything that is personal to you.  Begin slowly.  Share a funny story with someone and wait for their response. Allow yourself to accept responses that may not be what you expected without immediately shutting off your emotions.  For example, if you tell someone a story that you think is funny and they don’t seem to find the humor, that’s okay.  You don’t have to conform to the opinions of others, and they don’t have to conform to yours.  However, learning to talk with others and allowing them to communicate with you can create a sense of ease when trying to form healthy attachments.

Avoid the use of alcohol or drugs

An inability to connect with emotion, or the internal tension a person with emotional detachment disorder feels can lead to feeling a need to escape.  Although alcohol and some drugs may help relieve symptoms such as anxiety and sleep disturbances, they can also have an adverse effect on emotional and mental well-being.  Avoid the use of alcohol and do not self-medicate. 

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Don't Be Afraid to Get Help

If you are experiencing symptoms of emotional detachment disorders and feel like getting help may be a good step for you, don’t allow the fear of what emotional connectedness could mean for you keep you from learning to develop healthy attachments.  

Find a Support Group

What is a support group? A support group is any gathering of people who have similar interests or issues.  They may be professionally supervised, as with a counselor or therapist, or may be independently organized by a church or a community group.  Support groups offer an opportunity to meet with and talk to others who are or have experienced the same thing you are going through.  This can help you realize that you are not alone and that there is hope for improving your emotional health and well-being.

Seek a Counselor or Therapist

Mental health professionals, such as licensed professional counselors (LPC), or a therapist are trained to help clients with mental health concerns, such as emotional detachment disorder, understand the disorder and learn ways to cope effectively.  Your primary care physician can usually recommend a counselor or therapist.  Also, most communities have local mental health clinics that offer mental and emotional health support. If you need help and have a counselor or therapist in mind, call today for an appointment for a consultation.  If you don’t know where to turn and would like to see a local therapist, ask your primary care provider for a list of resources and to help connect you with someone.  If the idea of adding another appointment or errand to your life makes you feel more stressed, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options. 

Find a Treatment Center

Some people who are experiencing extreme emotional detachment issues and are experiencing significant impacts related to mental health may find help by visiting an outpatient or inpatient treatment center.  While this option is not always necessary, extreme emotional detachments can cause a significant void that requires more intense help from a mental health professional.  Mental health treatment centers offer professional mental health care in a safe, supportive environment. 

Online Therapy

The internet has created a whole new avenue for people who need to seek mental health treatment.  Online therapy offers individuals access to information regarding mental health and wellness and to treatment by professionals who are trained in these types of issues. One of the benefits of online therapy is that individuals often feel more at ease discussing issues with a mental health professional online than they would in some face-to-face encounters. For example, you can access BetterHelp from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

BetterHelp Supports Healthy Attachments

The experienced team of mental health professionals at BetterHelp want you to help you learn to develop health attachments with friends and loved ones.  You can expect compassion for your feelings and dedication to your care.  When you reach out to BetterHelp, you can expect the counselor who is matched with you to work with you to learn how to identify the source of emotional detachment disorder and to help you develop the skills necessary to help you connect with your emotions so you can begin to develop healthy attachments with others.  Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.   

Counselor Reviews

"Kelcey has been wonderful. I love the interface that lets me communicate with her at almost any time during the day, and I almost feel like I have this 'invisible support' during my days. Even when days have been their darkest, I've known I've had some light."

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"Dr. Broz is excellent. I have been in and out of therapy throughout my life. I've struggled with depression, anxiety, self-medicating and feeling like I can't even. Recently I was in a very dark place and knew I needed to talk to someone right, away. There is something really liberating about having access to someone so experienced and helpful whenever I need it by phone and text. I'm able to be completely honest…I mean completely honest. There is no judgment, she is an excellent listener and provides useful feedback, suggestions, and tools to help me manage and cope. I was hopeless before I started talking to her and I'm on my way to getting back on track thanks to her help."

Coping with Emotional Detachment Disorder is possible with the help of an online counselor. First, you need to learn what your triggers are. Why are you detaching from your feelings? Once you understand what's making you disassociate from your emotions, you and your therapist can work on figuring out how to tolerate your feelings better. You can work on emotional distress tolerance by using the following:

  • Journaling - writing down your feelings in a private space where you can process them
  • Mindfulness meditation - when you start to have big emotions, breathe through them, and don't try to fix them. Sit with your feelings and let them pass.
  • Talking about your feelings with people you trust - Share your feelings with a friend or loved one that you trust. Learning to talk about your feelings will make you feel more comfortable expressing feelings regularly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do I have emotional detachment disorder?

If you're experiencing emotional detachment symptoms, the best place to start is with your primary care provider. Your primary care provider can address your concerns and rule out any physical health issues that may be causing symptoms that mirror emotional detachment. A primary care physician can provide you with a diagnosis, assessment, and referral to a licensed therapist if EDD is discovered.

What causes emotional detachment disorder?

Emotional detachment disorder is a personality disorder that can be caused by many things including childhood trauma, adulthood trauma, abuse, and side-effects of other mental health disorders. Trauma is one of the main contributing factors to emotional detachment disorder. People who experience trauma may become numb as a defense mechanism that later shows up as EDD.

What does it mean to be emotionally unavailable?

When someone is emotionally unavailable they may not demonstrate high levels of physical intimacy or availability. People who are emotionally unavailable don't (or are unable to) invest in the emotions and feelings of others. As a result, they may be perceived as cold or uncaring (which is unintentional in this case.)

What happens when you repress emotions?

When you repress your emotions you don't allow yourself to feel the effects of the circumstances around you. For example, people who experience a traumatic event like abuse or domestic violence may try to normalize the behavior to themselves and deny that they feel hurt, afraid, and ashamed. Repressing your emotions doesn't erase them. It only causes the emotions to express themselves in another way. Repressed emotions can show up in the form of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and sexual promiscuity.

How do you cure repressed emotions?

The first step to take on the journey to curing repressed emotions is to admit to yourself that you have them. If you've been in denial about your feelings and you've begun to realize that it's taking a serious toll on your life, the next step to take is to discuss your options with a licensed professional therapist.

What is it called when you have a lack of emotion?

People who display a consistent lack of emotion that have been diagnosed by a licensed medical provider are said to have an emotional detachment disorder (EDD).

How can you tell if someone is emotionally damaged?

People who display symptoms of emotional detachment disorder may have a hard time establishing close personal relationships. If someone reports that they have a history of childhood trauma, domestic violence, or other similar circumstances, they may be experiencing the effects of EDD or another mental health disorder. Contact a licensed medical professional or therapist to find out for sure.

What it feels like to be emotionally unavailable?

Suffering from personality disorders like EDD or borderline personality disorder can be emotionally and physically painful for the person with a diagnosis of EDD. People with this condition often feel physical and emotional pain related to their inability to physically and emotionally connect with others. While it may seem like the person with EDD is the cold and distant one -- they are often suffering tremendously on the inside and don't know how to express it.

Is emotional detachment a mental illness?

Emotional detachment is not considered a clinical diagnosis, such as bipolar disorder or antisocial personality disorder.  Typically, it is considered part of a larger condition such as personality disorders, attachment disorder, or autism spectrum disorder.  While healthcare providers can perform assessments to gauge emotional response or emotional unavailability toward others, they may also talk to you and/or include a family member or significant other when obtaining a history of past behavioral patterns. 

How do you know if you're broken?

It's not uncommon for people who suffer from emotional detachment disorder or other mental health disorder to feel as if they're broken and unable to be put back together again. Having any physical or mental health disorder can make it feel difficult to connect with others.  However, with the right intervention, it is completely possible to learn ways to cope and to begin to feel whole and happy.  

What is the definition of detachment? 

The definition of detachment is “the condition of being unattached, aloof, separated from affairs or the concerns of others, freedom from prejudice or partiality.” 

Being objective is a good thing. As we said, many will think you're the neutral party to events. Being objective simply means you look at the facts to the truest extent of your ability and don't let any emotions or biases get in the way. When we're objective, we inoculate ourselves against negative and positive biases. Why do we inoculate ourselves against negative and positive biases? Because our own opinions and emotions get in the way.

Someone who is detached may seem more objective as a result. They can get past the roller-coaster of a digital world and look at the news with all the facts. While other people can get off the roller-coaster of a digital world and look at everything through their own personal lens.

We can't talk about the word of the day and the definition of detachment without mentioning the other word, aloof. Aloof is when someone seems uncaring or distant from others. For example, instead of seeming objective about the body of troops in a war, we seem uncaring about the body of troops.

Being aloof can make you seem cool and collected, as if you took a detox vacation against your emotions, but some people seem to have taken a permanent detox vacation, and thus seem unfriendly.

How Do You Cope with Emotional Detachment?

Although emotional detachment disorder issues can be addressed independently, it can become a severe disorder that requires professional help.  One can begin learning to cope with emotional detachment by trying to learn ways to connect with others.  Talking with a mental health professional will also provide a means of support and guidance as you address the source of the emotional detachment and learn effective ways of coping with and expressing emotions.  Journaling, exercising, and practicing self-care are also important things to implement when learning to cope with emotional detachment.  

It’s understandable that you may not want to embrace emotions that are associated with fear or hurt.  However, detaching from emotions and suppressing your natural response to feelings can cause anxiety and depression as well as other mood disturbances.  If you begin to feel the need to detach from your emotions, take the time to practice some deep breathing and refocus your thoughts.  You don’t have to “fix” your feelings.  They are a part of who you are.  You can learn to cope with your emotions and effectively communicate what you are thinking and feeling with others. 

Additionally, don't underestimate the power of friendships. You may be fearful of expressing your feelings to others, but some people care about you and want you to be well. Even if you are feeling numb or empty, try confiding your feelings to a trusted friend or family member.  Acknowledge that you can’t seem to identify with your emotions the way you think others do and ask for help.  A good friend can listen as you express your thoughts and can offer you encouragement as you learn to embrace your emotions and address them in a healthy way. 

It can be concerning when you're unable to connect with other people, especially when you have a desire to develop and maintain intimate relationships. You can't grow close to another person if you're continually disassociating from them. What can you do if you suspect that you have Emotional Detachment Disorder? One of the best actions you can take is to seek mental health counseling.

People who have attachment disorders have benefited from therapy. One study from U.C Berkeley noted that having a secure sense of attachment made it possible for people to care for others in an altruistic way. Attachment plays a massive role in our lives and makes us able to both give and receive love. If you're struggling with developing and maintaining secure attachments, working with a therapist, whether that's one in your local area or an online counselor, can help.

Does domestic violence cause emotional detachment disorder?

Emotional detachment disorder can lead to emotional detachment.  It is important if you are experiencing any form of domestic violence or abuse to reach out to a counselor or therapist for help.  Additionally, if you feel that you are in immediate danger of harm, call emergency services (the National Domestic Abuse Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233).

Can quitting smoking Lead to an emotional stunt?

If you've considered stopping smoking, that's a great thing. Stopping smoking will help improve your overall health. However, quitting smoking cold turkey can spread emotions across your body. It may cause emotions such as depression, anxiety, anger, and apathy. Plus, it may lead to weight gain. The secret to successful weight containment is to quit slowly and adjust diet and exercise. This technique is good for any successful weight loss, too. Protect yourself from emotional turmoil by weaning yourself off, or protect yourself from emotional woes by talking to a doctor as you quit.

What does it mean to be emotionally disengaged?

Emotional disengagement occurs when a person is disconnected from their feelings and appears to have no desire to confront their feelings. 

Is the lack of emotions considered a disease?

Lack of emotions is not considered a disease but may be a symptom mental illness and mental health conditions.  Schizophrenia is one example of mental illness that may cause a lack of emotions in affected individuals. 

Can emotional detachment disorder really be treated?

Yes, there are treatment options for emotional detachment disorder.  The type of treatment needed is generally determined by a person’s age, the cause of emotional detachment disorder and their willingness to be proactive in a treatment plan.


In an age where being open and honest about emotions is encouraged, experiencing emotional detachment disorder can be difficult.  Feeling as if others think something is wrong with you or not being able to communicate your feelings can leave you feeling overwhelmed or as though your only option is to disengage from others. 

However, if you are experiencing feelings of emotional detachment, there is hope.  With the right help, it is possible to learn how to acknowledge and connect with your emotions and to develop healthy emotional responses and attachments.  Whether you choose in-person therapy and support or prefer to engage online counseling, there are always tools available.

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