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Understanding and Evaluating Emotional Numbness

Emotions are integral to the human experience, shaping our interactions and overall well-being. There are painful emotions and happy emotions. Some individuals go through life feeling detached from their emotions and unable to respond to others' feelings. The inability to connect with one and others' emotions is emotional numbness, also known as emotional dissociation.

Emotional numbness refers to the diminished ability to feel and express emotions. It can manifest as a detachment or dissociation from one's feelings. It is a sense of apathy towards emotional experiences. Emotional numbness is a response to traumatic events, prolonged stress, insomnia, or mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

People may consciously or unconsciously be numbing or dissociating from their emotions as a protective mechanism, shielding themselves from overwhelming emotional pain. Emotional numbness is a protective mechanism during periods of severe stress or trauma. When faced with grief and loss, shocking or painful experiences, individuals may temporarily suppress intense emotions to alleviate distress and regain control over their feelings to enable themselves to function and cope with the challenges.

However, while emotional numbness may temporarily relieve the pain and provide a sense of false calm, staying emotionally numb is unhelpful for one's mental health, relationships, and personal growth. There are several reasons why emotional numbness or dissociation from emotions is unhelpful, and they include.

  1. Emotional numbness hinders the ability to fully experience life's joys and pleasures.

  2. The numbing of emotions not only suppresses painful emotions but can also dampen pleasurable feelings. Continual numbing of emotions may include numbing pleasant emotions such as joy, love, and happiness, leading to constant sadness, despair or unhappiness.

  3. Emotional numbness can create barriers in personal relationships because people who detach from their emotions often appear cold and uncaring, leading to constant misunderstandings or disconnectedness

  4. People who suppress their emotions often express their feelings through anger and passive-aggressive behaviours without them even realising it.

  5. Some individuals may experience difficulty remembering essential data when they continually numb their painful emotions and the associated memories.

Emotional numbness can often be a symptom of an underlying mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex post-traumatic stress disorder. (C-PTSD) , which significantly impacts an individual's overall well-being and quality of life.

The opposite of emotional numbness is emotional connectedness. Connecting with emotions enables individuals to empathise with others and feel pleasurable emotions such as joy, warmth and happiness, leading to the capacity to build healthy emotions with others. Recognising one's emotions enables individuals to regulate their strong feelings instead of projecting them on others.

Continual emotional numbness indicates unresolved attachment injury or traumatic experience that requires professional intervention to heal memories that caused the emotional numbness. Counselling and Psychotherapy provides valuable support in recognising and processing the issues that cause emotional numbness. Integration of several therapeutic approaches, such as emotion-focus therapy, psychodynamic therapy, EMDR Therapy, and expressive therapy, help with the processing and reconnecting with the emotions and skills to regulate painful emotions, leading to an increased capacity to connect with others emotionally within a safe boundary.

Restoring Peace is a private mental health centre which provides counselling and psychotherapy services for children, adolescents, youths and adult individuals, couples and groups with anxiety, depression, trauma, grief and various mental health and relationship challenges. For more information, please visit or WhatsApp at +65 8889 1848. We also would like to invite you to join our telegram group,, for periodic updates,

Keywords: counselling, psychotherapy, mental health, trauma, anxiety, depression, emotions, numb, EMDR, Expressive Therapy. Psychodynamic. Dissociation. C-PTSD. Realtionship.


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