What is “emotional numbness?”
One symptom I wish more people understood is feeling numb. A sense of hollowness — like a dull, numb lump — often defines me when I’m really down. It’s a shitty, zombie state of gray flatness. Life passes by and you won’t bother to wave at it because you don’t really care. In fact, you just don’t really feel anything.
She’s not the only one who has felt this way, so we asked our Mighty community to share something they do because they’re emotionally “numb.” You can read what they shared below.
If you can relate to feeling numb, you’re not alone. Whether you’re struggling with numbness from a struggle with mental illness symptoms, the impact of trauma, grief or something else, we want you to know we see you. We are so grateful you’re here and in our community. If you’re struggling, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question about it on the site to get support from other people in our community who get it.
Here are things people don’t realize you’re doing because you’re emotionally “numb”:
1. You Isolate
“I isolate myself behind the ‘introvert’ behavior when really, I’m hiding. I’m barely out in public. When I do, it’s usually forced — shopping, events or errands. I make myself go out to do those things. Point A (work) to point B ( home) is all I focus on.” — Janelle F.
2. You “Overreact” or Don’t React at All
“I’m in the ‘either or’ mode… either I overreacted or I don’t react at all.. I can be functional with a smile, but inside I’m completely numb.” — Ashley W.
3. You Have Trouble Hearing and Processing What’s Going on Around You
“When I go numb, I basically stop hearing and stop processing most of the world around me, going into work mode so people just assume I’m busy or in a bad mood.” — Cathryn C.
4. You Don’t Laugh Out Loud Anymore
“Something I’ve noticed I’ve been doing lately is not reacting externally if, say, I watch a funny YouTube video, but I can still feel myself laughing internally. It’s like my brain knows it’s funny, but I have no outward expression whatsoever.” — Katie S.
5. You Are Extra Forgetful
“Day-to-day I’ll be extra forgetful, forget to message people back, have to ask people to repeat things and might seem like I’m not listening when I’m actually just not present. I get extra clumsy too and tend to knock things over or walk into things. When I’m conscious it’s happening and can’t seem to get back to reality, I tend to switch onto self-destruct mode to try and get some feeling back.” — Harriet L.
6. You “Zone Out”
“I zone out to the point I’m only physically there, but mentally elsewhere and emotionally dead. I will just sit and not interact with people or my surroundings. If I’m walking, I will hold onto the person and that’s the only way I stay with them.” — Raven M.
7. You Have No Desire to Date
“A different one for me is dating. Some don’t understand how I can go such long periods of time being single, without even showing interest in dating, but it was the last thing on my mind.” — Amanda Z.
8. You Sleep a Lot
“Sleeping in the middle of the day.” — Emily S.
9. You Pick Fights to Feel Something
“Personally, when I go numb, I try to pick fights with my fiancé, in order to get a reaction of emotion, since I can’t feel any emotion myself and me trying to push him away since I am uncomfortable with myself. Then, once the battle is over and my numbing state is satisfied, it is as though I come back, with a full experience of emotions, and begin to cry because I feel so horrible for words I didn’t mean, despite not being able to explain what happened. Overall, it seems like for a brief time, I lose myself completely and all control of my mental processing.” — Autumn T.
10. You Put Yourself in “Risky” Situations
“Something people don’t realize I’m doing because I’m emotionally numb is placing myself in risky situations. I’m willing to come to harm physically and/or emotionally so that I feel something — anything — other than the ‘nothingness’ of being numb.” — Louisa T.
11. You Seem “Robotic”
“I say exactly what I am thinking. I turn into a robot I have very little empathy and my body language and voice are flatlined. When I am numb like that, I’m usually trapped in my head — sitting, staring and waiting to come back to myself.” — Nicole S.
12. You Experience More Anxiety and Panic Attacks
“Having panic attacks instead of feeling negative emotions. I don’t like being mad or sad. I’m numb to those negative emotions because of trauma and PTSD. I just get anxious instead.” — Liz T.
13. You Distract Yourself Frequently
“I begin to distract myself by playing games on my phone, or I clean. I do whatever I can because I become so uncomfortable I cannot sit in the anxiety and discomfort.” — Dana B.
14. You Have Trouble Following Social Cues
“I interrupt. I don’t hear lots of what is happening, I have trouble following social cues and I just interrupt people.” — Kristy G.
15. You Self-Medicate
“I pretend I’m happy and not affected by the situation at all, while I go numb myself physically with substances.” — Lauryn L.
16. You Seem “Emotionless”
“I’m totally emotionless. I don’t get excited, or show facial expressions.” — Justin L.