Sometimes depression can give us overwhelming feelings of sadness and despair. At other times, we feel nothing at all. Emotional numbness can be a symptom of depression. We feel numb to everything around us and everything inside of us. It can leave us feeling totally disconnected from the world.
When we feel emotionally numb, we can feel almost as though we’re a shell of a person. We might feel empty or we could feel thick and heavy. Things that would usually cause us to feel something – be it something great or something icky – can leave us feeling absolutely nothing at all.
We might feel almost as if we’re a ghost, or as though there is a glass bubble around us stopping anything touching or affecting us. It can leave us feeling disconnected from the world around us and from our own body. We might find that we frequently zone out or ‘lose time’. Isolation can creep in. We might feel invisible, transparent, or as though we’re floating.
Some of us might find that we do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do, just to try and feel something.
When we feel this way, we often end up doing things on autopilot. Sometimes we do things on autopilot to the extent that we find ourselves sat down with a hot drink in front of us and have no idea how we got there or where the drink came from. We might not have consciously got out of bed, come downstairs, made a drink, and sat down so we have no memory of it.
Our daily lives can feel like they’re being controlled by someone or something else. There might be times when we hear ourselves talking or see ourselves doing something, but don’t feel as though we’re consciously giving our body messages to talk or move. All of our regular everyday stuff just ‘happens’ as our body operates on autopilot and gets stuff done despite our mind shutting down.
It Can Be Hard To Have A Conversation
When we feel emotionally numb, conversations can be difficult. We might struggle to hear or process what people are saying. This can make it hard to follow the thread of conversation and to formulate an appropriate response. Because of this, our confidence in our ability to socialise might take a battering, which can lead to us isolating ourselves more.
Why Does It Happen
Emotional numbness happens for all sorts of reasons. It can be a result of feeling utterly overwhelmed. When we experience extreme stress, stress hormones can flood different areas of our body which can lead to this numb feeling.
Sometimes our way of coping with everything going on in our lives is to keep pushing it down and ignoring it. In time this can lead to us feeling emotionally numb because we ‘switch off’ from what is going on in our lives.
All of us have times when we are physically and emotionally drained. We’ve spent too much time giving and not enough resting and we reach the point where we feel depleted and exhausted. When this happens, we can begin to feel emotionally numb because quite simply we can’t take any more.
Talk It Out
When it comes to overcoming emotional numbness, leaning on our support system and talking it out can often be a good first step. Those who know us well can help us to look back over the things that have been going on for us recently, and identify things that might have triggered our emotional numbness. They can also help us to talk out anything that’s on our mind, which can help to reduce the amount of overwhelm or stress that we feel.
Make An Appointment
Medication can be a tricky one to get right. It can take some trial and error to find the medication that works for us. If we’re worried that our medication is the cause of our emotional numbness, or if we think that we need our medication increasing or reducing, we could make an appointment with our GP or Psychiatrist to discuss our options.
Get It On Paper
Keeping a journal, whether that be a bullet journal, written journal or a more arty journal, can help us to identify any patterns in our thinking or moods. Sometimes it can help us to link events with our resulting feelings (or lack of feelings). This knowledge of how events in our lives impact us can help us to make changes to reduce the levels of overwhelm we feel. It might be that we realise we need to spend more or less time alone, more or less time out of the house, more or less time in bed; we might need to improve the boundaries that we have in our life, our diet, or the environment we live in. There are all sorts of things that can affect how we feel, and getting it on paper can help us to join the dots. Sometimes it can be helpful to go through some journals with someone we trust because being a little bit removed can allow people to spot some links that we may not have noticed ourselves.
If we’re feeling disconnected from our environment, then grounding can help. It can be really helpful to think of grounding in terms of our five senses. To notice five things we can see, four things we can hear, three we can touch, two we can smell, and one thing we can taste. We might like to take our shoes off and feel the carpet or grass beneath our feet or wrap ourselves in a textured blanket. Turning on a podcast and trying to tune into what they’re saying can help us to connect with what we’re hearing. Using essential oils can help with smells and particularly spicy, sweet, or sour foods can help us to connect with our taste buds. Grounding can help us to feel a little more ‘present’.
Exercise isn’t right for everyone, and some of us are physically unable to move as much as we might like to. But for those of us who can exercise, going for a testing workout, or working our muscles whilst breathing in some fresh air can help us to work through some of our emotions, and to get back in touch with our body and the way it feels.
If our emotional numbness is a result of feeling particularly stressed or overwhelmed then taking some time out to relax, self-soothe, and/or do something we enjoy can allow us to let things settle and to let our emotions wind down. Sometimes all we need is some time for our body and mind to absorb and make sense of the things we have felt and experienced. Sleep can help our minds to work through things, too – it can allow our brains to process information which can help us to cope, and consequently to feel less numb.
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