How to overcome emotional numbness

Updated March 23, 2017

Emotional numbness involves moderate to severe feelings of detachment. You may not experience any feelings, even positive ones, such as joy or love for a close family member. Emotional numbness can be caused by grief, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Emotional numbness can be a "normal reaction to an abnormal situation," according to Common trauma sources that provoke emotional numbness include auto accidents, the death of a loved one, a relationship break-up, a humiliating experience or diagnosis of a life-threatening illness.

Respect and allow all of your emotions. Trying to suppress negative feelings can actually lead to resurfacing of these emotions at inappropriate times, increased numbness or depression, according to the Mens Health Forum.

Realise that feelings can be separated from actions. For example, you can feel anger without becoming violent.

Identify what your emotions may signal. Write down all of your feelings--good and bad--and investigate what each may be trying to tell you. For example, although it is unpleasant, feeling angry may be a sign that someone has treated you unfairly.

Ask for support from friends and family. Establish a daily routine, avoiding isolation and taking good care of your physical health with rest, diet and exercise.

Pursue self-help strategies. Ground yourself by finding peaceful spots outside or scanning a room for specific objects such as red or blue items, recommends Guide your the mind to the present to restore calmness and the ability to feel.

Try alternative therapies like hypnosis or Reiki. Researchers have demonstrated that hypnosis shows promise in breaking emotional numbness, according to the Florida Institute of Technology. Reiki, a Japanese healing technique based on bringing the body's energy into alignment, can reduce stress and promote well-being.

Seek professional help if symptoms persist or do not fade with time. See a doctor if the emotional numbness is disrupting work or daily routines, interferring with making or keeping relationships or causing you to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol or other self-destructive behaviour.

Choose a trauma specialist that is right for you. Your therapist should be a partner in your recovery, and you should feel your therapist treats you with compassion and respect. If you feel uncomfortable sharing your feelings with a therapist, find someone else.

Understand the treatment plan. Professional treatment for emotional numbness will likely include dealing with the trauma induced memories, learning to control strong emotions and finding ways to rebuild trust with others, according to


Emotional health is not about feeling great all of the time, and the trick to warding off emotional numbness is to "develop a positive attitude toward all feelings," according to the Mens Health Forum. You need to experience the bad, such as anger and sadness, to fully appreciate the good, like joy and satisfaction. Breaking through emotional numbness takes time and will vary from person to person.

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About the Author

Eryn Travis has over 15 years of freelance-writing experience. She has written for "Aviation News Today" and was the managing producer and host for the cable TV news show of the same name. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Maryland and is finishing up a master's degree in communication studies from West Chester University.