13 Signs You’re Struggling With Emotional Numbness and How To Overcome

Signs Struggling Emotional Numbness

Are you suffering from emotional numbness? At some point or another we’ve all heard these words before: “Suck it up, princess!” “Be a man!” “Stop being a cry-baby,” “Get over it,” “Stop being so sensitive,” “Get thicker skin!” Right?

While these words were likely spoken without consciously intending us long-term harm, they nevertheless point to a common and undeniably tragic truth in our society: that expressing your emotions is a sign of weakness, rather than strength.

If you were born into an emotionally repressed culture that valued the “masculine” ideals of efficiency and logic, it is likely that you struggle with some level of emotional numbness. If you were born into a family that shunned any form of strong emotional expression, it is even more likely that emotional numbing is an issue for you.

And if you experienced an extremely traumatic life event that was simply too overwhelming for you to handle (from which you haven’t recovered), I can almost guarantee that you suffer from emotional numbness.

So how does emotional numbness impact virtually every part of our life? And what advice can I share with you after going through my own struggle with this issue? Keep reading and you’ll find out.

WHAT IS EMOTIONAL NUMBNESS?

Emotional numbness is a defence mechanism employed by the mind to avoid intense and overwhelming emotions such as fear, hatred, jealousy, and grief. When you go emotionally numb, you lose the ability to feel and experience your emotions on a psychological and emotional level. In this sense, emotional numbness is often clinically connected with dissociation, which is the disconnection from one’s memories, identity, environment, body, or senses.

Related: Structural Dissociation: How Complex Trauma Causes A Split In Our Being

WHAT CAUSES EMOTIONAL NUMBNESS?

As with most issues, emotional numbness goes back to childhood and the way we were raised by our parents. Being abused by our parents physically, emotionally, sexually, psychologically, or spiritually can contribute towards our inability to self-regulate emotions, which results in emotional numbness. Feeling alienated or disconnected from one or both of our parents, or family at large, can also contribute towards emotional numbness. Being punished whether directly or indirectly for expressing our emotions in childhood also creates emotional numbness.

Numbing our emotions may also start after a severely traumatic experience, such as witnessing acts of violence, being assaulted, experiencing rape, suffering intense loss, or anything that we didn’t have the capacity to psychologically and emotionally handle in the moment. For this reason, emotional numbness is often a symptom of PTSD and various anxiety disorders.

Emotional numbness is also influenced by our culture and wider social circles, particularly those that emphasize being stoic, rational, and emotionally invulnerable (e.g. British, Chinese, Japanese, Russian).

THE DANGER OF EMOTIONAL NUMBNESS

If you even have the slightest inkling that you might be emotionally numb, it’s time to listen up. Emotional numbness is not a small character flaw or minor area of self-growth to improve in – it is a serious problem which needs to be addressed immediately.

Speaking from experience, emotional numbness has formed the root of many issues I have faced (and still continue to face) in my life. Due to my upbringing in an emotionally stunted, dogmatically religious family whom I felt disconnected from for the majority of my life, I never learned how to handle strong emotions. I was punished verbally, emotionally or physically anytime I expressed strong emotions, and freethinking or any form of dissent was rejected, resulting in being ostracized.

Related: The Stages Of Grief: Ways To Cope With Loss and Minimize The Pain

The combination of having a British father and a mother who was traumatized by her own emotionally unstable mother – on top of oppressive fundamentalist religion – led to grooming me as a stoic and “stable” person who was taught that expressing emotions was not only bad but shameful.

As you can see, sometimes there are numerous factors in play which may contribute to your inability to regulate intense emotions, and therefore resort to unconsciously numbing them. In my case, I learned that strong emotions = punishment in one form or another, and so I learned that they were dangerous to experience.

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1 thought on “13 Signs You’re Struggling With Emotional Numbness and How To Overcome”

  1. Greetings luna, thank you for this great article I grew up emotionally numb with the exception of wanting to find love and travel the world. I thought something was wrong with me and my whole life was like looking at the world through an eternal window. Emotionally numbness will not allow you to often feel what others feel. Lost of love ones if it’s natural death doesn’t rattle you like it do others. You force your life to try to be there especially if it effects someone you love. Thank you for this awesome writing.

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