Depression and Emotional Numbness

Depression comes with a host of symptoms – lack of energy, sleeplessness, changes in diet, sense of guilt or hopelessness, etc.  Many feel an overwhelming sense of despair while depressed.  There is a sense of drowning in a sea of emotion.  Some don’t feel anything at all.  This is called emotional numbness. 

Numbness can encompass you and zap all feeling.  It’s not about crushing anxiety or hopelessness.  It’s about literally not feeling anything.  There is no happiness, there is no anger, there is no sorrow, there is no worry – there is only nothingness. 

Sometimes this is brought on by having an emotional overload and the mind completely shuts down as a result.  Think about a time that you were so upset or sad about something that you cried yourself to the point of exhaustion.  Or more likely in the case of men, worked yourself to the point of sheer exhaustion.  That is basically what it’s like only with feelings.  One becomes so overloaded with feelings of despair, guilt, helplessness that the body and brain can’t handle anymore and closes up shop. 

Other times emotional numbness is about suppressing emotions.  Instead of letting emotions get to the point of overload, some people push the emotions out completely.  In their mind, it is better to feel nothing than go through the pain of what is happening or has happened.

People who were raised to not show emotion when things are less than desirable also have problems with numbness.  These are the people who grew up in situations where there could have been abuse or an alcoholic or drug abuser in the family.  As a way of dealing with the stress of family life, they would shut down unwittingly.  It then becomes an ingrained way to deal with all stress.

Medication is another culprit.  Side effects of some depression and anxiety medication can cause a shutdown of emotions.  This can be easily fixed if reported to the physician.

Being emotionally numb is a scary place to be.  The nothingness that is felt can be terrifying.  It feels as though it will never end.  I have been there more often than I care to admit.  I feel like a robot when I go numb.  I go through the motions of life while feeling completely disconnected.  I often wonder why the whole world is still moving forward when it isn’t really going anywhere.  Everything is useless.

I can be watching a movie that I would normally find funny, but don’t even crack a smile.  Eric can buy me flowers just because and I know I should be grateful and feel loved, but … nothing.  Ry can come up to me, look me straight in the eye and smile – a moment that would otherwise melt my heart, but again nothing.

It’s chilling to be so apathetic.  The nothingness is what makes it so horrible.  Nothingness leads to a sense of detachment.  Nothing matters so therefore we don’t matter.  Nothing we do matters.  Nothing we say matters.  Nothing that happens around us matters.  Relationships suffer.  Jobs suffer.  Life becomes meaningless.  It’s when the suicidal voices start for me.  The ones that tell me nothing is worth the effort.  That there’s no point to any of it. 

Isolation is a trademark of emotional numbness.  Not necessarily on purpose though.  It just makes sense that if nothing matters, it is very difficult to pretend it does around friends and family.  If time is spent with friends and family, our cold indifference is sure to be clear no matter how much we try to hide it.  So, to avoid social interaction all together is much easier. 

When the numbness hits, it is so very important to remember that it will not last forever.  It’s important to count our blessings and remember all the good times we’ve had.  We must fight the darkness.  It’s also important to talk about it.  Talking about our lack of feelings can actually help bring them back – especially if we talk in terms of feeling.  When I’m depressed to the point of numbness, if I can talk to my therapist or someone I trust, I can usually get to a point that isn’t so void.  Another thing to do is to write about it – in a journal or through poetry. 

Although depression can manifest itself in many different ways, the worst can be the emptiness of emotional numbness.  But remembering that it’s temporary really can help us push through.


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