Emotional Numbness

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You are a male marmoset who has a partner and newborns behind you. You cherish your newborns and lick them, protect them from predators and find the perfect shelter for them. You are taking care of your partner who just gave birth to the newborns,you are letting her rest and now you’re taking the lead. 

One day as you walk through the forest as your usual routine goes on to find food for your family – you are pounced on! You are are pounced upon by a hungry lion, who injures you seriously. When you come back to consciousness after the attack and see five hungry lions approaching you. You know you’re injured and cannot move.Your body cannot go into fight or flight response, because you are injured. These lions are approaching you one step at a time, they come very close to you. You have accepted your fate, the agony and the pain you’re going to experience. However, the lions sniff you, circle around you a few times and walk away. They haven’t killed you. 

You just went through such an emotionally excruciating experience. You were ultimately safe and now have to get up and continue your life as normal. You have to feed and love your family as normal. 

You, the male marmoset didn’t process those excruciating experiences, you just got up and continued – almost as if nothing happened. 

Symptoms of emotional numbness

Feelings of emptiness—a lack of meaning or purpose. It’s a constant numbness of feelings and emotions. Sometimes, the person suffering might not even realize that they are experiencing the symptoms of emotional numbness, unless they are put in a situation in the present which they have been in before but have stoic emotions in the present, as opposed to the past. If you’re suffering from emotional numbness, it’s not that you are unable to feel pain, rather you’ve suppressed the pain. 

Very commonly emotional numbness is found with depersonalization-derealization (DPDR) 

If you find yourself : 

  • In distress
  • feeling disconnected from one’s body or thoughts (dissociation)
  • feeling detached from the outside world (derealization)
  • feeling like a stranger or outsider in one’s own life (depersonalization)
  • distorted or confused sense of time
  • feeling dead or not-alive
  • feeling empty or hollow
  • feeling meaningless, worthless, or hopeless
  • feeling as though one’s sleepwalking through everyday activities
  • impaired social functioning or withdrawal from social settings
  • lack of emotional senses, processing, and responses
  • lack of bodily senses, processing of internal signals, and responses
  • altered body perceptions
  • feeling a loss of control over what one says or does
  • feeling disconnected from memories or memory loss
  • altered sense of sight, where objects and noises appear more dim, lifeless, flat, artificial, and larger or smaller than normal
  • altered sense of sound where noises appear louder or softer than normal
  • feeling “crazy” or mentally unstable
  • always checking to make sure outside things and perceptions are real
  • feeling emotionally and physically exhausted regardless of exercise level or amount of sleep
  • failing to enjoy activities or hobbies

You maybe be suffering with emotional numbness. 

Don’t Put it At The Back

You might not even realize that we are suffering because you might be unconsciously and constantly distracting ourselves. With either excessive studying, excessive working or excessive physical exertion. It could be several ways that you might distract yourselves.

There are 2 types of people when it comes to distraction: 

  •  Where one type is when people busy themselves so much that they never want to think about it. 
  • The second type who think so much about it that they don’t want to move on. 

Both types lead to a conflict which leads to not wanting to acknowledge the struggle and not wanting to submit back to the creator. 

When people try to busy themselves by doing many things, it’s more of avoidance. People busy themselves when they don’t want to think about the cause of their problem or pretend like there is no problem. 

People with emotional numbness tend to shut down, it makes them not FEEL or GO through a particular or any kind of emotion. Of course there are different ways people deal with it. This is just one way. 

Sometimes people just get up and continue their routine life like nothing happened. They go all stoic about the situation. 

What else can the male marmoset do? He still needs to take care of this family. The safest way to get by is go stoic, like it never happened and continue on.

What Causes Emotional Numbness 

When you are put in an emotionally and physically overwhelming situation. It could be life threatening or it could simply be a sudden change in life. It could be a traumatic experience, loss of loved one or major rejection. 

“Stress hormones can affect the limbic system. The limbic system is located near the center of your brain and is responsible for your emotions. Stress hormones can also affect other hormones in your body, which in turn can affect your mood. Both effects can cause you to feel numb … Your body can become so stressed that you become overtaxed emotionally and physically fatigued. That depletion of both emotional and physical energy can create emotional numbness.” (Healthline) 

Regardless of the event, when your mind and body have been emotionally exerted to their limits – it is from this circumstance that people develop emotional numbness. 

The effects  of emotional numbness

You are trying to continue with your life while feeling empty and not being able to resonate to your surroundings. Being emotional numb can affect your mental state and several important aspects of your life. 

  • Depersonalization (DP)

A state in which one’s thoughts and feelings seem unreal or not to belong to oneself, or in which one loses all sense of identity. 

It’s like you are not yourself, but a third person stuck in your body. You feel like you’re not in control of your limbs, actions and words, rather someone else is and you are witnessing it. 

While the male marmoset was lying on the ground and accepting its fate – How do you think his body survived such an excruciating experience? He depersonalized, so that now he isn’t in complete presence of his situation, depersonalization creates this screen between your perspective and your experience. 

  • Derealization (DR)

Is an alteration in the perception or experience of the external world so that it seems unreal. Symptoms include feeling as though one’s environment is lacking in spontaneity, emotional coloring, and depth. 

It’s like you are watching your life and it’s surrounding from a third person perspective. Some people even describe it as a drone watching themselves from up above or even as a dream. Their surroundings don’t feel real.

The male marmoset had to not only create a screen between himself and his experience, but also create a farther view from his real surroundings. He’s now viewing his surroundings as a third person.

The truth about DPDR is that these are coping mechanisms used by our body. They are used when your body is emotionally overwhelmed, or you’re put in a life threatening situation or in any situation where you are emotionally and physically overwhelmed. DPDR helps you to come out of yourself and makes you and your surroundings feel unreal. Most people experience DPDR for a couple of minutes, and only very rarely do people experience DPDR for years together. 

If you still feel such emotions even after the event has passed, perhaps you are still experiencing it. And your body and mind haven’t processed these emotions yet. 

  • Relationships 

Your close relationships like your immediate family, or your spouse and your close friends are being affected as well. You might not be communicating your feelings or how you really are, so there is a lack of honest communication that might confuse your loved ones as to  why you are behaving differently than before.  

  • Over-dependence on partner to meet all emotional needs
  • Emotional needs not getting met in the relationship 
  • Lack of emotional connection, quality time, or physical connection
  • Boredom
  • Stress or pressure from outside circumstances, such as a new job or moving, on the relationship
  • Communication issues
  • Infidelity 
  • Mental health issues that affect one partner

In  reality, if you aren’t settled with your own mental health, you will not be able to give your best to those you cherish. 

  • Advancing in our education/ career

You might lose the drive or the motivation to feed towards your goals or even have goals to begin with. Or your mental state might be making you lack efficiency in your current work or study, and negatively affecting them. 

This is when you must realize that your condition is affecting your daily life and you need to address it. You need to face it and put in all your energy and try to find the cause and help yourself or take help from those around you. 

What can you do? 

You need to accept and acknowledge it and stop putting it to the back. Start putting that energy forth. Let your emotions flow. Confide in your closest confidante and spill your heart. 

  • Meet your psychiatrist 

There are long term and immediate relief cures as well. Your psychiatrist might help assess you emotions, and find a way to cope with this numbness or even analyze your symptoms – when do they feel better, or when does it feel worse? The long term treatment is anti depressants, which take six weeks to come into effect. Anti – anxiety medications will help immediately. (Healthline) 

  • Exercise 

Your body is able to release stress through physical exercise the best. This is best because you want to take in as little stress as possible. The best time for you might be at the end of the day – just relax and release stress.

  • Minimize stress 

You must be in a constant effort to minimize your stress in any way. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself again. You need to release the deep stress that has built up. 

  • Plenty of rest 

Now that you’ve exercised too physically release stress, and are actively taking measures to keep yourself emotionally calm. You need to rest your body as well. Resting yourself will allow your body to not only relax but also process the de-stressing that you’ve been working on. 

  • Reflect 

This needs the most energy and can also be very difficult at times. You must make sure to pause and take your surroundings in, and internalize this as reality. Even during your five daily prayers, be sure you are present in every minute of it. You need to be bringing yourself to reality. Try your best to limit the times you zone out. 

Be constantly aware of your surroundings. And as a result this will.help you be more aware of your emotions as well. 

Even if you feel like it’s unbearable

Know very clearly that there is hope. As unbearable as it seems, there is a cure for you. 

Pray to Allah and spill your heart to him. If you are confused, lost, broken and cannot see light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you feel you have lost your relationship with Allah too – go back to him in whatever and whichever way you are. 

You can start to see the end of this emptiness by acknowledging it. It’s okay to ask for help. 

References:

          Huizen, Jennifer. “Feeling Numb: Causes and How to Manage Emotional Numbness.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 17 Nov. 2017, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320049.php.

        Team, GoodTherapy Editor. “Emptiness.” Therapy for Feeling Empty, Chronic Feelings Of, GoodTherapy, https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/emptiness.
         Understanding Emotional Numbness – Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/feeling-numb.

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