Do you remember a time when life used to feel like a rainbow full of bright colors? Or sometimes it can also feel like a roller coaster ride with emotional ups and downs. Have you noticed that your current emotional life is in a different place than before?
Instead of experiencing the natural, exciting waves of joy and sadness, you seem to be feeling nothing but numbness and emptiness. You might think that life is slipping away through your fingers and that you can do nothing to change how you feel. Even in the face of significant events that used to get you emotionally reactive, you feel nothing emotionally overwhelming, lacking emotion towards life and relationships in general.
Do you sometimes feel invisible at home when watching your family members engage with each other, but there seems to be a barrier that keeps you from joining them? Does your partner or spouse complain about your withdrawal from communication or your emotional absence?
If you feel these changes, you might be experiencing what is commonly called “emotional flatness” or “emotional numbness.” People going through this may sense that the world around them seems superficial, and they cannot connect to their environment. Although emotional flatness does not typically get recognized as a mental health disorder, it can be a symptom that points to underlying mental health.
Symptoms of Emotional Flatness
As human beings, our emotional life involves a variety of experiences, with some stronger than others. Being able to feel a full range of emotions is considered a healthy thing.
However, emotional flatness may truncate that rainbow of emotions to just a few. Your emotional reactivity to daily happenings may become very limited. That is why experts refer to this as “the flat effect.” Your ability to express facial emotions and other forms of communication could become hampered.
Quite often, this feeling is only temporary. It may be a self-protection and coping mechanism. However, if prolonged, the numbness can become quite unpleasant and debilitating to yourself and the people around you.
There are many other symptoms of emotional flatness other than a looming sense of numbness, including:
- Feeling less motivated to speak and engage socially
- Reluctance to maintain and build social relationships
- Experiencing constant fatigue, including difficulties concentrating or loss of sexual drive
- Becoming more forgetful and finding it difficult to show affection towards significant people in your life
Some people begin to disconnect between their minds and bodies or between themselves and their environment. They generally feel less alive.
Causes of Emotional Flatness
It is essential to understand why you are experiencing these symptoms of emotional flatness. Sometimes, emotional flatness occurs as a result of traumatic events. People grieving the loss of loved ones may experience this emotional numbing for a reasonable length of time. Abusive relationships may also lead to emotional flatness in the survivor.
For those who live with depression and anxiety, stress hormones may flood your nervous system and limbic system which affect your mood. Both processes may cause you to feel numb and empty. Other times, when you are overtaxed emotionally due to specific events, the depletion of emotional energy can also create emotional numbness for some time.
Emotional flatness may also be a side effect of certain medications. It may occur after taking antidepressant medication, which may reduce your ability to experience and express emotions. Alcohol and drug use can also suppress your nervous system and “flatten” your mood. Other mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder may also have accompanying symptoms of emotional dissociation.
What Can You Do About It?
Depending on the underlying causes, emotional flatness may last anywhere from days to months or even years. Living in this emotional fog is not beneficial for you and your family in the long run. Luckily, there are at-home care measures you can consider to improve this condition on your own. For example:
- Stimulate one or more of your senses by taking a warm bath or eating strong-flavored food
- Re-watching a favorite sentimental movie that used to move you to tears or listening to a previously heart-felt symphony
- Revisit activities that you once enjoyed, such as bowling or museum visits. Such activities may rekindle your memories of fun and positively boost your mood.
Joining a support group can also help you out of this phase of emotional flatness. Give yourself a chance to relearn how to express emotions in a social group setting. You may even vent your frustrations about being in this flat and numb stage. Finding people who share similar symptoms may motivate you to seek progress. It is essential to know that you are not alone. Attending a 12-step group may give you the support you need to get out of emotional flatness.
Have you been feeling numb and empty in your emotional life for a long time? Are you finding it difficult to experience the full range of emotions, such as a burst of heartfelt laughter or a wave of sadness? Is this emotional stage of flatness affecting your relationships in a negative way? Do your loved ones feel that you have been emotionally unavailable to them? These may be telltale signs that you are going through emotional flatness. Do not let it dominate your life. It is time to seek help from mental health professionals who have the experience to help you out of emotional flatness. Schedule an appointment with a licensed mental healthcare professional at Laguna Shores Recovery. We are a complete medical and residential facility offering a range of treatments, including diagnosis, therapy, 12-step programs, and treatment plans. Call us today and our experienced staff can help you walk out of the emotional plateau.
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