Have you ever wondered why your emotional life feels devoid of ups and downs or sadness and joy? Do you feel numb toward everything or feel like life is slipping through your fingers? Does this emotional numbness prevent you from bonding with loved ones? There may be a reason for this: emotional blunting.
Research shows that substance abuse may lead to emotional numbness or emotional blunting. This term describes a person’s limited emotional reactivity despite external stimuli. For example, you may feel like your emotions are switched off during early sobriety. While recovering from substance use disorder (SUD), emotional blunting is best treated by addressing the underlying cause or causes.
Deeper Causes Leading to Emotional Blunting
Many causes can contribute to the tendency to numb your emotions. Some people experience emotional blunting after traumatic events as a means of self-preservation. When relational abuse and SUD exist, they reinforce a state of emotional avoidance, consciously or subconsciously. Grief and loss may work the same way. These situations can provoke emotional blunting as well.
When stress hormones flood your nervous system, they affect mood regulation. This makes sadness and emptiness the most dominant, painful emotions. When your nervous system becomes overtaxed by such trauma-induced stress, your emotional energy may deplete, leading to emotional flatness.
Long-term substance abuse causes drugs or alcohol to hijack and suppress your nervous system similarly. When other mental health disorders co-occur, they may cause dissociation and emotional blunting.
Detecting the Warning Signs
Usually, people react to daily happenings with a wide range of emotions: shock, curiosity, anger, joy, pleasure, and more. However, the “flattening” effect of emotional blunting dampens the diversity and extremity of your emotions. It may also affect communication.
As a result of emotional flatness, you may not speak much or refrain from socializing. When others approach you with good or bad news, perhaps you show little interest or have muted facial expressions. It is challenging to have two-way conversations in this state, as you’re likely highly non-communicative due to emotional blunting. Additionally, you may seldom need to tell anyone anything about yourself or how you are doing.
Apart from verbal and social dissociation, when you experience emotional blunting, you may seem to lose the ability to care for others. You might even begin to disconnect from your loved ones. Emotional blunting hampers your ability to self-reflect on your emotional state. It can take great effort to figure out what you need because you generally feel unable to put your desires into words.
Recovering From Emotional Blunting
If you or a loved one is recovering from SUD and displays obvious emotional blunting symptoms, remember that this is partly due to chemical changes in your brain and nervous system. Your loved ones might be able to help by encouraging you to continue sobriety and counseling. There are many other ways to accelerate emotional recovery.
Emotional recovery begins with the awakening of your senses and self-awareness. Have your loved ones help you initiate conversations about memories, using photos to help you remember the joys of fun family events. Doing so can lift you out of your emotional fog. Re-watching a favorite movie or one that has caused an emotional response in you before can also help.
Allow yourself to enjoy massages or warm baths that stimulate your senses can also help sharpen your emotional state. Ask your loved ones to cook your favorite meal. Bring close family and friends for quality time that feels refreshing. All these efforts can help enrich your emotional life.
Some drugs and medications result in more emotional blunting than others. For example, many antidepressants rely on suppressing the nervous system. Whether you’ve been addicted to a drug used as an antidepressant or have been prescribed one for a mental health diagnosis, healing from emotional blunting is possible. Sometimes, it takes time; other times, you can work with your doctor to adjust your dosage or type of antidepressant.
In short, to heal from emotional blunting, you need to take charge. The more you express your emotional state, the more it will return in a satisfying and meaningful way.
Moving Past Emotional Blunting
It is human nature to feel a wide range of emotions. Different forms of talk therapy and medications can help you regain your entire range of emotions after getting treatment for SUD. Additionally, you should use all kinds of support to help you articulate, express, and explore emotions.
Because your mind and body are interconnected, doing physical exercises and exploring new places enrich the mind. Regularly practicing mindfulness can help you “get back into your body,” making you feel bodily sensations or the mind-body connection in a renewed way. Other ways to access your emotional world include journaling, participating in 12-Step meetings, and other evidence-based recovery programs, such as experiential therapy. Healing from the weight of emotional blunting can be a long journey, so allow yourself to become grounded in reality one day at a time.
Feeling a wide range of emotions can be challenging for recovering individuals. People prone to withdrawing from social life may also be more reluctant to seek professional help. To overcome emotional blunting, work with a competent team of health professionals. Laguna Shores Recovery offers year-round support and care. When you need help overcoming SUD and co-occurring issues like emotional bluntness, we can help. Our mental health professionals and recovery experts are always on call to support you in times of need. You do not need to struggle alone. Your emotional health matters to us. We have the methods to make you feel more alive and grounded again. Call us today at (866) 229-9923 for a consultation.