How to Cope with Emotional Numbing

After being traumatized it’s common to feel as if you can’t make sense of life anymore. You’re just going through the motions; you’re not living anymore.

Initially, this is a way to cope, and protect yourself from further pain.

However, although there may be value in your brain shutting down, emotional numbness stops us living a full life.

What are the symptoms of emotional numbing?

– Feeling disconnected from the world around you (feeling zoned out, like you’re living in a fog; feeling like you’re an observer rather than a participant in the world)

– Feeling disconnected from your body and mind (finding it hard to feel anything at all)

– Feeling disconnected from the person you once were (feeling you don’t know who you are anymore)

– Feeling you don’t care about what happens to you (which can result in us putting ourselves in potentially dangerous situations)

– An inability to function in social situations

– Wanting to withdraw and self-isolate

– Feeling empty, hopeless and hollow inside

– An inability to concentrate and focus

– Memory loss (in general, and related to specific events surrounding the traumatic incident)

–  Having zero interest in activities we previously enjoyed

– Feeling tired and lethargic all the time (accompanied by a deep desire for sleep, or the desire to block out the whole of life.)

What can you do about it?

1. Probably the most helpful option is to find a therapist or counsellor who is experienced in dealing with trauma. He or she will have a range of techniques they can use to help unlock buried emotions (such as EMDR).

2. Try to work on identifying your feelings. Naming subtle changes in your body and emotions (such as noticing if you have butterflies in your stomach) can help you get in touch with yourself again. They are sending you a message that you’re still alive.

3. Mindfulness exercises (where you are checking in with different parts of your body) can also alert you to small, subtle changes in your body and breathing. These can help you to notice you’re still able to feel – and also that you’re able to control how you feel (even if this ability is somewhat limited.)

4. Find creative outlets for expressing your emotions (such as journaling, creative writing, painting, writing or music etc) The more you get into the flow, and regularly invest in these activities, the easier you will find it to access and release trapped emotions.

5. Try moving your body. Often physically moving (such as going for a walk) can jolt us into feeling more alive again. This is partly the result of endorphins being released. Also, this bypasses our need to think – which can be good.  

Your trauma is not your fault. You couldn’t have prevented it.”

16 thoughts on “How to Cope with Emotional Numbing

    • Thanks for sharing this Brian. I’m glad you were able to identify what worked best for you. A lot of people find writing therapeutic (and also prayer). I found walking helped, maybe because it was putting into action the ‘flight’ component of the fight/ flight response 🙂


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