Connecting with someone on an emotional level isn’t easy for everyone. Sometimes, it is voluntary and sometimes it’s not. Whether it is at home, work or school, most people have someone whom they can lean on and connect with emotionally. If that’s not the case, you are probably facing emotional detachment. Turning off emotions can affect you relationships. After all, if you are unable to identify your own feelings and experiences of others accurately, there will be problems. Emotional detachment can also affect your mental health, so know how to deal with it.
Health Shots consulted Dr Rishi Gautam, a US-based mental health expert and a specialist of psychiatry, about emotional detachment, and here’s what we got to know.
What is emotional detachment?
Emotional detachment or blunting is a state in which a person feels disconnected from their world on an emotional level. They are unable to identify their own feelings and experiences of others accurately, says Dr Gautam. He notes that this is not recognised as a distinct psychological condition as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatry (DSM V). But it is a symptom that is often seen in people suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress.
Emotional detachment can affect relationships
For people experiencing emotional detachment, it appears like an inability to appreciate what they are feeling and recognise other’s responses. They may come across as cold, distant, and disinterested while being none of that, says the expert. It leads to serious disruptions in relationships, decreased intimacy, feelings of abandonment and mistrust.
Emotional detachment affects mental health
The most agonising part of this experience is the inability for the person to make others understand what they are going through. They struggle with advocating for their needs, they feel not heard leading to progressively alienating people. They have challenges setting appropriate boundaries within relationships while constantly getting frustrated doing so. This significantly increases risks of developing mental health conditions or worsening them, says Dr Gautam.
People facing emotional detachment may feel
• Persistently low or irritable mood
• Changes in sleep pattern and appetite
• Pervasive sense of poor self-worth and self-doubt
• Decreased interest in everyday activities
• Hopelessness about overcoming these issues
Emotional detachment can be a protective response
Sometimes, emotional detachment can be a protective response, especially for people who have experienced major psychological trauma. Dr Gautam says that it is the mind’s natural way of “shutting down” to protect itself. In such cases, it feels like a dissociative reaction like detaching yourself from everyday life to seek safety. This helps in the short term, but in the long run, it can be problematic as it hinders your ability to form meaningful relationships which we all need to survive and grow. Post-traumatic stress feels like emotional coldness and an inability to experience trust, love, and bonding. It’s being always on the edge fearing another attack or fearing another betrayal, eventually leading to avoidance of normative experiences.
How to deal with emotional detachment?
Try these tips to fix emotional detachment in your personal relationships.
• Identify these experiences and appreciate if this is different from your baseline temperament. It is not normal if these experiences are intense and disruptive to your life.
• Keep a journal as it is often easier to write feelings and thoughts in a private space than share it with people.
• Meditate and practice mindfulness as this promotes a more positive outlook and increases self-awareness.
• Seek support within your close friends or family who you trust would listen.
• Avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. It only makes matters worse.
• Practice good sleep hygiene as sleep is very under appreciated and is most restorative thing we can do for our brain.
• Maintain a healthy lifestyle consisting of exercise, balanced diet, limit screen time and social media exposure.
• Seek a mental health evaluation and treatment if lifestyle modification measures don’t help enough. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a form of counseling proven to help with these issues.