Why You May Experience Emotional Detachment and What to Do About It (2023)

Emotional detachment is an inability or unwillingness to connect with other people on an emotional level. It may help protect some people from unwanted drama, anxiety, or stress.

For others, detachment isn’t always voluntary. Instead, it’s the result of events that make the person unable to be open and honest about their emotions.

Below you’ll read about the different types of emotional detachment and learn when it’s a good thing and when it might be worrisome.

Emotional detachment describes when you or others disengage or disconnect from other people’s emotions. It may stem from an unwillingness or an inability to connect with others.

There are two general types. In some cases, you may develop emotional detachment as a response to a difficult or stressful situation. In other cases, it may result from an underlying psychological condition.

Emotional detachment can be helpful if you use it purposefully, such as by setting boundaries with certain people or groups. Boundaries can help you maintain a healthy distance from people who demand much of your emotional attention.

But emotional detachment can also be harmful when you can’t control it. You may feel “numbed” or “muted.” This is known as emotional blunting, and it’s typically a symptom or issue that you should consider working with a mental health professional to address.

Learn more about emotional blunting here.

Symptoms of emotional detachment

(Video) What Is Emotional Detachment? | BetterHelp

People who are emotionally detached or removed may experience symptoms such as:

  • difficulty creating or maintaining personal relationships
  • a lack of attention, or appearing preoccupied when around others
  • difficulty being loving or affectionate with a family member
  • avoiding people, activities, or places because they’re associated with past trauma
  • reduced ability to express emotion
  • difficulty empathizing with another person’s feelings
  • not easily sharing emotions or feelings
  • difficulty committing to another person or a relationship
  • not making another person a priority when they should be

Emotional detachment can slowly build over time, or it may occur more rapidly in response to an acute situation. Though everyone is different, some signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • inability to feel emotions or feeling empty
  • losing interest in enjoyable activities
  • becoming less involved in relationships
  • showing little or no empathy toward others
  • being harsh or unkind to others

If you suspect you may be developing emotional detachment, you should consider talking with your doctor. They can help identify your symptoms and recommend potential treatment options.

Emotional detachment may develop due to a variety of potential causes, which can include:

  • constant exposure to bad or unpleasant news
  • traumatic experience
  • abuse
  • side effects of certain medications
  • conditioning as a child due to parental or cultural expectations

What causes emotional detachment?

(Video) 7 Signs You're Emotionally Unavailable (Detached)

Emotional detachment may be voluntary. Some people can choose to remain emotionally removed from a person or situation.

Other times, emotional detachment results from trauma, abuse, or a previous encounter. In these cases, previous events may make it difficult to be open and honest with a friend, loved one, or significant other.

By choice

Some people choose to proactively remove themselves from an emotional situation.

This might be an option if you have a family member or a colleague that you know upsets you greatly. You can choose not to engage with the person or persons. This will help you remain cool and keep calm when dealing with them.

In situations like this, emotional detachment is a bit like a protective measure. It helps you prepare for situations that may trigger a negative emotional response.

As a result of abuse

Sometimes, emotional detachment may result from traumatic events, such as childhood abuse or neglect. Children who live through abuse or neglect may develop emotional detachment as a means of survival.

Children require a lot of emotional connection from their parents or caregivers. If it’s not forthcoming, the children may stop expecting it. When that happens, they may begin to turn off their emotional receptors, as in the case of reactive attachment disorder (RAD). RAD is a condition in which children cannot form bonds with their parents or caregivers.

That can lead to depressed mood, inability to show or share emotions, and behavior problems.

Other conditions

Emotional detachment or “numbing” is frequently a symptom of other conditions. You may feel distant from your emotions at times if you have:

  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • bipolar disorder
  • major depressive disorder
  • personality disorders

Medication

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant. Some people who take this type of drug may experience emotional blunting or a switched-off emotional center, particularly at higher doses.

This period of emotional detachment may last as long as you take these medications. Doctors can help you find another alternative or help to find the right dosage if the medication affects you in this way.

Emotional detachment isn’t an official condition like bipolar disorder or depression. Instead, it’s often considered one element of a larger medical condition.

Conditions might include personality disorders or attachment disorders.

Emotional detachment could also be the result of acute trauma or abuse.

A healthcare professional may be able to see when you’re not emotionally available to others. They may also talk with you, a family member, or a significant other about your behaviors.

Understanding how you feel and act can help a provider recognize a pattern that could suggest this emotional issue.

Asperger’s and emotional detachment

Contrary to popular belief, people living with Asperger’s, which forms part of the Autism spectrum disorder, are not cut off from their emotions or the emotions of others.

In fact, experts indicate they may feel others’ emotions more intensely even if they do not show typical outward signs of emotional involvement, such as changes in affect or facial expressions. This can lead to them taking additional steps to avoid hurting others, even at their own expense.

(Video) 6 Reasons Why Someone Is Emotionally Distant

Treatment for emotional detachment depends on the reason it’s occurring.

(Video) Cptsd Why Can't I Feel My Feelings |Feeling Numb Dissociated Detached

If your healthcare professional believes you’re experiencing problems with emotional attachment because of another condition, they may suggest treating that first.

These conditions might include depression, PTSD, or borderline personality disorder. Medication and therapy are often helpful for these conditions.

If the emotional detachment symptoms result from trauma, your doctor may recommend psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. This treatment can help you learn to overcome the impacts of the abuse. You may also learn new ways to process experiences and anxieties that previously upset you and led to emotional detachment.

For some people, however, emotional distance isn’t problematic. In that case, you may not need to seek any treatment.

However, if problems with feeling or expressing emotions have caused issues in your personal life, you may want to seek out treatment or other support. A therapist or other mental health provider can provide treatment, though you may find that talking first to your primary care provider can help connect you with those who can help.

For some people, emotional detachment is a way of coping with overwhelming people or activities. You choose when to be involved and when to step away.

In other cases, however, numbing yourself to emotions and feelings may not be healthy. Indeed, frequently “turning off” your emotions may lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as an inability to show empathy or a fear of commitment.

People that live through trauma or abuse may find it difficult to express emotions. This may cause people to seek other, negative outlets for those feelings, such as drug or alcohol misuse, higher risk sexual behaviors, or other behaviors that can lead to involvement with law enforcement.

The takeaway

(Video) FIVE Ways to Fix Emotional Detachment

Emotional detachment occurs when people willingly or unwillingly turn off their connection with their emotions. This may be intentional, such as a defensive mechanism on emotionally draining people, or unintentional due to an underlying condition or medication side effect.

If you have difficulty processing emotions or you live with someone who does, you may want to consider seeking help from a mental health provider. They can offer support and treatment to help you understand how you process emotions and respond to others and activities.

FAQs

How do you deal with emotional detachment? ›

How to Overcome Emotional Detachment
  1. Practice Mindfulness. Staying in the moment can be challenging. ...
  2. Practice Roleplay. ...
  3. Practice Being Vulnerable. ...
  4. Strengthen Your Bonds.
Oct 23, 2021

What causes emotional detachment? ›

Some people can choose to remain emotionally removed from a person or situation. Other times, emotional detachment results from trauma, abuse, or a previous encounter. In these cases, previous events may make it difficult to be open and honest with a friend, loved one, or significant other.

How do I stop being emotionally unavailable? ›

If you're trying to become more emotionally available yourself, the following tips can help.
  1. Identify the cause. ...
  2. Practice opening up. ...
  3. Take it slow. ...
  4. Involve your partner. ...
  5. Spend time with people in healthy relationships. ...
  6. Talk to a therapist.

What is detachment and how do you practice it? ›

Detachment means disconnecting from things that are of less importance, in order to accomplish the heights of what we as human can achieve. In short, it means that you can achieve the greatest heights only by detaching yourself from the things that matter to you at a certain extent by taking a step back.

Can emotional detachment be treated? ›

People who develop emotional detachment as a result of a traumatic experience can have a difficult time learning how to connect with other people and give themselves permission to fully experience their feelings. It can take extensive work with a therapist and community support, but progress is possible.

How do you rebuild an emotional connection? ›

4 immediate ways to improve emotional intimacy
  1. Be strategically vulnerable to earn their trust. ...
  2. Give your partner daily affirmations and compliments. ...
  3. Prioritize sexual satisfaction. ...
  4. Make an effort to break out of your day-to-day routine.
Feb 5, 2020

Why am I feeling emotionally numb in a relationship? ›

Numb love is what happens when our tolerance levels rise too high. We aren't feeling the effects we used to. We don't make them swoon and they don't make us feel all fuzzy inside. We might even begin to think… “Do I even love them anymore?”.

Why do I struggle to open up about my feelings? ›

When a person has a difficult time expressing their feelings and emotions it's known as alexithymia. While this is not a mental health disorder, they may have a diagnosable mental health disorder like depression. It's also believed that this can be connected with autism spectrum disorder.

How do I learn to open up emotionally? ›

There are steps you can take to open up slowly and carefully:
  1. Get to know yourself and your own feelings. ...
  2. Listen to your partner and acknowledge their own feelings. ...
  3. Share your feelings with your partner. ...
  4. Be open about the pains and fears originating in your past. ...
  5. Honesty is the best policy.
May 26, 2021

How do emotionally unavailable people act? ›

Signs of emotional unavailability include fear of intimacy, trouble expressing emotions, and commitment anxiety. “It's not something you can fix for them, nor is it something they can quickly and easily change about themselves for you,” Jernigan says.

Why do I fall for emotionally unavailable? ›

Research has demonstrated that we are often attracted to partners who seem familiar to us and have similar qualities to our parents. One of the reasons people are drawn to emotionally unavailable partners is due to the role models they had for romantic relationships in childhood.

What are signs of emotional detachment? ›

Some signs of emotional detachment might look like:
  • Difficulty showing empathy to others.
  • Difficulty sharing emotions or opening up to others.
  • Difficulty committing to a relationship or person.
  • Feeling disconnected from others.
  • Losing touch with people or problems maintaining connections.
  • Feeling “numb”

How do you master emotional detachment? ›

Here are some things you can try.
  1. Identify the reason. Ask yourself why you're now deciding to detach from the relationship. ...
  2. Release your emotions. ...
  3. Don't react, respond. ...
  4. Start small. ...
  5. Keep a journal. ...
  6. Meditate. ...
  7. Be patient with yourself. ...
  8. Look forward.
Aug 20, 2021

What are healthy detachment skills? ›

You have 2 free member-only stories left this month.
  • 5 Ways to Practice Detachment, the Skill That'll Get You Through the Day. ...
  • Don't judge things before they happen… ...
  • Don't interpret events in real-time. ...
  • Use math and logic to make big decisions. ...
  • Add a few minutes of doing nothing to every task.
Dec 14, 2020

Can you fix emotional detachment in a relationship? ›

Working with a counselor or therapist who understands emotional detachment can help partners learn to reconnect and improve communication. It may take time, work, and commitment from both partners, but emotional detachment in a relationship doesn't necessarily mean it's over.

How do you heal a broken connection? ›

Ways to Fix a Broken Relationship
  1. Start “dating” again. ...
  2. Make your relationship a priority. ...
  3. Let go of expectations. ...
  4. Plan a weekly meeting. ...
  5. Say thank you. ...
  6. Try to hold hands and hug more. ...
  7. Ditch the routine and have fun together. ...
  8. See a therapist.
Sep 29, 2022

What are the ten emotional needs of a woman? ›

And almost all those I interviewed described one or more of only ten emotional needs as being most important to them (admiration, affection, intimate conversation, domestic support, family commitment, financial support, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship and sexual fulfillment).

Am I emotionally unavailable? ›

You withhold personal feelings and thoughts

If you've found yourself unable or unwilling to share your feelings, you're likely emotionally unavailable. Walfish says this includes things like life goals, life regrets, wishes, hopes, and longings.

How do you open blocked emotions? ›

How repressed emotions can show in your behavior
  1. Express your feelings.
  2. Establish and maintain intimate relationships.
  3. Talk about things that are important to you.
  4. Find encouragement.
  5. Accept or give yourself praise.
  6. Understand how people in your life feel.
  7. Share your needs and wants with others.
  8. Be alone.
Apr 8, 2022

Why can't I connect with people? ›

Shyness, introversion, and social anxiety may make people put the brakes on connecting with others. If a person has poor self-esteem or mental health issues, they may also struggle to connect. If this sounds like you, you may need some extra support to start feeling your best.

How do you know if you're numb? ›

What are the symptoms?
  1. feeling disconnected from one's body or thoughts.
  2. feeling detached from the outside world.
  3. feeling like an outsider in one's own life.
  4. a distorted or confused sense of time.
  5. difficulty connecting with others.
  6. a reduced ability to sense, process, and respond to emotions and physical signals.

How do you love someone who is emotionally unavailable? ›

Be Patient. Give your partner time and space if he or she needs it to process their emotions or the events that took place; don't let your anxiety and desire for certainty drive you to push your partner, husband, or wife to open up or share. Respect that each person has a way they processes, and so do you.

What does it feel like to be emotionally drained? ›

People experiencing emotional exhaustion often feel like they have no power or control over what happens in life. They may feel “stuck” or “trapped” in a situation. Lack of energy, poor sleep, and decreased motivation can make it difficult to overcome emotional exhaustion.

What is the root of emotional unavailability? ›

While there is no one explanation for emotional unavailability, it can be caused by a number (or combination) of factors. These include attachment styles developed in childhood, history in relationships, trauma, mental health conditions, and one's circumstances and priorities.

What happens to emotionally unavailable people? ›

Emotionally unavailable people have emotional obstacles in their lives that can often make them overly critical of themselves and others. They are frequently cynical and very negative about life in general.

Can an emotionally unavailable person change? ›

Of course, an emotionally unavailable person can change, but like any personal overhaul, they have to want to do it themselves. “The trick is for you not to try and change them. If they feel that they want to be more involved in your feelings, then they will,” Masini says.

What is the difference between dissociation and emotional detachment? ›

Another difference is that emotional detachment generally involves awareness of one's emotions, while dissociation is unconscious disconnection from the sense of self, environment, and reality.

How do you love with detachment? ›

How to detach with love
  1. Not giving unsolicited advice.
  2. Setting boundaries.
  3. Allowing others to experience the natural consequences of their actions.
  4. Recognizing that your feelings and needs are valid.
  5. Expressing your own opinions and feelings.
  6. Taking a time-out from an unproductive or hurtful argument.
Jun 11, 2020

Is it normal to feel detached in a relationship? ›

Feeling disconnected

There are seasons of your relationship when you'll feel less connected to your partner. Unless it is an ongoing, painful issue that's never resolved despite your best efforts, a momentary disconnect is normal—not a death signal.

What personality disorder has emotional detachment? ›

A couple of mental health conditions have as a symptom emotional detachment. Some of these psychological illnesses include bipolar disorder, depression, personality disorders, and PTSD.

How do I know if I am dissociating? ›

Symptoms of a dissociative disorder

feeling disconnected from yourself and the world around you. forgetting about certain time periods, events and personal information. feeling uncertain about who you are. having multiple distinct identities.

Can anxiety cause emotional detachment? ›

Emotional detachment is usually an issue caused by severe, intense anxiety - most notably panic attacks, although any form of severe anxiety can cause emotional detachment. While it's not entirely clear what causes this detachment, it most likely is a coping mechanism for the brain.

How do you love someone who is emotionally detached? ›

How Do You Deal With An Emotionally Distant Partner?
  1. Accept differences. Your partner may simply be more private than you by nature. ...
  2. Don't demand connection. ...
  3. Give them some space. ...
  4. Try not to criticize. ...
  5. Focus on your own goals.
May 7, 2020

Can you love someone and be detached? ›

Detached love doesn't mean you don't want to be deeply connected and connected for a long time; it means that while you're connected you choose to allow the beloved to fully be themselves without expectations about the outcome of your relationship.

What does healthy detachment look like? ›

On the flip side, healthy detachment essentially means letting go emotionally of the person or situation without ignoring them or avoiding them. Feeling bad or upset about a situation will do little to change the person or situation in question.

How do emotionally numb people act? ›

Roest-Gyimah explains that common signs of emotional numbness include: a feeling of being disconnected from yourself and others. inability to emotionally connect or relate to those around you. seeking sensations through behaviors that may jeopardize your safety or via self-harming experiences.

Videos

1. Understanding the source of emotional detachment
(Patricia Coughlin PhD)
2. Signs of Emotional Detachment (5 Noticeable Signs)
(Beyond Blue)
3. 7 Reasons Why You Feel Emotionally Numb
(Psych2Go)
4. 5 Emotional Detachment Techniques From Abusive Relationships
(Beyond Blue)
5. A Simple Trick To Control Your Emotions | Jordan Peterson
(The Outcome)
6. How to Emotionally Detach Yourself? Emotional Detachment Techniques
(Calm Sage)

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