Emotional Numbness: The Feeling of Being Empty and Numb Within

Last Update on November 15, 2021 : Published on November 13, 2021
Emotional numbness

When we face difficult life situations or challenges we often find ourselves feeling empty and numb with questions like “why do I feel so empty inside” or “why does my mind feel blank” hovering over us.

While most of us swiftly drift away from these thoughts with the help of adaptive coping skills, others can find themselves sweeping in the unhealthy condition of emotional numbness.

Generally, the feeling of emotional numbing is temporary and an individual deals with it effectively. However, many times individuals continue to feel this way to avoid further emotional pain.

But just avoiding pain or any chance of expressing emotion is not what emotional numbness is all about, it can be a sign of unresolved conflicts or mental health conditions. That makes it important to understand it and dig a little deeper to find the root cause of your “why I feel numb and empty” expression.

Emotional Numbness: Understanding the feeling of being Numb and Empty

Emotional numbness is like fencing yourself from feeling or expressing emotions. When overwhelmness becomes a part of life emotional numbness can work as a healthy and protective defense. But when this temporary relief system becomes a permanent pattern of living or coping with emotions, it becomes a sign of mental health condition.

This trouble in identifying emotions, expressing them, and connecting with others is when emotional numbness becomes problematic and should be taken care of.

Here are some expert’s definitions on emotional numbness that will help you understand the term and issues related with it.

Emotional numbness is often a normal response to an abnormal event. Often, it can be protective, depending on the cause. When the brain is emotionally overloaded, it protects itself and shuts down the emotional experience, which results in numbness. ~ Dr. Bobbi Wegner

“Emotional numbing is the mental and emotional process of shutting out feelings and may be experienced as deficits of emotional responses or reactivity.”~ Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., LMFT,

Causes of Emotional Numbness: Why do You feel Numb and Empty

Feeling emotionally numb or experiencing a lack of emotion can be a symptom of several medical conditions or a side effect of some medications. Basically, different causes are underlying emotional numbness. Here are some of the key reasons that can be the reason behind your “why do I feel so empty” question.

A. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD is a common cause of emotional numbness. The emotional pain and flashbacks can result in emotional numbness.

B. Grief: While we generally associate grief with experiencing a turmoil of emotions, it is not always the case. Sometimes grief can leave an individual feeling numb, making it difficult for them to process their emotions of loss.

C. Depression: The feeling of depression is not only about melancholy. An individual also feels a loss of interest in most of the life activities.

D. Anhedonia: It is a mental health condition wherein an individual finds it difficult to express and feel their emotions. Emotional numbness is a symptom associated with it.

E. Substance abuse: Various drugs and substances can cause emotional numbness as a side effect of their usage or abuse. In fact, often people create dependency on the substance to cope with the overwhelming emotions.

F. Others: Apart from these common causes, emotional numbness may also result from other conditions like brain injury, hormonal imbalance, medication, and hormonal imbalance.

Signs of Emotional Numbness: Are You feeling Empty Inside

Different people experience different signs of emotional numbness. For someone, it can be all about not finding joy in daily life activities, and for someone else, it is all about not being in the present moment. However, some of the common signs of emotional numbness that makes one question “why do I feel so empty” are:

  • Inability to express emotions or even experience them. It is not just the overwhelming emotions that can’t be described but also the positive or comforting ones that are not experienced.
  • Not being able to react to a situation that otherwise would have resulted in a ray of emotions. Like not reacting to good or bad news that means a lot in your life.
  • Constantly experiencing boredom no matter what you try.
  • Lack of motivation and actively procrastinating everything that life throws at you. You might even find yourself engaged in activities that offer you no pleasure or just numb your mind like scrolling through social media or watching TV without knowing what you are consuming.
  • Feel disconnected from your body and yourself to the extent where you might just feel lifeless. The feeling of being tired without doing much is often experienced.
  • Not being attentive or receptive to your body’s basic needs as well. This involves ignoring bodily signals like feeling hungry, thirsty, or other such needs.
  • You lose interest in activities that you once enjoyed the most. You might just end up stopping practicing them altogether.
  • Life starts to seem unreal and you might find yourself drifting away from the moment to a point where you just become a passive observer of your life and accept things as they happen to you, without receiving or accepting them promptly.
  • You find yourself avoiding any stance of socializing. The feeling of detachment from the loved ones soon follows.
  • The feeling that no one understands you or knows you start hovering over. This is accompanied by the thoughts and questions of not knowing yourself either.
  • You might see yourself as being a mere observer of your life, rather than finding yourself actively engaged in your own life.


If you can relate with 3 or more of these signs of emotional numbness, you might want to start working on yourself to

Ways to deal with Emotional Numbness: Say bye-bye to your feelings of being Numb and Empty

All the signs of emotional numbness that we just discussed are surely overwhelming and being numb and empty is not the place where you would like to stay. Of course, we all can go through this phase, but that is what it is, a phase and not a place to be at. So, here are some ways that will help you deal with emotional numbness and aid you in jumping out of the “Why do I feel empty and numb” trap.

1. Know Your Emotions

A big reason why people feel emotional numbness is the fact that either they are masking their emotions or are finding it difficult to identify their emotions. So let us start by stepping out of this unknown habit of ours by learning to identify your emotions. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself to make it work (these questions are suggested by Hinkle, LMFT, Talkspace)

  • What is the emotion I am feeling?
  • Where is the feeling coming from?
  • What can I do to validate that emotion, and allow myself to feel the same?
  • What would it be like to be less numb? What am I afraid would happen?

This will help you get in connection with your emotions. Which indeed will work as the first step towards breaking this loop that you are currently finding yourself fixated into.

2. Get Your Body Moving


Giving your body a dose of exercise will help in loads of known and unknown ways that will eventually keep emotional numbness at bay. Just engage in activities that keep you physically active, it can be swimming, running, yoga, or exercising at home. Do it regularly and you will witness the change in your body by giving yourself a dose of endorphins daily!

3. Ground Yourself In The Moment

Do you know what is the best way to feel the emotions? By being in the moment! When we talk of talk being in the moment we are addressing the latest trend in psychology- Mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation and exercises reduce emotional numbness by increasing our emotional strength. You can practice a mindfulness exercise each day and see the changes in how you validate and work through your feelings.

4. Attend Your Body’s Basic Needs

Lifestyle modifications have a huge impact on the way one deals with emotional numbness! They help you in two ways- bringing relief in the symptoms of emotional numbness and protecting you from further occurrences of the same. Here are some pointers to take care of:

  • Get adequate sleep (both quantity and quality wise).
  • Eat a well balanced diet to keep your mood regulation in check.
  • Minimize stress in your life by practicing basic stress management techniques.
  • Keep yourself hydrated.

5. Journal Your Feelings And Thoughts

Journal Your Feelings And Thoughts

Penning down your feelings is always a great way to deal with any issue related to emotions and emotional numbness is no exception here. Plus the answers are lying right in our brain and all they need is a channel to come out, penning journaling your feelings can that channel. Just take a journal, pick your pen up, and start writing whatever comes to your mind and to your heart. You can start small by writing for 5 minutes a day and then slowly make it a part of your daily routine. This way each day you will be able to address what you have been thinking, and how a particular situation is making you feel.

6. Lean On Your Social Support System

Cutting off ties with loved ones is one of the signs of experiencing emotional numbness, which does make it difficult to connect with others. But by staying in touch with your loved ones you find yourself a healthy and safe space to express your emotions. So make the effort to reach out to your loved ones, the ones you confide in and share your feelings (whatsoever) with them to feel relieved.

7. Start With Your Therapy

Don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional if you are experiencing emotional numbness or if questions like “why my chest feels empty” or “why does my mind feel blank” keep on coming to you. If you take help at the initials days of feeling numbness it will ensure that it does not interfere in your daily life functioning.

Plus, it is always a great idea to find the root cause underlying your emotional numbness, and finally, eradicate it from your life. This my friend only comes with professional guidance. So book your therapy and get your emotions on the rail again.

Book Your Free Session with BetterHelp

Did you know: CBT and ACT are the two therapies that are found to work amazingly well in recognising and dealing with emotional numbness.

With this complete guide on emotional numbness you are all set to reason yourself next when you feel empty and work on it with an action plan! Time for you to allow yourself to feel again!

Do you know someone who has been showing signs of emotional numbness lately? Share this blog with them and help them walk out of the “Why do I feel empty and numb” zone!

You will get through this!

Sending you a big warm hug!!!

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.

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