Trauma takes a toll on your mind and body. Going through the trauma response and trying to process the experience afterward can make you feel exhausted, anxious, or distressed.
One way you might unknowingly cope with the aftermath of trauma is by going numb. If you return to this coping mechanism any time you’re stressed, you’ll find yourself disconnected from yourself and others.
What Is Emotional Numbness?
Emotional numbness is the state of being unable to feel or express emotions. Your brain is effectively shutting out feelings. You may even be using avoidance techniques so you don’t have to address your emotions.
Emotional numbness is often temporary, but it can become a coping strategy to avoid further pain and distress. You might feel numb due to a variety of causes: depression, PTSD, drug use, prescription medications, extreme stress, grief, or other emotional issues.
Symptoms of Emotional Numbness
- Inability to access your feelings
- Feeling disinterested in what you once loved
- Difficulty feeling happiness/positive emotions
- Feeling like you can’t enjoy life
- Feeling detached from the world
- Isolating yourself from others
The Trauma Response
When you experience something that your brain perceives to be dangerous, your body goes through the trauma response cycle. This is an evolutionary survival tactic. You’ll enter one of four trauma responses: fight, flight, fawn, or freeze.
Trauma responses are neutral—no one is better than the other. As humans, we might even enter a trauma response due to small interactions. Maybe after an argument with your partner, you feel your heart racing for the rest of the day.
Or if you get cat-called on the street, you want to hide in a hole away from the world. These are trauma responses you could experience on a normal day.
Numbness as a Coping Mechanism
The aftermath of trauma is a scary time. You might be coming to terms with real pain and consequences of the experience. Your brain is trying to cope with what just happened, and one way it might try to cope is by disconnecting from everything.
It’s trying to avoid getting re-triggered into that hyperarousal state. To protect you with the intense feelings that come from understanding what you went through, you go numb.
How You Can Start Feeling Again
Mindfulness is a way to live in the moment and feel grounded in your body. It teaches you to slow your racing thoughts and self-soothe during times of stress. Get in the habit of noticing what your five senses are telling you in a given moment.
Allow your emotions to pass through you and acknowledge them. Breathe deeply and experience the awareness of your mind and body.
Another way of connecting to your body is through exercise. Overwhelming evidence supports the fact that physical activity helps with symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Find something you enjoy doing so you’re more likely to make a habit of it. Even a short walk outside every day can help you connect to your feelings and the world around you.
See a Trauma-Focused Therapist
The best way to process your trauma is with a mental health professional. Your numbness may pass, but you should still consider how to process your feelings and experience.
Trauma-informed psychotherapy can help you reframe the traumatic experience and change your emotions associated with it. A therapist will get you back in a headspace where you can access your feelings again.
To find out more about how therapy can help you work through the aftermath of trauma, please reach out to me to schedule a complementary consultation call.
Click here to learn more about trauma therapy services in Delray Beach, FL and Sandy Springs, GA.