Why Do I Have a Delayed Emotional Response?

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delayed emotional response

Do you ever experience delayed emotional response, like being unable to show sorrow after the loss of a loved one? If so, it may be due to a mental health issue like emotional detachment or dissociation.

What Is Dissociation?

It may be a mystery as to why you react to things in a delayed fashion. For instance, your boyfriend may have just broken up with you, and you know you should feel some emotions. Sadness, anger, confusion—something—but instead you just feel flat. Detached. Numb.

Of course, no one responds emotionally to every little event right away. However, when the delayed emotional response becomes the norm, it could be a condition called dissociation.

Dissociation is a mental health issue that features an emotional disconnect from feelings, thoughts, people, and surroundings. When someone experiences dissociation they feel disconnected from reality. Where most people would express emotion about certain things, you might freeze up emotionally. This gives you time to process the emotional input and respond later when you feel able to.

The person feels detached physically and emotionally from their surroundings, and even their own identity. It is like walking around in a trance-like state. Some describe dissociation as watching their lives on television or in a movie.

Symptoms include:

  • Unable to remember relevant events in a way that is different from regular forgetfulness or a condition like an amnesia.
  • Wandering around feeling confused.
  • Feeling disconnected from your emotions.
  • The person has two or more identities or personas.
  • Transfers behavioral control to each of the identities.
  • Feeling numb or distant from yourself.
  • Feeling that objects in the external world are changing in shape, size, or color.
  • Having flashbacks.
  • Feeling that people are automated and inhuman.

What Causes Dissociation?

Dissociation isn’t always due to a dissociative disorder. It may be a symptom of another mental health disorder or cause, such as:

  • Trauma. Unresolved trauma, known as PTSD, may have left you in a flat, numb emotional state. This is a protective reflex, as the effects caused by the trauma are just too difficult to bear.
  • Schizophrenia. This is a type of psychotic disorder. Symptoms center on the loss of touch with reality, hallucinations, delusional thoughts, angry outbursts, and extreme mood swings.
  • Borderline personality disorder. A complex disorder that features black or white thinking, low self-esteem, fear of rejection, and self-harming behaviors.
  • Depression. Symptoms include sadness, loss of interest, changes in sleep and eating habits, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and suicidal thoughts.
  • OCD. This mental health disorder features irrational obsessions rooted in the fear that leads to compulsive actions to reduce the fear.
  • Drugs. Certain drugs, such as ketamine, LSD, and PCP, can leave the person in a dissociative state. This is caused by the chemical effects of the drug on the brain.
  • SSRIs. Antidepressants sometimes have an adverse effect that causes emotional blunting. The meds may cause flat affect or a lack of emotional expressiveness.

What is Emotional Detachment?

Emotional detachment is another cause of the delayed emotional response. It, too, maybe a result of having experienced a trauma, but it may also be a coping method. Some people put up a wall in order to protect themselves from being hurt. This becomes a problem in relationships when the partner senses you cannot connect emotionally with them.

Emotionally detached people have trouble expressing their feelings. They may have a hard time showing compassion or empathy, and thus come off as cold and uncaring.

Sometimes a person that appears to be emotionally distant or detached isn’t really at all. This may be the case for someone with Asperger’s, which is on the autism spectrum. They may seem to be aloof and unengaged emotionally, such as an absence of facial expressions. However, people with this condition do feel emotions, even if they don’t show them.

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Psychiatric Solutions for Delayed Emotional Response

If you struggle with delayed emotions, chances are it truly bothers you. You know that people misunderstand you. They can’t comprehend why you don’t have any feelings or emotions about the things that people usually respond to.

There is no specific medication for either dissociation or emotional detachment. Doctors do prescribe antidepressants or other psych meds, which can help manage the condition.

Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for delayed emotional response. If PTSD caused the condition, then prolonged exposure therapy and eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) can be helpful. These types of therapy can reduce the effect of the trauma trigger.

During EMDR sessions, the patient talks about the triggering event while engaging in an eye movement exercise. The therapist uses an object or a finger back and forth while the patient follows it with their eyes. As the patient discusses it, they begin to process the trauma.

CBT is also used to help people with dissociation and emotional detachment. CBT helps the patient address the thoughts or fears that trigger the dissociative symptoms. This therapy teaches them to practice positive self-talk and behaviors.

Grounding techniques can help combat dissociation when it occurs. Grounding involves doing certain actions to help reconnect with real life in the midst of the event. These actions may be walking barefoot in the grass, or just standing barefoot on dirt for a little while.

In some cases, the dissociative disorder is severe. This is when a residential treatment program is advised. These programs allow you to spend a span of time within a safe, supportive setting for more intensive treatment.

While it may seem daunting, there is hope if you have this mental health challenge. Reach out today for expert guidance and support.

Mental Health Hope Is Your Go-To Resource for Mental Health Topics

Mental Health Hope is a team of mental health experts who provide free assessments and support, as well as guidance for treatment options. If you are experiencing a delayed emotional response, contact us today for help at (877) 967-9274.

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