Emotional Detachment Disorder: 5 Signs You Are Emotionally Detached

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As human beings, we experience different degrees of sentimentality. Most of us can think of someone who we consider overly emotional; As well as of someone who just isn’t so. The variety of feelings and emotions is all part of human behavior. Participating in someone else’s life and understanding their journey is at the core of how we connect with one another and how we function as a society. However, some of us may not feel the emotional connection as strongly as others, leading to a mental health condition known as emotional detachment disorder.

What is emotional detachment disorder?

As the name itself suggests, ‘emotional detachment’ points towards the lack of ‘emotional attachment.’ A person experiencing emotional detachment is resigned from emotions, someone who seems to distance themselves from the human connection. Emotional Detachment disorder stems from a lack of empathy– that is, the lack of one’s ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and share their emotional state.  Our ability to empathize with other people defines our ability to forge strong bonds and long-lasting relationships.

Causes of Emotional Detachment Disorder

While there are many studies looking into the causes, it is not quite clear what causes an emotional detachment disorder. That’s mostly because lack of empathy is difficult to measure on two counts- its existence and the reaction it causes. As a human being, you may or may not associate with another person’s feelings, but this is hard to tell because

  1. You don’t empathize with your surroundings at all.
  2. You empathize but do not express your emotions or react to them the same.

Nobody voluntarily chooses to be emotionally detached from their surroundings, it’s a condition one develops over time. Here are some plausible causes:

1. Post Traumatic stress disorder

While most of us live in civilized societies governed by the rule of law, a lot of human interactions may be outside this purview. People who witness a violent crime, traumatic events, and/or war-like conditions tend to develop post traumatic stress disorder.. People suffering from post traumatic stress disorder grow emotionally detached overtime and can lead to a change in the overall perception of one’s emotions.

2. Conditioning

Our personas are largely shaped by our upbringing and our experiences. Some children who grow up in strict households develop a layer of toughness or lack of general empathy because of repetitive suppression of their own emotions. Parents in certain cultures ingrain the mindset of detachment and may even punish the expression of emotion, thereby inculcating emotional detachment in their children.

3. Abuse

Facing physical and mental abuse at the hands of parents, relatives, and caregivers can turn a child into an emotional recluse. As a result, children often withdraw emotionally and grow up to develop emotional detachment as adults.

4. Medication 

A host of medications that treat mental health conditions like stress and depression may contain substances that alter the mental makeup and hormonal inflow in an individual’s bloodstream. Certain supplements that are supposed to make us feel better in turn stunt our emotions and cause numbness.

5. Exposure to current events

Due to the constant barrage of information on social media, one can’t help but feel emotionally disoriented from time to time. News of terrorism, pandemics, poverty, and war can negatively affect one’s mental health and induce feelings of delusion and helplessness over the human condition. Over the long run, this can desensitize us and cause a general lack of empathy and feelings in general.

5 Signs that you are emotionally detached

Like many other mental health conditions, emotional detachment can build up slowly, one day at a time, depending on unique circumstances. Here are some signs you should watch out for:

  1. Feelings of emptiness or lack of emotion

A person experiencing emotional detachment struggles to empathize with people around them. They feel numb and disconnected from emotions that normally elicit a response from others.

  1. Being harsh or lacking in kindness

We often come across people who don’t mince words while delivering sensitive or potentially painful news to people. While there is nothing wrong with being straightforward, those who don’t attempt to be kind to those in need may be slowly developing emotional detachment.

  1. Shutting out emotions

Not everyone discusses their emotional hardship openly. A person who is dealing with emotional detachment may bury their feelings and sweep burning issues under the carpet. This practice can intensify emotional detachment creating long term repercussions.

  1. Loss of interest in fun activities

As the distance in a relationship increases, there are marked differences in behavior. An emotionally detached person may lose the ability to fully cherish life experiences, even those they actively enjoyed being part of in the past. This listlessness and apathy are a cause of concern.

  1. Neglecting relationships

Emotional detachment can be traced back to a shift in priorities. You may pick work or social commitments over your personal responsibilities once or twice, but when a pattern of neglect emerges, there has been a break in the relationship.

How to fix Emotional Detachment?

None of us are born with emotional detachment; it’s a condition that develops over time. If you think back, as children we laugh when we’re happy, we cry when we’re sad, we grimace when we’re angry and kick our feet in rebellion when we don’t get what we want. Adults don’t have the same luxury of expressing themselves, although some of us shut out an expression of sentiments entirely. In order to fix emotional detachment, it’s important to single out what caused the emotional subversion in the first place. Getting in touch with one’s feelings and expressing how we feel are important steps for self-discovery and re-alignment with emotions. Here are some ways we can do that:

  1. Re-wiring the thought process

An person struggling with emotional detachment has subconsciously created invisible barriers to human connection. A mental health professional can use tested strategies to help you relieve painful instances in life to fully experience the bottled emotions and accept reality.

  1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy

CBT refers to cognitive behavioral therapy that can help with various aspects of emotional regulation. Treatment focused on realigning mental conditioning to open up responses to external environments and react better to emotional cues in daily interactions with those around.

  1. Building a support system

Coming to terms with the emotional disconnect and letting your family and friends know of your condition is an important step towards acknowledging you have a problem. Talking things through with them is most likely to help incite an emotional response since they know you better than others.

  1. Minimize stress

Excessive stress can also numb the senses. Stress hormones can make unprecedented changes to your nervous system and cause some long-term damage. Try to make a note of your stressors and take active measures to rein them under control.

  1. Talk to a mental health professional

From time to time, all of us need a safe space to express ourselves and speak our minds freely. Emotional numbness can also stem from not feeling secure in the surrounding environment due to fear of rejection and judgment. Initiating a conversation with a mental health professional can help in these circumstances. Remember, Wysa offers online coach services or you can always just talk to which will always be free.

Experiencing emotional detachment in relationships

It’s not easy being in a relationship with a non-responsive person. Being involved with someone who is dealing with emotional detachment is challenging because they may be present physically, but appear miles away emotionally. The degree of emotional distance depends on the nature of a relationship in the first place. In the case of romantic relationships, a person may seem distant due to a negative experience in the past. If you’ve gotten your heart broken once, you’re more likely to take time before risking heartache again. Platonic relationships are also prone to a lack of trust issues due to emotional baggage carried forward from broken friendships. Age is also a factor for emotional detachment in friendships; when we’re younger we open up and make friends a lot more effortlessly than we do later in life.

Other relationships may experience emotional detachment due to certain events. For example, if a mother dies in a family, the father and children may have a strained relationship which leads to emotional detachment due to suppressed grief. Children grieve the loss of a parent very differently from the way adults mourn the loss of a spouse. This mismatch can balloon thedistance in a family as a whole.

7 tell-tale signs that you are in an emotionally detached relationship:

  1. Your partner does not open up to you.

Whether the good is good or bad, your partner does not share open elation or deep sadness with you. There is a superficiality of emotions in their behavior.

  1. They don’t participate in your life.

When you are experiencing strong emotions, they don’t seem too moved by it- they act indifferent.

  1. Uninterested in physical intimacy

An emotionally disconnected spouse is uninterested in physical intimacy as well. Lack of interest in sex is also a sign of emotional distance.

  1. Does not give you any time.

Your partner avoids spending time with you and looks for excuses to be away.

  1. You are usually a low priority

Every relationship is given and take. Sometimes your needs will have to be prioritized over your partner’s and in other cases, the opposite should be true. If this barter is missing from your relationship, your partner may be emotionally uninvested.

  1. Absence of affection

Expression of affection is missing from your relationship. If the frequency of “I love you” has gone from less to nil, your partner may be disinterested.

  1. Poor communication

They are curt and non-responsive in conversation. When you try to engage them in dialogue they stay silent and/or answer back in one-word responses.


1.  What does it mean to be emotionally detached?

Emotional detachment is a mental disorder that limits a person’s ability to feel and express feelings and sentiments consistently. It mars their connection with the outside world and makes their interactions suppressed and less meaningful.

2.  What does lack of empathy mean?

Empathy is what connects us to the human race at large. Lack of empathy refers to a person’s inability to relate to another human being’s emotions and circumstances.

3.  Can humans turn off their emotions?

As humans, we are born with emotions. We laugh and cry, frown, and grimace to express the way we feel. However, some people can condition the mind to not feel emotions to shelter themselves from hurt or pain. Shutting down emotions in a relationship can hamper communication between two people.

4.  Is lack of empathy a disorder?

Yes, lack of empathy is a serious psychological disorder that can lead to other more psychiatric problems.

5.  How do you know if you are emotionally unavailable?

Clues to emotional unavailability are present in our interpersonal relationships. If you suspect that you’re emotionally unavailable, it can be due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • You draw boundaries early on in a relationship
  • You deliberately refrain from getting close and revealing too many details about yourself to anyone.
  • You’re quick to get out of relationships. Moving on from relationships does not seem as hard to you as it is for other people. You can cut bonds and remove people from your life without much consideration since they weren’t that close to you in the first place.
  • You can be reluctant to put in the work to overcome difficult situations that build character in a relationship.

6.  How to fix emotional detachment?

Emotional detachment is a mental condition that interferes with a person’s ability to process and identify with someone else’s state of mind and emotions. In order to fix this dissociation, the patient experiencing detachment has to:

  • Make an active effort to pay attention to those around him/her, to try to understand what they’re going through even if they don’t empathize with their condition.
  • Talk through difficult situations instead of walking away.
  • Read books or watch movies that can drive emotion.
  • Attend group counseling sessions
  • Practice empathy in small gestures before building up to more complex emotions.
  • Seek professional help.

7.  Can emotional detachment disorder be treated?

Emotional detachment can be treated by counseling and therapy through the application of behavioral techniques directed at developing mindfulness and emotional cognizance. These techniques aim at developing affective empathy while reversing months or years of negative conditioning. Some popular techniques for treating emotional detachment disorder are:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (You can use Wysa for CBT as well)
  • Group Counselling
  • Neuroplasty

8.  How can you support someone with emotional detachment disorder?

  • Maintain steady communication. Discuss their day to day interactions with people without judgment. Let them share the inner workings of their mind and help them get to the core of their detachment.
  • Find shared ground. People empathize with other people who are like them. Help the person dealing with this disorder see others in a positive light. Highlight what they have in common and their most likable traits to incite an initial association.
  • Share your life experiences. Tell them instances of empathy and connection from your personal experiences or how you felt about someone else’s personal struggle. Give them reasons to practice empathy.
  • Don’t give up on them. Working through emotions with someone who has built a wall around themselves is not an easy task; you have to climb a little higher every day. However, don’t give up on them and try to be with them through their struggles.

9.  What is emotional detachment in marriage?

Marriage is a relationship with the highest emotional intimacy.  When it’s missing in a marriage it can affect both spouses negatively. Emotional detachment in a marriage is characterized by the lack of emotional involvement and connection between two people who share their lives together.

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