Humans are emotional beings with a diverse spectrum of feelings. Nonetheless, there may be occasions when you experience emotional numbness or exhaustion due to stress or another factor. Yet, emotional numbness is more likely to affect those who are depressed. Particularly, a condition known as “emotional blunting” may occur in antidepressant users as a side effect of their medicine. It occurs when a person shows little emotional reaction or expresses/feels little to no emotion. Emotional blunting can affect your interactions with others and how you view the world.
Read this article if you are on antidepressants and experiencing emotional setbacks. The post will cover emotional blunting, how antidepressants contribute, and practical coping skills.
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What is Emotional Blunting?
Emotional blunting is a phenomenon that causes difficulty in feeling and expressing emotions. Depending on the person, an individual may experience a reduction in intensity, range, or expression of emotions, including both positive and negative ones. If you have this condition, you could feel like being cut off from the world and unable to connect with your own or other people’s feelings. Although it is not a mental health disease and may not always indicate a deeper problem, it can indicate something is wrong.
It is useful to think about emotions and how they are often experienced to comprehend emotional blunting. Your brain and body communicate with each other through emotions, giving you information about the environment and guiding your responses. It is common for humans to feel various emotions, such as joy, sadness, anger, and fear. Still, when these feelings become excessively strong or overwhelming, it can result in emotional blunting.
Emotional Blunting VS. Apathy and Anhedonia
Apathy and anhedonia, other common symptoms of depression, may resemble emotional blunting, but it is important to distinguish between the three concepts. Below is a brief overview to help you understand the difference between these terms:
- Apathy occurs when you aren’t motivated to do anything or aren’t interested in what’s going on around you. In contrast, emotional blunting occurs if you have reduced intensity of emotional response or fail to express your feelings or emotions. You may still be interested in activities you previously enjoyed, but your emotional response to them isn’t as intense as it once was.
- Anhedonia is a reduction in specifically pleasurable experience and anticipation, whereas emotional blunting is a reduction in either positive or negative emotional responsiveness or both.
Emotional Blunting Symptoms
Several symptoms indicate you may be going through emotional blunting, even if it is only temporary. In general, they include:
- Inability to experience both joy or despair
- Mental fog and exhaustion
- Lack of focus
- Sense of estrangement
- Feeling socially alone
- Forgetfulness and an inability to decide
- Loss of sexual inclination
- Absence of empathy
- Emotional numbness
- Attempts to injure oneself
To get an accurate diagnosis, speak with a mental health expert.
Can Antidepressants Cause Emotional Blunting?
According to a recent study, antidepressants may result in emotional blunting. A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge (UK) found disrupted behavioral processes in people taking antidepressants. They showed that antidepressants impact reinforcement learning, a crucial behavior process that enables us to learn from our surroundings and may contribute to emotional blunting.
The mechanism behind this side effect of antidepressants is not fully understood. Still, theories suggest it may be caused by serotonin imbalance, changes in the development of some parts of the brain, reduced brain cognition, or a pre-existing condition aggravated by medication.
Ways to Cope With Emotional Blunting
Despite how difficult it can be to experience emotional blunting, there are ways to deal with it. A person can engage other senses to evoke emotions and do something he/she enjoys. Here are some other tips to deal with emotional blunting:
- Join a group of supporters. Joining support groups is an excellent method to meet people with similar problems. Groups can aid in removing emotional barriers and have a strong therapeutic effect.
- Consult a therapist. Speaking with a therapist is beneficial because emotional blunting may occasionally be related to an unidentified mental health condition such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, etc. The causes of these problems and how to resolve them might be revealed by speaking with a therapist.
- Resume your favorite hobbies. You might try to feel emotions again by thinking back to the things that used to make you happy. Even if we don’t immediately feel happy, the body produces oxytocin, a hormone that triggers different emotions.
- Consult your physician. Speak with your doctor about how you feel if you believe your medicine is the problem. Depending on your specific circumstances, your physician may choose to reduce your dosage, start a new treatment regimen or try to switch you to medication from a different drug class. For example, medicines from the class of antidepressants known as norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) can be chosen. One such option, bupropion (Wellbutrin), predominantly impacts dopamine levels instead of serotonin levels, which makes it less likely to result in emotional numbness.
Does Emotional Blunting from Antidepressants Go Away?
There are other factors besides antidepressants that contribute to emotional blunting. However, these emotional side effects are often brought on by antidepressants. Most of the time, after you stop taking the antidepressant that makes you feel this way, the numbness disappears. Still, you must inform a doctor if you experience emotional numbness. Without consulting a mental health professional, don’t stop taking your antidepressant.