Is it possible for a person to stop feeling emotions?

I was raped a couple months ago, Since then, along with other unfortunately events that have occurred, I have been having trouble feeling emotions. It's almost as if I'm a sociopath lacking any feeling. What can I do to change this?

I'm so sorry you've been hurt.  It's very normal to stop feeling emotions as a way to protect yourself after experiencing a traumatic event.  You can think of it as emotional shock-- you experienced something that was so awful that you have numbed yourself (mind and body) as a way to stop the emotional and physical pain of the event.  It's actually pretty amazing that our selves know how to do this automatically.  And, I hear you saying that you'd like to get some feeling back now.

So here are some ideas for how you can change this:

  • I think it would be a great idea to find an experienced therapist you like and trust and/or a good support group so that you can have some allies as you go through this process.  
  • You also could try journaling.  If you're not sure what to write then check out this list of prompts to get you started (it's for teachers, but I really like it).  
  • There's also art journaling.  Pinterest has lots of suggestions.
  • Meditation could be useful.  There are lots of apps available that offer guided meditations.
  • Yoga, tai chi, or chi gong might also help.

I have lots of other ideas, but without knowing more about you I'm reluctant to make suggestions that could accidentally make you feel worse.  IThis protective mechanism of numbing yourself kicked in for a good reason and as you get your feelings back, you may find some pretty challenging reactions coming up.  I guess my final piece of advice to is encourage you to trust yourself and gently go at your own pace in your healing.  I hope this was helpful.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Lola Georg
Lola Georg
www.GeorgAssociates.com

Terrible things do happen in life, and I am sorry to hear about what happened to you. Please rest assured that you are not a sociopath, and that your reactions are normal responses to traumatic events. I'm guessing you are experiencing a sense of numbness, which is a common response to trauma. The best thing you can do is to get some trauma counseling with a professional counselor.  As you process your experience, you will be able to feel emotions again. However, the first feelings to come back may be related to trauma, such as fear, panic, and a sense of hyper vigilance. A professional counselor will be able to help you tolerate these feelings, manage them, and heal from your trauma.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

Hi!

This is a great question!

The term you are looking for is alexithymia, the inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. However, just because you are not able to feel or express emotions, does not mean that you do not have emotions.

After such a traumatic event that you experienced, your central nervous system goes into defensive mode (dorsal vagal nerves) that protect you from any further harm. What this means is if you were to feel your emotions related to your rape, you would have a sense of being overwhelmed, possibly re-experiencing the traumatic event.

Not feeling emotions is your body's way of protecting you from any further trauma. Unfortunately, when the (parasympathetic) dorsal vagal system (shutting down feeling) is activated and suppresses your painful emotions (pain, shame, guilt, sadness, anger), it also shuts down your positive and relational emotions (love, joy, contentment, connectedness, happiness).

I am very sorry that you had to go through such a traumatic experience as being raped. No one knows what is going on inside of you as a result. You don't know what is happening to your emotional wellbeing! The best (and at times, difficult and scary) thing is to process your emotions related to your trauma. This processing is done carefully, with a trained counselor, in a place that you feel safe, heard, and not judged. Although the thought of proceedings (addressing) emotions may be anxiety-inducing, it brings on a huge sense of relief and validation.

What you are going through is normal, considering what happened to you! I hope you reach out for more help.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me, Catherine at clevelandemotionalhealth.com

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Nichole Price
Nichole Price
Specializing in Trauma and Related Disorders

I am so sorry this has happened to you! I hope you have some people you find emotionally supportive around you! In terms of your question, I understand what you are talking about. Sometimes when a person experiences a traumatic event, an event called Dissociation occurs. Dissociation is the brain's way of temporary creating and increasing  "emotional distance" between what is happening and what you are feeling and experiencing. This is a kind of natural coping mechanism, and it can occur just prior to, during, and after an event has occurred. People describe the feeling as being "numb," or detached from others, their surroundings, and even from their own body. All of these descriptions are accurate and they are your brain's attempt to try and keep you safe from emotions that may otherwise overwhelm you. This is good, in the short-term, because you are not having to immediately face and cope with the immensely painful feelings associated with your trauma. But it is also not-so-good in that it also blocks your ability to feel positive and pleasurable emotions. So while your brain is protecting you, it is also preventing feelings you need now more than ever (such as regaining a sense of safety, soothing your hurts, and feeling empowered for your survival).

You are not a sociopath, so do not worry about that, but I would strongly recommend that you consider seeing a therapist or other supportive mental health professional to help you work through what is happened. There are ways for you to heal from your experience which will help you get back to a place where you can feel safe enough to "feel" again.  It might be an uncomfortable journey, at times, but you are already hurting and your life is being negatively impacted, now. Good therapy sometimes is like pulling out a splinter--it may hurt a bit to dig that sucker out, but once it's out, your body can finally start to heal.  It might seem better (and less painful) to leave it alone, and ignore (avoid) it. But you risk INFECTION by your inaction which will be 100 x worse than just digging it out. 

Best of luck to you!

Learn more about me and my practice at www.EMDRheals.com

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Kathy Hicks
Kathy Hicks
Counseling and Psychotherapy Services

You are describing a very legitimate reaction to trauma.  Rape is an aweful experience and I am very sorry that happened to you.  When horrible things happen, people often react in a way that interferes with the ability to live a normal life and function the way they did in the past.  This is very common and the goal is to help you manage the stress caused by dealing with negative events and with help you can regain emotional well-being.  This is especially important if you have had more than one negative thing happen.  Oftentimes, the unconscious reaction is to become numb and avoid all feelings, especially if more than one negative event occurred.  

A big part of what causes people trouble are feelings of guilt.  We often blame ourselves when bad things happen. It is actually difficult to comprehend the concept that we don't always have control of what happens in life.  In addition, when you mentioned feeling like a sociopath, it sounded like you feel like your reaction is wrong.  The first thing you can do is realize that your feelings and reactions are o.k., you aren't doing anything wrong, and nothing is wrong with you.  

The next step is to start dealing with the impact of these traumatic experiences. Identifying your feelings, and knowing the thoughts and beliefs that are behind those emotions can help you regain your sense of happiness.  

Research shows that understanding and expressing those thoughts and feelings can help.  If doesn't sound like you need to do anything to change yourself, but talking to a counselor can be helpful in managing your reaction to a incredibly traumatic experience.  

I hope this helps you understand your feelings and can get to a place where you enjoy life.  


The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Catherine Hodge
Catherine Hodge
Licensed Mental Health Counselor

First and foremost, be gentle and patient with yourself. It is normal to feel a range of emotions after a severe trauma including no emotions at all. Try not to push yourself to feel, just notice the lack of emotion you are experiencing right now. Maybe write about your emotions and the lack of them or talk about it with a safe person. Unfortunately recovering from trauma can take time and it's best done at your own pace. If you aren't feeling there may be a reason you aren't feeling. For severe trauma I always recommend working with a trained trauma professional who has the training to guide you on your path to healing fully.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Sociopaths don't know they are sociopaths.

Clearly, you realize you have pretty deep emotions and have lived through several severely distressing situations.

Your sense of self may be protecting for a while until you recover the practical aspects of daily life and feel some sense of predictability and stability in your life.

Knowing and feeling disturbing emotions which rupture basic trust that other people are safe, is itself a raw process.

Yes, it is possible to become numb emotionally.   The good purpose is to protect you from additional hurt.

When your inner world feels itself ready, more of your emotions from the recent distressing events will be accessible.

If many months pass and you see no progress, then definitely consider a few sessions with a therapist who would be able to guide you to become more open to your feelings.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Laurel Fay
Laurel Fay
Marriage and Relationship Expert

You're not a sociopath - you're traumatized. Shutting off feelings is our brain's automatic way of protecting us when something bad happens and we just can't deal with any more pain. It's temporary - which is both good and bad news, because after the numb goes away and your brain decides you're ready to handle it, you'll feel the emotional pain.  My advice is to get a therapist ASAP so you have a safe place and a safe person when that happens.

This is a horrible thing that happened to you, but you are not a horrible person. With good therapy you will learn to assimilate this into the rest of your life. You'll never forget, but you won't have the same pain about it  .

Good luck! You can do this!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

I am so sorry to hear about what happened to you! What you are describing is being in a state of shock. You haven't suddenly become a sociopath - this is a normal reaction to an event that is completely overwhelming. There are most likely too many feelings to feel right now, so your body in its wisdom is shutting them down. You absolutely can recover, and it would be really important to get some trauma counseling with a counselor who feels safe for you to talk with. This is not the kind of situation to try and handle totally on your own. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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