Feelings: Numbness

Welcome to Feelings, a semi-regular gallery of popular culture GIFs, dedicated to a specific emotion. This week we have numbness.

Feeling numb is the experience of being able to remember the outline of emotions you no longer have access to. This can feel fixed, but like all emotional states, numbness is transitory, changeable – yet seemingly permanent. Feeling numb for long periods of time (months, years), can make this sense of permanency seem even more accurate.


Numbness can make us feel desperate. Our inability to connect with other people, express socially appropriate reactions, or feel pleasurable feelings can be painful. Without thoughtful enquiry or professional help, we may try to quiet this desperation with compulsive, distracting behaviours – we’ve all used an unhealthy coping mechanism or two before. But when the need to distract ourselves becomes a daily exercise, it’s important to take note.

Numbing behaviours aren't always obvious to other people – and what can look like numbing can be a component of self-care. What’s harmful is unique to the individual, so having your own number is really helpful here. And to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with drinking, occasional drug use, having a high sex-drive, binge-watching TV, scrolling the internet, indulging in food, or shopping. Pleasure seeking is perfectly healthy, and not something we need to pathologise. But, as with most things, understanding your motivation can help you decide whether or not a particular thing is helpful to you right now. If you feel like you've lost perspective on what is good or bad for you (or find that feeling numb has rendered you unable to stop doing things you would like to stop doing), seeking the advice of a professional might help. 



Find A Psychologist findapsychologist.org.au

Hyperbole and a Half Adventures in Depression Part Two

Healthline Understanding Emotional Numbness 

See also - Feelings: AvoidanceFeelings: RageFeelings: EntitlementFeelings: Love (Is Love)

If you need support, please call Lifeline (13 11 14) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636). If living outside of Australia, please seek out services in your country.