Emotional numbness

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Emotional numbness (also emotional freezing, emotional freezing symptom or numbing ) describes in psychology a state of emotional freezing or numbness, characterized by

  • limited affectivity
  • significantly reduced interest in important activities ( anhedonia )
  • distant indifference to the environment and one's own life
  • Loss of positive future expectations and perspective for one's own life.

Those affected experience this as inner emptiness, emotional dulling, lack of interest, listlessness and joylessness. It can also lead to a feeling of alienation from fellow human beings, the world and one's own life.

Emotional numbness can occur as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder and is differentiated from dissociation by the narrower definition of the dissociation term. Also, as the term already expresses, emotional numbness does not affect the perception of external reality, but essentially “only” the (reduced or absent) emotional reaction of a person to this perception.

A low cortisol level ( hypocortisolism ) in those affected is discussed as a possible explanation .

Except as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional numbness can also a. be observed as a symptom of dissociation (especially depersonalization ), acute stress reaction , depression , as a grief reaction and temporarily in borderline personality disorder , possibly with other signs such as a lack of eye contact and blank gaze, a lack of facial expressions , rigid and often expressionless facial expressions.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. a b Tobias Hecker, Andreas Maercker: Psychotraumatology . (PDF) In: Ars Medici , 6/2015, pp. 325–328.
  2. a b c Michaela Huber: Trauma and the consequences. Trauma and trauma treatment, part 1 . 5th edition volume 1 . Junfermann, Paderborn 2012, ISBN 3-87387-510-1 .
  3. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wittchen .: Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy . 2., revised. and exp. Edition. Springer Medicine, Heidelberg 2011, ISBN 3-642-13017-8 .
  4. ^ Stefan Brunnhuber: Affect and symptom formation: On the history, theory and systematics of psychosomatics; Zurich lectures. Verlag Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2001, ISBN 3-8260-2212-2 .
  5. ^ Bessel A. van der Kolk: Psychological consequences of traumatic experiences: Psychological, biological and social aspects of PTSD. Institute for Trauma Therapy
  6. Charlotte AC Horn, Robert H. Pietrzak, Stefani Corsi-Travali, Alexander Neumeister: Linking Plasma Cortisol Levels to Phenotypic Heterogeneity of Posttraumatic Stress Symptomatology . In: Psychoneuroendocrinology 2014, January, p. 39, doi: 10.1016 / j.psyneuen.2013.10.003 , PMC 3843152 (free full text) Published online 2013 Oct 14.
  7. ^ Ellert RS Nijenhuis, Johan A. den Boer: Psychobiology of Traumatization and Trauma-Related Structural Dissociation of the Personality . (PDF; 547 kB; 30 pages) Dissociation and the Dissociative Disorders: DSM-V and Beyond, pp. 337-366, here p. 351, doi: 10.4324 / 9780203893920 , November 6, 2008, TAF-RT57850-08-0901 -C021.indd
  8. JW Mason, S. Wang, R. Yehuda, S. Riney, DS Charney, SM Southwick: Psychogenic lowering of urinary cortisol levels linked to increased emotional numbing and a shame-depressive syndrome in combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder. (PDF; 212 kB; 15 pages) In: Psychosomatic Medicine , 2001, 63, pp. 387-401
  9. Kathlen Priebe, Christian Schmahl, Christian Stiglmayr: Dissociation: Theory and Therapy. Springer Verlag, Heidelberg 2014, ISBN 3-642-35065-8 .
  10. ^ Nicole Schuster: Depersonalization - Detached from yourself. In: PZ Pharmazeutische Zeitung , issue 06/2018
  11. The borderline personality disorder: Chronic feelings of emptiness, uncontrollable emotions and interpersonal problems . Psychiatrists on the net
  12. Marc Schmid: About the tendency to dissociate traumatized girls and boys . (PDF) Die Welle, Center for Trauma Education, Hanau Conference, November 9, 2009, slide 11
  13. James N. Butcher, Susan Mineka, Jill M. Hooley: Clinical Psychology (Pearson Studies - Psychology). Pearson Studies, 2009, ISBN 3-8273-7328-X .