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Emotional Detachment: Why It’s Affecting You More Than You Think

Emotions are everywhere. In fact, probably more than we think. As humans, we thrive on connection. It is so much a part of our lives that when we aren’t able to feel, it can be hard to connect with others. Empathy and understanding our fellow humans is more important than ever. However, emotional detachment is a very real phenomenon which can affect your personal life.

What is Emotional Detachment

Emotional detachment is a psychological experience characterized by a lack of emotional connection to things around you, usually brought on by a traumatic event. The person in mind subconsciously mutes their emotions in order to protect themselves. This can manifest in multiple ways.

One way is when a person avoids situations that make them feel anxious or uncomfortable. Another way it can be expressed is through people maintaining personal boundaries by putting themselves apart physically when dealing with an emotional situation. Both reflect a similar feeling. So let’s take a closer look at detachment and what it means.

Detachment Definition

In definition, detachment means being objective. You are able to separate yourself from the situation emotionally. Life can often have a way of throwing just about everything it has at us sometimes, and detachment is one way to deal with it. Detachment itself can take many forms.

Whether in relationships, work, friends, hobbies, or other activities, detachment is stepping back and removing yourself from the equation to look at things objectively.

While detachment is often seen as dispassion and disinterest, there can be another side to it. You can view it as objectivity, impartiality, or neutrality. In a broader sense, think of this as a way to be fair.

In regards to emotional detachment, it is a feeling of being unable to connect and open up to people. Sure, not everyone. But emotional detachment disorder is something worth investigating that has real-world signs.

Emotional Detachment Symptoms

There are certain things to look for if you think that you or someone you love has emotional detachment. The first sign of emotional detachment disorder is someone being unable to share their emotions. Your partner might be suddenly quiet and not want to talk. Perhaps they don’t share their day or sit on their phone most of the time instead of being with you.

Also, there is an inability to show compassion and empathy for the feelings of another person. If you find yourself feeling emotionally numb or unable to identify your emotions, this might be something you are struggling with. Alternatively, someone might stop showing sympathy and support for a difficult time you are going through.

Another sign is not wanting to commit to things, particularly in a relationship. This could include someone who just thinks that they would rather live in the moment than talk about the future. Also, they might enjoy relationships with people who are not physically around them. Long-distance relationships in which people don’t have to get as close tend to appeal to people who feel detached.


Also, they can seem to be insensitive to other people’s needs or have incredibly high expectations. It might seem like they are being particularly hurtful on purpose, or trying to be mean. However, this might not be the case. It is a lack of understanding of what it means to have empathy and sensitivity.

In a relationship, it might present in other ways. For instance, you might not make your partner a priority, or maybe you don’t bother fighting anymore. Perhaps you might subtly give your partner a hard time or bring outside stress into the relationship. Emotional detachment can put a lot of strain on a relationship so being aware of the signs will help you recognize it.

Examples of Symptoms

Here is a list of some symptoms to look for regarding emotional detachment.

  • Emotional numbness or lack of emotion – Someone might feel a kind of numbness of feeling, unable to feel emotionally connected to experiences. When other people are experiencing lots of feelings, they might not.
  • Being subtly rude – This can be a sign of lack of empathy. It is important to remember that this sort of being rude might not be an attempt to be hurtful.
  • Treating someone like a child – This refers to a relationship more, if a person is treating their partner without even respect and equality. This might be a sign that one person has a low self-esteem and can further the problem of being emotionally detached.
  • Not talking about what is really going on –  Often times, we can talk without saying very much at all. Hiding what is going on, not discussing the real issues that are upsetting someone. You might not what to share, or not know what to say, or avoid difficult conversations altogether.
  • Not making your partner a priority – In relationships, this is a sign someone may have detached. Priorities shift when we aren’t able to connect. Being involved in your partner’s life and making them a priority signifies care and compassion. If it is lacking, there may be something more going on.

What Causes Emotional Detachment Disorder

There are so many things that can cause emotional detachment. While some things are universal, the human experience varies greatly from person to person. Therefore, it makes sense that we all have different underlying causes. Often, emotional detachment comes from a place of hardship or traumatic events. But, it can come from something as common as a difficult break-up.

Many times, people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder will also feel detachment. Post-traumatic stress is when someone has suffered a shocking, scary, or dangerous event in their lives. This can be physical or emotional trauma. This changes how people think and act, as we have seen from people coming from war or other harrowing experiences.

People who were raised in strict households or were abused more commonly have the disorder. A child might start to believe their feelings and emotions are dangerous and lock them away as a result. They withdraw their emotions because their needs for an emotional connection weren’t being met.

We can’t always tell what causes these things. In fact, it is possible that you might start to feel this way and not know why. Not to mention, there is certainly a spectrum. It is possible that something small and seemingly insignificant made you feel detached from some emotions or aspects of your life. That is ok. You won’t experience it the same way as everyone else.

Additionally, there are some medical conditions that are associated with emotional detachment. People with Psychopathy, Asperger’s Syndrome, Borderline Personality Disorder, or those who experience personal dissociation can also experience emotional detachment disorder.

What to Do if You’re Emotionally Detached

Emotional detachment is a tough thing to deal with. You might not feel like you care enough to change. However, it can be worked on and overcome. It is helpful to get a counselor or other professional help to work through whatever is making you feel detached.

This can be something that really affects relationships as well. As most people know, the key to any relationship is communication. Knowing what your partner needs and wants is important in a healthy relationship. So if you or your partner are feeling emotionally detached, it is worth bringing to light. Your long-term relationship will be better off for it.

Learning how to understand and express emotions can be scary. However, you can get quite a rush from learning how to connect with people.Being able to feel again and learning how to deal with emotions is a key part of overcoming the disorder and feeling different in day-to-day life.

Emotional Detachment: Final Thoughts

Emotional Detachment can be a hard thing to talk about. Emotional pain stays with us for a long time and when you’re finally ready to deal with it, it isn’t easy to face.

However, living a life void of emotion is no way to live. After all, connection to others is a vital part of living a full life.