I feel nothing inside

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  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

    Also visit the online treatment locator.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.

The service is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

English and Spanish are available if you select the option to speak with a national representative. Currently, the 435748 (HELP4U) text messaging service is only available in English.

In 2020, the Helpline received 833,598 calls. This is a 27 percent increase from 2019, when the Helpline received a total of 656,953 calls for the year.

The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.

The service is confidential. We will not ask you for any personal information. We may ask for your zip code or other pertinent geographic information in order to track calls being routed to other offices or to accurately identify the local resources appropriate to your needs.

No, we do not provide counseling. Trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.

  • Suggested Resources

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    It's Not Your Fault (NACoA) (PDF | 12 KB)
    Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, "It's not your fault!" and that they are not alone. Encourages teens to seek emotional support from other adults, school counselors, and youth support groups such as Alateen, and provides a resource list.

    After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
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    For additional resources, please visit the SAMHSA Store.

Last Updated: 08/30/2022

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"I don't feel anything": how to get yourself back


InterviewKnow yourselfAntistress

Psychologies: Overexertion, fatigue, anxiety... Why can't we cope with the pace of life?

Olga Armasova, trainer: Our "I" has three components: physical - body, mental - mind, emotional - feelings. Often in modern man there is no connection between these links. We grow and develop in an environment where we are taught to identify with a goal-oriented mind. Keeping in mind a large number of tasks, often associated with material, external values ​​- to earn, to succeed, to be in time for everything - we experience mental overload. nine0003

We simply do not have enough resources, and we do not know where to look for them, how to replenish energy. As a result, the psyche cannot cope, the body signals problems, and there is no time left for inner life. And so we are in a state of internal disunity, disunity. It’s not for nothing that when we’re stressed, we feel like we’ve been taken to pieces. But we do not think at all about how to become whole again.

Why do we want to sleep when we are very tired? This is a defense mechanism of our psyche, a signal that everything is enough, there is no more strength, we need to urgently recover. And if we do not hear these body signals and do not take action, then exhaustion begins. It is expressed in irritability, apathy, depression, migraines, insomnia. Sooner or later, a breakdown will come, which will have serious or even irreversible consequences. nine0003

We want to appear strong and do not show our true emotional state to others, not even to ourselves

What does it mean to identify yourself with your mind?

A modern working woman faces the task of making a career, achieving success, earning a lot. She must look good, and therefore, take care of herself, since the conformity of her appearance to accepted standards affects her possibilities of self-realization. And if she has a family and children, she must take care of them, pay attention to them. All these tasks are lined up in a long queue in her head, require 100% concentration and take up all of her time. nine0003

If you try to turn her into a sensual side, ask her what she feels now, she will say: "I feel that I should do such and such", or "I do not feel anything." She thinks that she is experiencing emotions, in fact, remaining at the level of the mind.

In the same way, it is often difficult for her to connect with the body side, to determine where and what she feels in the body, since she perceives the body only as an outer shell. Meanwhile, the body serves as an instrument with which we live and accumulate in ourselves those emotions that have been suppressed, repressed, not realized, which is reflected in the physical state. So the “I” of a modern woman is basically what is in her head. nine0003

But why do we lose contact with our feelings?

Parents, teachers, society as a whole transmit social norms to children, according to which the expression of feelings is not encouraged: it is forbidden to cry, shout, laugh loudly. To fulfill the wishes of adults, we forbid ourselves to feel. We do not live, but we displace emotions, “package” and store them somewhere in the depths until a more serious stressful situation. Or until the complete depletion of resources, when suppressed emotions splash out and we express and live them in an acute form. nine0003

It is important for us what others think of us or what we think of ourselves, because often our strictest censor is ourselves. He constantly evaluates: here I can afford something, but here I can’t, I deserve this, but I don’t. We want to look good, to appear strong, and therefore we do not show our true emotional state to others, or even to ourselves. And as a result, we are increasingly disconnected from our sensual side.

"What do I feel?" is a question that will help you live your emotions in the present without pushing them out

How to avoid this?

Satisfy your most basic needs - security, peace, quiet, sleep. A great practice, for example, is to set aside at least half an hour a day to be alone with yourself. You can get up early for this or, conversely, retire in the evening when the children are sleeping. Being with yourself does not mean sitting on the Internet or on social networks. On the contrary, both gadgets and the TV should be turned off and left in silence. This is the time to look into yourself, to scan your state. If you are worried about something, listen to yourself, understand the situation and think about how to deal with it. nine0003

"What do I feel?" is a question that will help you live emotions in the present without crowding them out, thereby giving yourself the opportunity to be yourself. If, for example, I am angry with a colleague, then, after coming home from work, I can tell my relatives that I am upset and want to be alone. Admit to yourself: yes, I'm angry. When I acknowledge my emotion and connect with it right now, it can move into something else. In any transformation, the first step is awareness, the second is acceptance. Acceptance of oneself and what is happening around is the key to inner harmony. nine0003

How can this help us take control of ourselves and manage our lives?

We waste a lot of resources if we try to restrain our feelings, and this leads to tension. When we give ourselves the opportunity to live our feelings, we let go of this tension. These half an hour alone with ourselves are needed in order for us to move into the position of an observer and see from the outside what is happening to us.

Of course, it is not enough to be only an observer and do nothing at the same time. But after such practice, we will no longer be so dependent on a stressful situation. After all, when we see what we have to do, we do not worry in the now moment. We can relax because we have clarity: where we are, how we feel, what we want, and what we will do to realize our desires. nine0003

I can say from my own experience that such a daily practice is a good prevention of stress, it makes it possible to maintain internal balance.

We need to move from the normal state of brain activity to the one that corresponds to relaxation

Where else can we draw strength, replenish our resources?

There are a lot of effective practices. Meditation, for example, helps turn off the flow of thoughts. After all, our brain, like FM radio, “broadcasts” 24 hours a day. And in order to calm the mind, we need to move from the usual beta state of brain activity to the alpha or theta state, corresponding to relaxation and lack of control. It gives us emotional stability. nine0003

For us, direct contact with the earth is important as a source of life force, but a resident of a metropolis rarely walks on the earth - except that he runs from home to the subway or to the car. If we find time to take a walk outside the city or in the park, we immediately feel a surge of strength. You can listen to the music you like. And if we also sing along or dance, then we find ourselves in a stream of creative energy, which also helps us connect with ourselves.

About the expert

Olga Armasova — candidate of medical sciences, leader of women's trainings. nine0003

Text: Alina Nikolskaya Photo credit: Getty Images

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Why don't I feel anything? | PSYCHOLOGIES


“What do you think I should feel?” - with this question, my 37-year-old friend Lina completed the story of how she quarreled with her husband when he accused her of stupidity and laziness. I thought about it (the word “should” does not fit well with feelings) and carefully asked: “What do you feel?” It was my friend's turn to think. After a pause, she said in surprise: “It seems nothing. Does that happen to you?" nine0003

Of course it happens! But not when we quarrel with my husband. What I feel at such moments, I know for sure: resentment and anger. And sometimes fear, because I imagine that we will not be able to make peace, and then we will have to part, and this thought scares me. But I remember very well that when I worked on television and my boss shouted at me loudly, I absolutely did not feel anything. Just zero emotion. I was even proud of it. Although it is difficult to call this feeling pleasant. nine0003

“No emotion at all? It doesn't happen! objected the family psychologist Elena Ulitova. Emotions are the body's reaction to changes in the environment. It affects both bodily sensations, and self-image, and understanding of the situation. An angry husband or boss is a fairly significant change in the environment, it cannot go unnoticed. Then why don't emotions arise? “We lose contact with our feelings, and therefore it seems to us that there are no feelings,” the psychologist explains.

We lose contact with our feelings, and therefore it seems to us that there are no feelings

So we just don't feel anything? “Not so,” Elena Ulitova corrects me again. We feel something and can understand it by following the reactions of our body. Has your breathing increased? Forehead covered with perspiration? Were there tears in your eyes? Hands clenched into fists or legs numb? Your body is screaming, "Danger!" But you do not pass this signal into consciousness, where it could be correlated with past experience and called words. Therefore, subjectively, you experience this complex state, when the reactions that have arisen encounter a barrier on the way to their awareness, as the absence of feelings. Why is this happening? nine0003

Too much luxury

For a person who is attentive to his feelings, it is probably more difficult to step over “I don’t want”? “Obviously, feelings should not be the only basis for making decisions,” clarifies existential psychotherapist Svetlana Krivtsova. “But in tough times, when parents don't have time to listen to their feelings, kids get the hidden message: 'This is a dangerous topic, it can ruin our lives.'

One of the causes of insensitivity is the lack of training. Understanding your feelings is a skill that may never be developed. nine0003

“For this, a child needs the support of his parents,” Svetlana Krivtsova points out, “but if he receives a signal from them that his feelings are not important, they do not decide anything, they are not taken into account, then he ceases to feel, that is, ceases to be aware of his feelings.

Of course, adults do not do this maliciously: “This is the peculiarity of our history: for whole periods society was guided by the principle “not to fat, if I were alive”. In a situation where you have to survive, feelings are a luxury. If we feel, we may be ineffective, not doing what we need to do.” nine0003

Boys are often forbidden everything that is associated with weakness: sadness, resentment, fatigue, fear

Lack of time and parental strength leads to the fact that we inherit this strange insensitivity. “Other models fail to assimilate,” the therapist regrets. “As soon as we begin to relax a little, the crisis, default, and ultimately fear again force us to group up and broadcast the “do what you must” model as the only correct one.”

Even a simple question: "Do you want some pie?" for some it is a feeling of emptiness: "I don't know." That's why it's so important for parents to ask questions ("Does it taste good to you?") and honestly describe what is happening to the child ("You have a temperature", "I think you are afraid", "You might like this") and to others. (“Dad gets angry”). nine0003

Vocabulary oddities

Parents build vocabulary that will eventually allow children to describe and understand their experiences. Later, children will compare their experiences with the stories of other people, with what they see in films and read in books ... In the vocabulary we have inherited, there are also forbidden words that are better not to use. This is how family programming works: some experiences are approved, others are not.

“Each family has its own programs,” continues Elena Ulitova, “they may differ depending on the gender of the child. Boys are often forbidden everything that is associated with weakness: sadness, resentment, fatigue, tenderness, pity, fear. But anger, joy, especially the joy of victory are allowed. In girls, it’s more often the other way around – resentment is allowed, anger is forbidden.” nine0003

In addition to prohibitions, there are also prescriptions: girls are ordered to be patient. And they forbid, accordingly, to complain, to talk about their pain. “My grandmother liked to repeat: “God endured and commanded us,” recalls 50-year-old Olga. - And the mother proudly told that during the birth she "did not make a sound." When I gave birth to my first son, I tried not to scream, but I did not succeed, and I was ashamed that I did not meet the “set bar”.

Call by their proper names

By analogy with the way of thinking, each of us has our own "way of feeling" associated with the belief system. “I have the right to some feelings, but not to others, or I have the right only under certain conditions,” explains Elena Ulitova. - For example, you can be angry with a child if he is guilty. And if I believe that he is not to blame, my anger can be forced out or change direction. It can be directed at yourself: "I'm a bad mother!" All mothers are like mothers, but I can't comfort my own child. nine0003

Anger can hide behind resentment - everyone has normal children, but I got this one, yelling and yelling. “The creator of transactional analysis, Eric Berne, believed that feelings of resentment did not exist at all,” recalls Elena Ulitova. - This is a "racket" feeling; we need it to use it to force others to do what we want. I’m offended, so you should feel guilty and somehow make amends.”

If one feeling is constantly suppressed, then others weaken, shades are lost, emotional life becomes monotonous

We are able not only to replace some feelings with others, but also to shift the range of experiences along the “plus-minus” scale. “One day I suddenly realized that I didn’t feel joy,” admits 22-year-old Denis, “it snowed, and I think:“ It will become slushy, it will be slushy. The day began to increase, I think: “How long to wait, so that it becomes noticeable!”

Our "image of feelings" indeed often gravitates towards joy or sadness. “The reasons may be different, including a lack of vitamins or hormones,” says Elena Ulitova, “but often this condition occurs as a result of upbringing. Then, after realizing the situation, the next step is to give yourself permission to feel. nine0003

It's not about having more "good" feelings. The ability to experience sadness is just as important as the ability to rejoice. It is about expanding the spectrum of experiences. Then we won't have to invent "pseudonyms", and we will be able to call feelings by their proper names.

Feelings and time

This hint will help you deal with your feelings. Being related to "its" time, the feeling helps to solve the problem. Otherwise, it masks another feeling. nine0003

Sorrow says that you need to say goodbye to something, grieve about something, forget it, or, conversely, turn it into a memory.

Fear calls us to provide protection against possible danger.

Anger - a signal that my boundaries have been violated and they must be defended right now.

Resentment does not help in this case.

Joy is timeless: one can rejoice about what was, what is now or will happen in the future. It helps us to enjoy life at all time intervals. nine0003

Too strong emotions

It would be wrong to think that the ability to “turn off” feelings always arises as a mistake, a defect. Sometimes she helps us. At the moment of mortal danger, many experience numbness, up to the illusion that "I'm not here" or "everything is happening not to me." Some "feel nothing" immediately after the loss, left alone after separation or death of a loved one.

“Here it is not the feeling as such that is forbidden, but the intensity of this feeling,” explains Elena Ulitova. “A strong experience causes a strong excitation, which in turn includes a protective inhibition.” This is how the mechanisms of the unconscious work: the unbearable is repressed. Over time, the situation will become less acute, and the feeling will begin to manifest itself. nine0003

The emotional shutdown mechanism is designed for emergencies and is not meant to be used for a long time.

We may be afraid that some strong feeling will overwhelm us if we let it out and we won't be able to handle it. “I once broke a chair in a rage and now I am sure that I can cause real harm to the person with whom I am angry. Therefore, I try to be restrained and not give vent to anger, ”admits 32-year-old Andrei.

“I have a rule: don't fall in love,” says 42-year-old Maria. “Once I fell in love with a man without memory, and he, of course, broke my heart. Therefore, I avoid attachments and am happy.” Maybe it's not bad if we give up feelings that are unbearable for us? nine0003

Why feel

The emotion cut-off mechanism is intended for emergency situations, it is not designed for long-term use. If we constantly suppress one feeling, then others weaken, shades are lost, emotional life becomes monotonous. “Emotions testify that we are alive,” says Svetlana Krivtsova. - Without them it is difficult to make a choice, to understand the feelings of other people, which means it is difficult to communicate. Yes, and the experience of emotional emptiness in itself is painful. Therefore, it is better to re-establish contact with "lost" feelings as soon as possible. nine0003

So the question "How should I feel?" better than a simple "I don't feel anything." And, surprisingly, there is an answer to it - “sadness, fear, anger or joy.” Psychologists argue about how many "basic feelings" we have. Some include in this list, for example, self-esteem, which is considered innate. But everyone agrees about the aforementioned four: these are feelings that are inherent in us by nature.

So I will suggest to Lina to correlate her state with one of the basic feelings. Something tells me that she will choose neither sadness nor joy. As in my story with the boss, I can now admit to myself that I felt anger at the same time as a strong fear that prevented anger from manifesting. nine0003

Text: Elza Lestvitskaya Photo Source: Getty Images

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