Is it possible to be emotionless

Alexithymia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Alexithymia is a broad term to describe problems with feeling emotions. In fact, this Greek term used in Freudian psychodynamic theories loosely translates to “no words for emotion.” While the condition is not well-known, it’s estimated that 1 in 10 people has it.

While Freudian theories are largely considered dated, this condition seems to be increasing in awareness. It’s often seen as a secondary diagnosis in other preexisting mental health conditions and disabilities, including depression and autism.

However, this does not mean that everyone with these conditions has problems expressing with and identifying emotions. In fact, studies show that it only affects a small percentage.

People who do have alexithymia may describe themselves as having difficulties with expressing emotions that are deemed socially appropriate, such as happiness on a joyous occasion. Others may furthermore have trouble identifying their emotions.

Such individuals don’t necessarily have apathy. They instead may not have as strong of emotions as their peers, and may have difficulties feeling empathy.

Read on to learn more about the possible causes of alexithymia, as well as treatments and therapies for this condition.

Alexithymia isn’t well understood. There’s a possibility it may be genetic.

The condition may also be a result of brain damage to the insula. This part of the brain is known for its role in social skills, empathy, and emotions, with some studies linking insula lesions to apathy and anxiety.

Links to autism

The symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are wide-ranging, but there are still some stereotypes associated with this condition. One major stereotype is a lack of empathy, something that has largely been debunked.

At the same time, some research indicates that up to half of people with autism also experience alexithymia. In other words, it’s alexithymia that causes the lack of empathy, and not autism itself.

Emotions and depression

It’s also possible to experience alexithymia with depression. It has been noted in major depressive and postpartum disorders, as well as schizophrenia. Research indicates that between 32 and 51 percent of people with depressive disorders also have alexithymia.

Possible trauma

Additionally, this condition has been noted in people who have experienced trauma, especially during early childhood. Trauma and neglect at this stage may cause changes in the brain that can make it difficult to feel and identify emotions later in life.

Other associated conditions

Research also indicates that this condition may be present in certain neurological diseases and injuries. These include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • dystonia
  • epilepsy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • stroke
  • traumatic brain injury

As a condition marked by lack of feelings, it can be difficult to recognize the symptoms of alexithymia. Since this condition is associated with an inability to express feelings, an affected person might come across as being out of touch or apathetic.

However, a person with alexithymia might personally experience the following in social contexts:

  • anger
  • confusion
  • difficulty “reading faces”
  • discomfort
  • emptiness
  • increased heart rate
  • lack of affection
  • panic

This condition may also make it difficult for a person to interpret body changes as emotional responses. For example, you might have trouble linking a racing heart to excitement or fear, but are still able to acknowledge that you’re experiencing a physiological response in the moment.

Alexithymia is diagnosed by a mental health professional. It’s not officially recognized by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Instead, your mental health provider will likely ask you questions and provide a diagnosis based on your answers. You may also be asked to provide a self-reported questionnaire.

Another possible test is an MRI performed by a neurologist. This will provide images of the insula in the brain.

There’s no one single test for alexithymia, much like neurological disorders and mental illnesses in general. It can take time to receive the right diagnosis.

To date, there isn’t a single individual treatment for alexithymia. The exact treatment approach depends on your overall health needs. For example, if you have depression or anxiety, taking certain medications for these conditions could also help mental health symptoms.

Therapies may also be helpful for this condition. These allow you to participate in exercises to help improve mental health.

Possible therapy options include:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • group therapy
  • psychotherapy (also known as “talk therapy”)

One possible step towards emotional recognition is to start being mindful of your own physiological responses. Some research has suggested the importance of beginning with your heart rate.

Notice whether your heart rate goes up in certain situations, and explore the possibilities of why this could be. A heart rate monitor or fitness watch can also help. With practice, you may become better able to distinguish anger from excitement and fear, for example. A journal can also help you document your physical responses and emotional patterns.

It’s also important to keep in mind that negative emotions are just as important as positive ones. Learning how to identify these emotions and work with them (not against them) can help you lead a more fulfilling life.

Alexithymia can cause frustration for people who experience it, as well as friends and loved ones. If you think you’re having trouble with recognizing or describing feelings, consider talking to a doctor about it. They can help guide you to the right therapy options to help improve on these important life skills.

If you don’t already have a mental health professional, our Healthline FindCare tool can help you connect to doctors in your area.

Alexithymia isn’t widely known, but this condition has been studied for more than four decades. It’s presented in individuals who have difficulty recognizing and expressing feelings, and it often coincides with another underlying neurological condition or mental health disorder.

While not inherently dangerous, this condition may inadvertently lead to interpersonal and relationship issues. The good news is that there are therapies available that can help you improve on mental health skills. Not only will this help with relationships with others, but more importantly, you may feel better, too.

Read this article in Spanish.

Why Are You Emotionless? | 🥇 Emotional Intimacy Coaching

Posted on by Lori Jean Glass

Experiencing intense feelings is an integral part of being human. Our deepest feelings, whether it’s sadness, anger, or joy, power our most interesting and vivid behavior. But what if you feel empty? Is being numb the same as being emotionless? Is it even possible to be entirely emotionless? 

Feeling detached and lacking emotion can be a sign of deep emotional intimacy issues, as well as a range of medical conditions. At times, we may even choose to be emotionless for fear of succumbing to the weight and intensity of our feelings and emotions. In this article, we explore why someone would lack emotion and how one can deal with a person who is experiencing emotional blockage. Keep on reading. 

Can A Person Be Emotionless?

Have you ever felt detached and disconnected from your emotions? The answer is probably yes. You may have felt that way when you were overwhelmed with everything going on in your life, and realized at one point that you actually felt nothing. But was that really the case? Were you truly emotionless or were you just bottling up emotions? 

It is entirely normal to detach yourself from your feelings when you are stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious. This does not mean that the emotions aren’t there – you’re simply not acknowledging them, or you may be trying to analyze them objectively and not let them overcome you. 

This is known as emotional detachment, which can be a natural response to a stressful situation. However, emotional detachment can also result from trauma or abuse, as well as be a sign of several psychological conditions, including attachment and personality disorders.  

What Causes A Person To Be Emotionless?

There is a wide range of possible reasons why you may feel numb or emotionless. Here are some of the most common causes of emotional detachment: 

  • Depression: Detachment is a common symptom of depression. When you’re depressed, you may feel little interest in things you used to enjoy, as well as have a sense of general apathy and indifference. 
  • Anxiety: Severe anxiety can also cause you to lose touch with your emotions. Detachment can serve as a protection mechanism for your anxious feelings and thoughts.  
  • Severe stress: Similarly, lacking emotion can also be a result of overwhelming stress. If you’ve had a stressful period in your life, detaching yourself from your emotions is an entirely natural response. 
  • Medication: Some medication used to treat depression and anxiety can cause emotional detachment. They can affect the way in which your brain processes emotion and mood, causing confusion and apathy. 
  • Abuse: Experiencing physical or emotional abuse and manipulation can cause a variety of issues, including emotional detachment. It is often easier for abuse victims to distance themselves from the experience and the emotions it has caused. 
  • Underlying disorders: Emotional detachment can also be a symptom of certain psychological conditions, such as reactive attachment disorder and several personality disorders. 

Why Would Someone Hide Their Feelings?

At times, we may consciously decide to hide our feelings from others, for one reason or another. Emotional detachment, on one hand, is often a subconscious process – the individual experiencing it may not know why they lack emotion. On the other hand, you may make a conscious effort to hide or ignore your emotions. You may do so because: 

You Don’t Want To Appear Weak 

Openly showing your emotions usually means being vulnerable. It is entirely normal to fear exposing your vulnerabilities to other people, especially if you feel like they would judge you. For this reason, you may choose to hide your anger, fear, sadness, or frustration. 

You Don’t Want To Get Hurt Or Hurt Others

If you want to avoid a painful conflict or put yourself in a situation where you may be emotionally manipulated, you might choose not to react negatively and hide your feelings. You may do so because you have issues with trust or lack faith in your conflict resolution abilities. 

You Lack Confidence 

If you’ve had your feelings invalidated since a young age, it’s possible that you’ve also learned to conceal them. Your parents or caregivers may have reprimanded you for emotional outbursts, whether positive or negative, so you no longer feel confident expressing your feelings and opinions. 

How Do You Deal With An Emotionally Unavailable Relationship?

Having a loved one who is emotionally detached or unavailable can put quite a bit of strain on your relationship with them and your own mental health. Here’s what you can do to cope with an emotionally distant or unavailable person: 

  • Understand the causes: try to uncover the root causes of your loved one’s emotional detachment. Are they trying to avoid a conflict? Are they struggling with depression? Determining where they’re coming from can enable you to offer better help and deal with the situation. 
  • Offer support: your partner or family member may not want to show their feelings, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need support or validation from you. Show them that you are there for them, but don’t pressure them into opening up.  
  • Focus on yourself: instead of focusing all of your energy on getting your loved one to let their guard down, express your own feelings – explain to them how their emotional unavailability is affecting you without being accusatory. 
  • Don’t feel responsible for their feelings: while you may genuinely want to help your loved one get better and become more honest with their emotions, at the end of the day, their feelings are their own, not yours. Don’t try to manage or control them. 
  • Consider professional coaching: An experienced coach can help you and your loved one build trust and deepen intimacy. A professional will use expert tactics to calmly and supportively get your loved one to speak and open up. 

Learn To Embrace Your Emotions With PIVOT Emotional Intimacy Coaching

While detaching yourself from your feelings can be quite helpful in certain situations, ignoring them for too long can have serious consequences on your mental and physical health. It can affect your relationships and hinder your ability to create strong bonds based on honesty and trust. 

Luckily, you can rely on PIVOT Coaches to offer expert support through individual coaching and provide insightful advice in our relationship workshops. If you are ready to take the first step towards an emotionally balanced life, get in touch with a PIVOT Coach today. 

How to become insensitive and cold?

More and more people, especially teenagers, are wondering how to become insensitive. Emotions are good. But not always. Life is unpredictable, it has ups and downs. And just the last of some especially emotional, kind, sympathetic and vulnerable people can seriously injure. If this happens regularly, you have to somehow abstract from the situation. And the question of how to become cold and insensitive comes to the mind of many. Just for the sake of not feeling pain anymore, not feeling the sorrows of failure. This is not the best solution, but in some situations the only way to escape. There are several tips that will definitely help you bring this idea to life.

Not everything is given

Just take your time. To begin with, think carefully about whether you want to rid yourself of emotions. Often it is more difficult to restore them than to eliminate them. By the way, not everyone can be insensitive.

Remember: few people have a true absence of emotions. Usually cruelty and composure are in the blood of a person. If there is a predisposition to these traits, then it will be easy and simple to solve our today's question. Otherwise, you will literally step on the throat of yourself and your inner structure.

Sympathetic kind people often think about how to become an insensitive person. And unforgiving. They will have to work very seriously on themselves. As practice shows, such are not able to really bring the idea to life. Except for a while. And then the feeling of guilt will sit inside. And true composure does not allow this.

Return to suffering

The first rule that can only help is to return to your suffering. Each person has some memories that bring pain or great resentment. It is to them that you will have to turn in the subconscious every time you are covered with positive emotions.

It usually hurts a lot to experience negative moments at first. But at one point, this feeling disappears. And you don't care. Once you achieve this, it will be easier to solve the problem.

Try to remember all the negative events at once, en masse. Only in this way can you fully answer how to become insensitive. Yes, it may seem impossible, but with continued practice, you will notice a clear change in your behavior.

Lack of attention

The second rule is to pay no attention to anything. Not for people, not for events. Forget holidays, relatives, friends. Sometimes it is enough not to congratulate someone on their birthday once, so that they begin to consider you cold-blooded.

Yes, it will be difficult at the very beginning. Especially when your favorite holiday comes or some bright, pleasing, emotional event occurs. But you should not just ignore it, but meet it with complete indifference. Until you learn this, you will not be able to become an insensitive person. After all, such people usually rarely show their emotions. Most often, their faces show complete indifference to everything.

Let's say "no" to help

A very interesting fact - refusing to help someone instantly makes you a cruel bad person. Even if you really are simply unable to help or refuse for some specific, justified reasons. So, in order to figure out how to become an insensitive creature, you just need to not help people. That is, in general. Absolutely. Even on trifles. Remember: helping is very disadvantageous. Especially close people. They often demand something from you that will harm you. In addition, helping in practice awakens positive emotions. And this is of no use to you. After all, the main task that faces you is to completely get rid of emotions.

Please note that you must always refuse. And even if help is vital. Initially, this will not be easy. But over time you will get used to it. By the way, very often such a step makes life much easier. You will not do anything to the detriment of yourself.


Are you often offended? Or maybe you just succumb to eternal emotional tyranny? Gain strength and courage ... and mirror your behavior. Do not be afraid to hurt your offenders. However, like all other people.

What does this mean? Treat your offenders exactly as they treat you. It doesn't matter who it is - a relative or just a friend / acquaintance. Take an example from people who hurt you. They are usually just perfect role models. After all, the ability to hurt a nerve is a good skill for a cruel person.

What about those who communicate with you with kindness and friendliness? Mirroring will not help here - this is a charge of extra positive emotions. Therefore, just take an example from your offenders: try to distance yourself from such personalities, constantly tell them something offensive, unpleasant. Over time, this will become a habit.

Full control

Here is a golden rule that you should always remember. If you want to understand how to become insensitive, you need to take control of all your emotions. How exactly to do it? There is no exact algorithm here. Just a few tips.

First, choose a profession that makes you suppress your emotions. For example, a doctor. There they will be able to teach you some things that will help bring our today's idea to life.

Various psychological courses and trainings are also a good way to control emotions. They are called - "Emotions under control." True, they are more taught to restrain the negative. But similar principles can be interpreted for positive sensations.

In the end, on your own try to keep all the good things inside and suppress them. Think: "Everything is bad." And repeat this to yourself constantly. Even if everything is just great. Sooner or later you will notice how you have learned to control emotions. In this case, it remains only to keep always a stone, unemotional face when communicating.

That's all. Just before you become cruel and insensitive, think carefully about whether you really need it. Getting your emotions back will be harder. Pain is always easier to endure than to drown out.

How negative emotions make us insensitive to the pain of others

  • Melissa Hogenboom
  • BBC Future

Image credit: iStock They determine how we respond to the pain of others, warns columnist BBC Future.

In Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, the heroine's physical and moral suffering is depicted so realistically that readers almost feel the pain she experiences from being hit by a stun gun and are dejected by the injustice of what is happening.

And what's even more frustrating is that we understand that everything that happens in this work of art has its roots in the history of mankind, and therefore it is easy for us to imagine ourselves in Fredova's place.

As Atwood herself wrote in the New York Times, "If I have to create an imaginary garden, I will try to have realistic frogs in it."

We sympathize with the heroine of her novel, it is one of the basic human abilities - to share someone's feelings. When we see someone suffering, our brain immediately associates it with our own pain ever experienced.

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All this is true, but it turns out that our emotional state affects the degree of empathy, empathy. Our emotions literally change how our brains respond to the experiences and suffering of others.

In particular, when we are in a bad mood, when we ourselves feel bad, we treat people differently.

Clearly, our mood can influence our behavior in a million different ways, from the choice of food at dinner (when we feel bad, we choose less healthy food) to relationships with family and friends.

When our friends are upset and gloomy about something, their condition can be contagious and affect our mood. Bad moods can also spread through social media, according to one 2017 study.

In fact, our emotions are such a powerful thing that, for example, if we are in a great mood, it can even reduce the pain we feel.

Positive emotions have an analgesic effect. And vice versa: if the mood is bad, the pain is felt even stronger.

Image copyright, iStock

Image caption,

Negative emotions affect the amount of empathy we have for those who are hurting

Worse, a recent study published in December 2017 shows that when we feel bad, our "built-in ability" to respond to someone else's pain. It literally mutes our empathy.

Emily Chiao-Tasseri of the University of Geneva and her colleagues set out to understand how our emotions influence our response to the pain of others.

Subjects experienced pain when a special device attached to their leg raised the temperature in that area. Participants in the experiment were also shown excerpts from movies of different moods (including those where other people experience pain), while scanning their brains.

It turned out that in those who were shown "painful" passages, and then - a person experiencing real pain, the activity of the brain regions responsible for painful sensations was less pronounced than usual.

"In other words, negative emotions can inhibit our brain's ability to feel the pain of others," explains Chiao-Tasseri.

The results of this study are very telling. They demonstrate that emotions can literally change the state of our brain - and this, in turn, affects how we perceive the feelings of other people.

Image copyright, iStock

Image caption,

Bad moods make it difficult for us to understand the feelings of others

Another study by Qiao-Tasseri and her colleagues found that people who watch a film clip that makes their mood worse tend to perceive a completely neutral facial expression as hostile .

What does this mean for real life? When a person in power - say, a boss - experiences something that negatively affects his emotions and thoughts (even if it is just a movie or a book), he becomes much less receptive to the problems of his colleagues at work and even begins to experience negative emotions towards them. .

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Our bad mood prevents us from understanding the feelings of others.

Lack of empathy can have other consequences. Studies show that the result can be, for example, a decrease in donations to charity.

The results of brain scans show that we feel less empathy for those who are not from our immediate environment, say, acquaintances, but not close friends.

Why do negative emotions reduce the ability to empathize? Perhaps in such situations, a specific type of empathy comes into play - emotional overstrain.

As Olga Klimecki from the University of Geneva explains, it's the feeling that you can't handle your emotions when something bad happens to someone else, and so you instinctively try to protect yourself, to distance yourself from negativity.

Such emotions manifest themselves in a completely different way in our brain when compared to ordinary empathy. Such emotional overstrain naturally reduces the degree of empathy.

Image copyright Getty Images

Photo caption,

Feeling empathy for the loser is normal

It is also possible that any situation that causes negative emotions prompts us to focus primarily on ourselves and our own problems.

"Patients who suffer from anxiety and depression, who are overwhelmed by negative emotions, are more likely to focus on their own problems and isolate themselves more from society," notes Chiao-Tasseri.

One study by Klimecki and colleagues (2016) found that emotional stress can increase aggressiveness.

During the experiments, participants were presented with competitive situations where they were assessed unfairly, and then given the opportunity to either punish or forgive rivals.

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Before participating in the experiment, all participants were asked to take a personality test. Klimecki found that those who were initially more sympathetic toward others were less likely to put others down over the course of the experiment.

This speaks volumes, says Olga Klimecki. In her large-scale study of empathy, she demonstrated that it is possible to develop the ability to empathize in people.

She discovered that such feelings can be trained. Our emotional responses to the condition of others are thus not something that is formed once and for all.

We can re-activate our deep-seated capacity for empathy - even if someone's suffering seems too much to us.

Image copyright, iStock

Image caption,

Good relationships are the main factor in life satisfaction

And when we think in a more positive way, it helps us to be more attentive to the needs of others. “The result will be more normal relationships between people, and this is the main factor in life satisfaction,” emphasizes Emily Chiao-Tasseri.

So the next time you're in a bad mood, think about how it will affect the people you interact with during the day.

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