Emotionally Detached

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hello! Between age 21-25 I went through 3 very bad relationships ended in rejection, on the last one I had to be hospitalized, I couldn`t eat for days huge stomach pains from stress but I recovered and moved on. I noticed now in my 30+ I have no feeling of compassion, my friends say I have no heart. If somebody dies I don`t feel anything I have to pretend that I care. Even my own father end up in hospital in critical condition and deep down I felt nothing. My body can`t produce any sense of emotion about anything. I don`t care, I do`n bother anybody but people around are affected and say I need to see somebody. Is this serious?

A. You described yourself as someone who does not feel emotion. Friends are also concerned about what they perceive to be your lack of emotion. In one instance, your father was in the hospital and you said you felt nothing. If I had the opportunity to interview you, I would want to know more about your relationship with your father. If you and he were not close and you did not love your father, then I would not see your reaction as odd. Parents and their children do not always have close relationships. It may seem odd to the outsider that you felt nothing for your father when he was critically ill but if you and he were never close, then your reaction makes sense. It’s difficult to feel emotion for someone with whom you are not close.

With regard to what your friends say, it would been helpful to have had specific examples of why they think you lack emotion. It would’ve also have been helpful to have had more details about the times in which someone dies and you feel no emotion. If the person who died was not someone with whom you were close, again it would not be unusual for you to feel no emotion.

One thing that we can say with certainty is that there was a time when you could feel emotion. In fact, you felt very strong emotion. The breakups you experienced were emotionally difficult. If you are indeed stunted in your ability to feel emotion, then it may have been in response to the devastating effects of those earlier breakups. Lacking emotion, or having an inability to feel emotion, may be an unconscious defense mechanism that protects you from having to feel strong, negative emotions.

My recommendation would be to have an evaluation by a mental health professional. The purpose of the evaluation would be to determine if your perceived lack of emotion is accurate. It may be but I do not have enough information to make that determination. It’s worth having an evaluation to know if this problem is serious. It is abnormal to not feel emotion and there are treatments that could assist you in correcting this problem. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 May 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Emotionally Detached. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/05/09/detachment-of-emotion/

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