Extreme Emotional Detachment

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

(Please forgive me & I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to waste your time, but I need help.) I’ve been diagnosed with ED, BPD (borderline pers), & OCD among others that I’ve requested not be revealed to me. I dissociate often, have years of my childhood that I cannot remember, self-harm (since a toddler by using finger nails & teeth), cannot identify or connect with my own emotions let alone others’, & empathy is totally beyond me. I loathe physical contact of any kind, and although I’ve seen characters in movies miss their family & friends while away from them, I don’t know what that feels like because it doesn’t happen to me. In 2012, my fiance–who I’d been with for 5 years was killed, & true to form, I had no reaction. Complicating the matter, my so-called “problems” do not bother me because I’ve never known any other way of being, but I seem to irk everyone who interacts with me–which is all of about 5 people, including my therapist–who’s the best therapist I’ve ever worked with & I despise disappointing him. Faking is impossible because I don’t understand what or how to do it since I don’t understand what is appropriate. What might be wrong with me or causing this ignorance? Can it ever be corrected? How? People accuse me of not caring & being insensitive even though I’m not. I just don’t know how to show it. What can I do? Please help me if you can. I find that I’m broken & empty & I just don’t care what happens to me anymore, but it’s not fair to the people who are forced to interact with me to feel mistreated by me or that I’m wasting their time. They deserve better, & if that’s all I’m capable of doing in life, then I’d like to do it for them. I’ve searched for answers everywhere but cannot find this weird combo of problems. Thank you for your time.

A: Thank you for taking the time to write this letter to us here. In fact, let’s take a look at the reasons behind why you might write it. The letter itself is an example of your potential. If you really didn’t care about other people, and if you didn’t think it was part of what you were capable of, why write the letter? If you care about people then you do care about yourself — making things better for yourself and others.

My guess is you have not been exposed to the right elements in life to help it flourish — yet. But this doesn’t mean this desire to help others and reconnect with them can’t be cultivated and evolved.

You state clearly “it’s not fair to the people who have to interact with me to feel mistreated by me.” Statements like this do not come from somebody who doesn’t care about others. And it is this anxiety, this need, this concern that needs to be nurtured and developed. Since you are already with the therapist I would strongly suggest you show him this response and use it as a basis for discussion.

I admire your courage, I admire your resilience, and I admire your desire to want to help others and yourself.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Nov 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). Extreme Emotional Detachment. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/11/08/extreme-emotional-detachment/