Extreme Emotional Detachment

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’m an extremely introverted person, and I have been for a very long time. It was different when I was younger, and I don’t know when or why that changed. I was as loud and obnoxious as any other child. I spoke my mind and made friends relatively easily. Now, at the age of 23, I find that I’m unable to express extreme emotions, and it’s hindered my ability to form meaningful relationships – platonic or otherwise – in both my personal and professional life. Although I have many different “friend” groups and a few friends that I would consider close, I’ve never felt that I really fit in with any group in particular, and I’ve never had a best friend who also considered me their best friend. I’m likeable – level-headed, polite, easy to get along with – but no one absolutely loves me or hates me. My longest relationship lasted 4 months, during which I spent more time trying to avoid them than anything else, and I’ve never been anywhere close to being in love. Most of my other romantic endeavors have been little more than casual hookups with little to no emotional connection.

In my professional life, I’ve been unsuccessful at building a network, which is crippling in a world where who you know means everything, no matter what you’ve accomplished. I’ve had more than one employer tell me I’m great at my job, but they regretted that they weren’t able to get to know me on a more personal level. I rarely make it past phone interviews because even though I may be saying the right things, I sound monotone and unenthusiastic. There are few things that excite me, or anger me, or make me sad to the point that it shows, and sometimes I can’t even tell if it’s because I just don’t have the capacity to feel those emotions or if I’m just suppressing them. I can count on one hand the number of people who’ve seen me cry. What I do know is that I want and need to be able to make these kinds of connections and learn how to express myself, but I don’t know how. I’m looking for advice on where to start and considering if seeking a professional would be necessary/helpful?

A. It is your opinion that your lack of extreme emotion is preventing you from developing certain relationships but I’m not certain that your self-assessment is accurate. Generally speaking, extremes in emotion are a sign of psychological instability and possibly a mental illness. For instance, individuals with bipolar disorder experience intense periods of happiness and sadness. Those intense periods of sadness and depression are referred to as episodes. Treatments for bipolar disorder attempt to balance one’s emotional state.

Psychologically healthy people have stable moods. We all experience periods of mood instability from time to time due to illness and sleep deprivation, among other reasons but those periods should be fleeting and short-lived. Extremes in emotion are draining and unsustainable. The fact that you lack these extremes in emotion is indicative of psychological stability and not necessarily a deficit or a problem.

Consulting a mental health professional would be advantageous primarily because it would afford you the opportunity for an objective evaluation. It’s possible that you are correct, and there is a deficit in your emotional response, but each situation would have to be assessed and dissected. A clinician could analyze those situations and determine if your emotional reaction was appropriate or not and advise you accordingly. You may only need a few counseling sessions to determine if anything is wrong and to learn the appropriate skills for dealing with certain situations. Counseling could be very beneficial for you. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Feb 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). Extreme Emotional Detachment. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/02/26/29551/