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Why Are My Emotional Reactions Always Delayed

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From a teen in the U.S.: When I found out my cousin died I went back to bed and fell asleep. When I found out my grandma had a seizure I just kept eating my lunch. When I found out a friend of mine had a brain tumor I just kept eating and continued to eat the candy I had in front of me all while I was in deep thought.

All of my initial responses are numb and not as intense as those around me, I never broke into tears or gasp loudly or panic. My mind even tends to wander to other thoughts unrelated to the news I just received. But a few hours later I will always start feeling intense sadness. My sister always criticized me for being insensitive and not caring about the feelings of those around me or the people the news is about when that isn’t true. When I receive shocking news why is my reaction always late and not as intense and why does my body just continue the activity it was doing?

Why Are My Emotional Reactions Always Delayed

Answered by on -


Thank you for writing. Everyone doesn’t respond to bad news in exactly the same way. You are, in fact, reacting. Your reaction is to go numb while your brain processes hard information. This isn’t uncommon although it may confuse those around you.

Please give yourself a break. You are not insensitive or uncaring. In fact, you are so sensitive that difficult emotions overwhelm you. By distancing from the feelings at first, you are giving yourself time to figure out how to manage them. All this is probably happening on an unconscious level.

It would be helpful in your relationships with others if you can find a way to say, “Give me a minute to let this all in.” Then withdraw for a bit to give yourself time to deal with your feelings. Be sure to go back to the people who share the loss to let them know that you are also affected and that you are there for them.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Why Are My Emotional Reactions Always Delayed

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Why Are My Emotional Reactions Always Delayed. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Aug 2018 (Originally: 29 Aug 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 23 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.