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Numbness Interspersed with Intense Emotion?

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My Friend Opened Up, and I’ll Write Quickly What I Know

–many people called him fake, inauthentic, not real. But that was his best. Hearing that was very painful.
–he used to have amazing control over his emotions. He would meditate to remove them completely. So, at first, he chose numbness
–It began to become difficult to “hold onto” emotions. They would flicker by so quickly he couldn’t name them. Numbness was constant.
massively re-evaluated his life and removed all habits. He only did what he felt like he had a good reason for doing.
–He is very social, personable, kind. When he was younger, he was shy he says he just didn’t really care?
–Was a camp counselor. First half, he loved it, was able to help the kids a lot. Second half he went numb. He pretended and did and said all the right things, but it was fake. He focused obsessively on it afterwards.
–He began to randomly be hit by these intense walls of all the emotions he’d been missing for so long. Physically overpowering almost.
–To cope in an episode, he would do things physically press down and into a chair as hair as he could, twisting things, breaking things. As I watched him, he had verbal and facial tics going on as if experiencing Tourette’s, but it was deeply connected to emotion? He feels the emotion >tic starts. Repeats words, head begins to jerk, hand movements sometimes.
It was triggered by having a conversation that took him back to a painful moment with a friend. —-He’d been enraged at that friend. So he felt that anger again, but it was targeted towards himself. Just rage and hate towards himself.
These walls of emotion were temporary. He could feel emotion for a moment and then gone. But better than the three second flickers he felt before.
When he was triggered in front of me, he began to behave erratically, seemed very anxious. But he didn’t respond to any grounding techniques. Couldn’t name emotions and hated the idea of an emotion wheel. He hates it when people try to diagnose him without the whole picture. He did say he felt fear and anger.
–He has only connected with five or so people deeply and truly. He is very social though.
–He primarily relies on connecting intellectually with people.
maybe takes meds?
–Alexithymia? Tourette’s? Depression?

Numbness Interspersed with Intense Emotion?

Answered by on -

A.

It’s impossible to give a diagnosis over the internet. I have very little information and I would need to interview him at length, to know what might be wrong. I would also have many follow-up questions about what you described which could only be answered by your friend. Having you ask the question, as opposed to him, makes this even more difficult, but I will try to answer what I can, based on your description of his symptoms.

Human beings experience a range of emotions. It’s part of our nature. Numbing one’s emotions usually doesn’t last very long. His attempting to use numbness as a way to “hold onto” his emotions worked for a time and then it didn’t. At some point, he seemed to be having a physical reaction to his attempting to suppress his emotions. That’s to be expected.

Sometimes people will experience psychological distress in the form of physical symptoms. This is called somatization. Essentially, it occurs when someone is experiencing psychological distress and is attempting to block it out of their minds or ignore it entirely. Because the body and mind are inextricably linked, attempting to suppress one’s emotions only works temporarily. Alexithymia is often associated with psychosomatic problems and thus may be a possibility.

During the episode, you described, he was having verbal and facial tics as if he was experiencing an episode of Tourette’s. Tourette’s is a neurodevelopmental syndrome that involves repetitive movements and uncontrollable, unwanted sounds. People often blink their eyes, shrug their shoulders and yell unusual sounds or offensive words. These are called tics and are hallmark signs of the syndrome. It’s not clear if what you described would fit into the category of Tourette’s syndrome but it is a possibility. He would need to be evaluated by a physician to determine a diagnosis. You should recommend that he undergo an evaluation. It would be the wisest choice for him to make.

If he does have Tourette’s or a related neurodevelopmental disorder, it could explain why he is experiencing problems with his emotions. You mentioned that he might take medication, too. If so, his symptoms could be side effects of the medication he takes. It might also be a sign that he needs a medication change or an adjustment.

Encourage him to undergo an evaluation with both a physician and a mental health professional. They would be in the best position to know what’s wrong and most importantly, to treat his symptoms. It sounds as though he is suffering with a great deal of emotional dysregulation. With the right treatment and medication, he could become stabilized and free of these emotional problems. It’s good that you want to help him, and the best way to do that is to encourage him to consult professionals. They will know how to help. Good luck with your efforts. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Numbness Interspersed with Intense Emotion?

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Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2020). Numbness Interspersed with Intense Emotion?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/06/01/numbness-interspersed-with-intense-emotion/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Jun 2020 (Originally: 1 Jun 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 Jun 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.