“I feel like I don’t have feelings anymore” is a common experience for people who are developing psychosis or depression or who are recovering from a traumatic experience. It can be unnerving to lose the ability to feel or show your emotions.
When we experience trauma, the shock of the traumatic event can make us feel numb. In depression, the feeling of numbness also comes with sadness or feeling heavy or slow in your body. People experiencing psychosis often feel like they no longer have feelings while also hearing or seeing things that might not be there.
Mental health conditions like these are common. 70% of people will experience trauma in their life . 10% will experience depression , and 3.5% will experience psychosis .
When you lose the ability to feel or express any emotions, this is called flat affect. If you feel numb only to positive emotions but are still able to feel negative emotions, this is called anhedonia. Anhedonia is a common symptom of depression and shows up in a lot of mental health conditions. Flat affect is less common, but it is frequently a symptom of psychosis.
If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression or PTSD (which is common in people who have experienced trauma), you can take our free and confidential depression test or PTSD test.
Loss of emotions in psychosis
Some symptoms of psychosis are called “positive symptoms.” Others are called “negative symptoms.” That doesn’t mean that positive symptoms are good and negative symptoms are bad. Positive symptoms are things that start to happen that are not “normal,” like seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. Negative symptoms are things that normally do happen, but stop happening when you experience psychosis. Flat affect, where you stop feeling emotions, is a negative symptom.
Below are some questions that we ask people about their negative symptoms of psychosis :
- Has anyone pointed out to you that you are less emotional or connected to people than you used to be?
- Do your emotions feel less strong in general than they used to? Do you ever feel numb?
- Do you find yourself having a harder time distinguishing different emotions/feelings?
- Are you feeling emotionally flat?
- Do you ever feel a loss of sense of self or feel disconnected from yourself or your life? Like a spectator in your own life?
- Do you find that you have trouble getting motivated to do things?
- Are you having a harder time getting normal daily activities done? Sometimes? Always? Does prodding work? Sometimes? Never?
- Do you find that people have to push you to get things done? Have you stopped doing anything that you usually do?
- Do you sometimes find it hard to understand what people are trying to tell you because you don’t understand what they mean?
- Do people more and more use words you don’t understand?
If you said yes to some of these symptoms, it’s worthwhile to take a free and confidential screen here.
Negative symptoms of psychosis are treatable, but you want to make sure to get help sooner than later. With early treatment of psychosis, you can prevent your “first break.” In a psychotic break, you aren’t able to tell what’s real or not real, or you might not feel like you have control over your experiences anymore. At this point, a person also can be diagnosed with schizophrenia. If you get help before your first break, you will have an easier time managing your symptoms going forward.
If you think you have psychosis, keep exploring this site to learn more about what psychosis feels like. Reach out to someone you trust to talk about these experiences. The earlier you identify solutions to these experiences, the better.
- Knipscheer et al. (2020). Prevalence of Potentially Traumatic Events, Other Life Events and Subsequent Reactions Indicative for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the Netherlands: A General Population Study Based on the Trauma Screening Questionnaire. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17(5), p. 1725. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7084195/
- Lim et al. (2018). Prevalence of Depression in the Community from 30 Countries between 1994 and 2014. Scientific Reports 8, p. 2861. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-21243-x
- Van Os. (2015). The transdiagnostic dimension of psychosis: implications for psychiatric nosology and research. Shanghai Archives of Psychiatry 27(2), pp. 82-86. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4466847/
- These questions were pulled from the Structured Interview for Psychosis-Risk Symptoms: http://www.easacommunity.org/files/SIPS_V5-1-1%20V5.doc