The feeling of nothing can be distressing to people who aren’t comfortable with it. It’s a naturally unsettling feeling that people aren’t supposed to experience in large doses.
Humans are inherently emotional creatures. Most things we do in life are based on our emotions.
Are you happy with life? Are you content with your work? Are you aching to have more in life? Do you ask out that cute person because they make your heart flutter? Are you inspired to do a thing? Are you moved by that piece of art or documentary? Do you feel called to do a thing that is important to you? Do you feel like anything is important to you? Do you love your partner or the rest of your family? Do you care about how you look when you go out? Do you want to practice hygiene because you care about how you are perceived?
BUT…what happens when you are stripped of all of these things? What happens when you’re denied the basics of the human experience? What happens when you are emotionally numb and you don’t feel anything?
Bad things happen. Bad things like substance abuse, self-harm, suicide attempts, and self-destructive behavior in the quest to just feel something for a little while.
But what is it? Why is it? Can you do anything about it?
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you if you don’t feel anything at all. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
Anhedonia – Why You Don’t Feel Anything
Anhedonia is the clinical term for losing or decreasing one’s ability to feel pleasure in things that once gave you pleasure. This feeling and lack of ability to feel pleasure is often a symptom of a variety of mental illnesses, including but not limited to dissociation, derealization, depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
People often mistake anhedonia for boredom, but there is a distinct difference. Anhedonia steals away your desire to alleviate boredom, do things you enjoy, and motivation to try new things. A person experiencing anhedonia won’t bother with these things because there’s no point. They know they aren’t going to feel any pleasure or fulfillment from them. They may even feel empty inside because they don’t enjoy anything in life.
But anhedonia isn’t just a symptom of mental illness. In fact, everyone will experience anhedonia at least once in their life. Anhedonia can also be caused by emotional overload, a defense mechanism your brain uses to protect you. It may also be the result of an unhealthy lifestyle and inflammation.
Drug and alcohol abuse, tragedy, trauma, and stress can all cause anhedonia.
In this time of COVID, more and more people are seeking help for their anhedonia. The stress of the virus, lockdowns, government response, societal response, and so much more is overwhelming for many. The body physically and chemically reacts to the stress and switches into survival mode to get through it. The problem is that your body’s survival system is not meant for long-term use.
It’s meant to be a short-term boost to get you through something temporary. The long-term effects of this stress response flood your body with chemicals that harm you. That’s also where the inflammation problem rears its head.
The Role of Inflammation
There are two kinds of inflammation: acute inflammation and low-grade systemic inflammation. Acute inflammation is known as “good inflammation,” while low-grade systemic inflammation is “bad inflammation.” What’s the difference?
About Acute Inflammation
Acute inflammation serves an important role in protecting your health and well-being. For example, let’s say cut yourself. The skin around the wound turns red, throbs with pain, and swells up. That response is not only normal; it’s healthy. Moreover, it has a clear process with a beginning, peak, and end as your body transitions from harmed to healed.
Your body fighting off a cold is another good example of acute inflammation. You may experience a fever, coughs, body pains, and sneezing. All of those processes are part of the acute inflammation response to combat the currently active virus in your body.
About Low-Grade Systemic Inflammation
Low-grade systemic inflammation is much the same as acute inflammation, with one important distinguishing factor. Instead of having a clear beginning and end, low-grade systemic inflammation does not have a clear beginning and end. Instead, it is a process that starts up and doesn’t shut off like it’s supposed to.
The result is that your body is now under incredible stress trying to keep up with this negative inflammation response. As such, your immune system becomes overtaxed and can’t address the immediate problems that pop up as effectively.
Low-grade systemic inflammation is indirectly linked to several diseases and health conditions including heart attacks, heart diseases, diabetes, depression, anxiety, cancer, and many more.
It can also contribute to anhedonia because anhedonia can be a stress response in addition to a symptom of mental illness. This is because your body and brain are overwhelmed by the bad inflammation response and cannot respond appropriately to the stress. Therefore, it shuts down your emotional responses to ease its load.
This is one reason so many people are so vocal about managing stress.
How Do I Feel Something Again?
It may be possible to self-manage anhedonia and feel something again, so long as it is not a symptom of mental illness. The good news is that the self-management of anhedonia is much the same as reducing stress, which may alleviate the anhedonia. So, let’s look at some tips on how to do that.
1. Consult a health professional about your anhedonia.
Self-management is a tricky business at times. Yet, it can be so helpful in alleviating certain problems and curbing unhealthy circumstances. The problem is that self-management can be just a small bandage over a much more serious wound.
You may not experience much benefit if your anhedonia is a symptom of a mental illness. Therefore, you want to be evaluated by a health professional to determine where your anhedonia is coming from. In addition, you may need treatment for a medical condition to alleviate your anhedonia, particularly if it is a symptom of a larger mental illness.
2. Focus on your breathing.
People who are undergoing a stressful situation often hold their breath while they are experiencing it. The problem with that is a lack of oxygen is another signal to your brain that there is an emergency, even if there isn’t. Of course, if there’s an actual emergency, that’s one thing. But on the other hand, something like a panic or anxiety attack can cause an emergency response where there shouldn’t be one.
Coincidentally, focusing on your breathing is also a way to defuse stress and try to ground yourself during an anxiety attack. There’s a simple breathing exercise that can help called “box breathing.” You inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and repeat. As you do the exercise, you count off the seconds and try to focus solely on your breathing.
3. Get sufficient sleep to properly rejuvenate yourself daily.
Quality sleep is the cornerstone of good mental health and mood balance. This is because your brain produces the mood-balancing chemicals it uses throughout the next day in the deepest stages of sleep. Therefore, if you don’t sleep deeply or regularly wake up, your brain never has the opportunity to replenish these chemicals.
Improving your sleep hygiene can help with inflammation, anhedonia, and other medical ailments.
Try not to look at screens for the hour before bedtime. Avoid caffeine or other stimulants about two hours before bed. Similarly, avoid drinks in general, so you don’t wake up in the middle of the night needing to go to the bathroom. A cool room is known to help people sleep better. Make sure you have a comfortable bed and pillows because the discomfort will cause you to toss and turn all night.
4. Start a regular exercise routine.
Many people largely live a sedentary lifestyle. The health benefits of exercise cannot be understated. Exercise keeps your muscles in good working order. It encourages the production of several chemicals and endorphins that provide important nourishment to your body. Exercise is a great relief to help you work out anger, frustration, and sadness.
It doesn’t even have to be a lot of exercise, either! About a half hour every other day is all you need to get started.
One big tip we can offer to build a healthy habit is to find an exercise that interests you. It is much easier to stick with and build the habit if you want to do it. Few people can force themselves by not wanting to do an exercise they dislike because of the hurdles between no action and action.
5. Do something to stimulate your senses.
Different activities can help you reboot your current feelings. For example, you may find that a shower or sucking an ice cube can provide enough sensation to pull your mind off its current stressful fixation. This can work for anxiety and panic attacks, as well as dissociation. You might also try watching something funny, eating a meal, or getting outside.
6. Learn healthy emotional expressions.
A great deal of stress can be caused by shutting away and not acknowledging one’s emotions. Sure, no one has time to just down tools and have a mental breakdown all the time. But if you can find time to feel and process your emotions, you’re far less likely to push yourself into a breakdown. Furthermore, you reduce your chances of being emotionally overwhelmed to the point where your brain can’t handle it and shuts everything down into anhedonia.
Anger management and processing are incredibly helpful. People don’t tend to have a lot of sympathy or patience for anger. Journaling or exercising are great ways to get some of that energy out. Journaling is a tool that can help you process anger because you are forced to think about it to the point of articulation on the page. Feelings often churn and don’t resolve because they aren’t given a clear and direct outlet. Journaling provides that outlet.
Exercise gives you an outlet to blow off some of the energy from being angry.
7. Take a timeout from the stressful situation.
It’s not realistic to be able to step away from every stressful situation that crops up. However, there are other times when you can take a break if things are getting heated or a little too stressful. A small break can be enough to reset anger or resentment to come back at the problem from a cooler standpoint.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid dealing with difficult things when they present themselves. It’s just that disagreements don’t need to turn into full-blown fights, anxiety attacks, and resentment.
Assuming you have a good relationship with the person, ask them if the two of you can take a fifteen-minute break and return to the discussion once you’ve had an opportunity to clear your head. They may very well welcome it as well.
Other life circumstances can be similarly stressful. Try to keep your work separate from your personal life. Examine your relationships to ensure they are positive and fulfilling rather than draining. Don’t immerse yourself too deeply in the 24/7 news cycle or doom-scrolling on social media. Social media causes great stress because you’re regularly bombarded by bad news and unrealistic expectations.
Quitting social media is one of the best things most people can do for their mental health.
8. Try to connect with supportive people.
Socialization is one of the best ways to manage stress. Talking through what you’re experiencing to a sympathetic person can give you the freedom to process your emotions and let go of the stress.
A close friend or loved one will hopefully be willing to hear you. Try to have the conversation on the phone or face-to-face. Text conversations aren’t the best because there can be a lot of time between messages. The more time between the messages, the more time you hold onto that stress.
On the other hand, not everyone is fortunate to have close friends or loved ones to be vulnerable with. In that case, a therapist or warmline may be a better option. A warmline is like a crisis line but for things other than a crisis. So, if you’re just lonely or in a bad mental space, you can reach out to a warmline and talk to someone.
As you can see, anhedonia and the inability to feel your proper emotions are difficult to navigate. Do consider reaching out to a mental health professional if you find that you can’t make progress through self-management. An inability to properly feel your emotions may point to a different problem that needs to be treated before you can start making meaningful progress.
Still not sure how to feel something if you feel nothing right now? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
Speak to a therapist about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to get to the root of why you’re not feeling anything and guide you to a point where you can feel something again.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
You may also like:
- How To Care Again When You Just Don’t Care About Anything Anymore
- Why Can’t I Cry Anymore? And How To Get The Tears To Come