You may feel emotionally broken because recent events have turned your world upside down, tested you, or harmed you in ways you couldn’t imagine.
You have experienced suffering, pain, or trauma.
You have been confronted by problems that have overwhelmed you and felt crushing.
But what does it mean to be emotionally broken?
While these two words describe a state of mind, they don’t accurately convey the problem you’re experiencing.
Why does that matter?
Well, because you don’t need to stay emotionally broken. You can heal so you aren’t drowning emotionally or feeling numb.
But to address that problem, you’ll need to better understand what is actually going on with you.
By the time you finish reading this article, you should have a better understanding of your mental and emotional state, and you will have some tools to begin the healing process.
What does it mean to be emotionally damaged or broken?
Feeling emotionally damaged or broken is often the result of trauma. Trauma is defined by the American Psychological Association as:
…any disturbing experience that results in significant fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, or other disruptive feelings intense enough to have a long-lasting negative effect on a person’s attitudes, behavior, and other aspects of functioning.
Let’s consider some examples of what being emotionally damaged or broken might mean.
You meet a wonderful person and find yourself falling in love. You trust and adore them with every fiber of your being. You’d never do anything to harm them, and you think they’d never do anything to harm you.
But a couple years pass by and they start acting strange. They’re spending more time at work, their cellphone is now pass-protected when it never was before, and they are growing increasingly distant.
Then, one day, you pick up their phone when a message flashes on the lock screen, “I love you, babe,” and your world comes tumbling down.
Your trust is shattered. Your world is falling apart. You feel hurt, angry, and numb.
This surge of emotions threatens to overwhelm you and smother you. Infidelity trauma is real, and it causes people to close themselves off from trusting people and relationships.
You may find it difficult to allow yourself to be vulnerable from the pain of your partner’s actions. On the other hand, it may be that you don’t feel anything as a result of the depression.
Many people who experience infidelity in their relationship feel emotionally broken. The breach of trust harms them in a way that sticks with them for a long time, if not the rest of their life.
Once you experience that kind of breach of trust, it doesn’t go back to how it was before. It’s like dropping a mirror. You can glue it back together, but it’ll never be the same as it was before.
The job market can be a tough place. The cost of living is up, food prices are at an all-time high, and many employers don’t offer the kind of consistency that they once did.
That’s hard for anyone to navigate, let alone if you have a family to care for.
As a result, every day can feel like a stress-filled dance to try to get through the day without being overwhelmed with worry.
And because there is so much worry, you may find that you don’t take care of yourself emotionally.
And how can you? You have all this stress and bottled-up emotions you don’t have time to process. You can’t just sit down and have a mental breakdown, can you?
No. You have things to do! Maybe you have a family to care for, a job to do, unending housework to catch up on, or any other number of responsibilities to deal with.
Who has time to sit around and feel their feelings?
Depression is an all too common experience that can make you feel as though you are emotionally broken.
The name is quite literal. Depression depresses your ability to feel your full spectrum of emotions.
It may make the world seem muted, gray, and bland. Severe depression can smother your emotions to the point of feeling nothing but emptiness, like a black hole that consumes all light that touches it.
You can easily think of yourself as emotionally broken when you’re living with depression because it’s such an atypical experience.
Human beings aren’t wired to not feel emotions. Emotions drive many of our actions, fuel motivations, and cause us to want to do things.
But what if you can’t feel those emotions? Well, then things start falling by the wayside. So why does any of it matter when you feel like a shell of a person?
What can you do about it?
Just because you’ve been emotionally harmed by your experiences in life doesn’t mean you have to stay in that space.
Instead, you can nurture yourself, heal, and grow.
Granted, it’s not easy. There are some pains and traumas that are difficult to move past. In some cases, you will never be able to return to the person you were before. Some things leave such a deep wound that they can’t heal completely.
The same thing is true for physical wounds. For example, after your broken finger heals, you may find that it occasionally aches when the weather changes.
Emotional harm is no different. Even when you heal, sometimes you’ll ache. The difference is that healing means you won’t be as devastated by it the next time it rolls through.
So, what can you do if you feel emotionally broken?
1. Allow yourself to feel your emotions.
Emotional avoidance is a high hurdle for many on the path of emotional healing.
Many people don’t want to feel their negative feelings, so they avoid them. They may bury themselves in their work, exercise, hobbies, relationships, or anything else that distracts them from their negative feelings.
Unfortunately, that kind of behavior causes serious harm. You can get so good at shutting out your emotions that you can effectively wall them up where they fester quietly and affect you in negative, subconscious ways.
You can’t run from negative emotions by avoiding them. They stay and will be waiting to surge forward again later on.
The best thing to do is allow yourself to feel your feelings when they come.
Of course, that isn’t always possible. For example, having an emotional breakdown at work is not a great idea. However, it may help to set aside time to think about the circumstances and negative emotions, then allow yourself to feel for a bit.
Afterward, dry your eyes and get back to what you need to do.
2. Dedicate time to self-care.
Self-care is an often-neglected component of mental and emotional health.
To engage in self-care is to put yourself first for a little while so you can recharge your batteries, relax, and do something you enjoy for yourself.
That can be anything from a hobby, to reading a book, a bubble bath, camping, or anything else that helps you feel more like yourself.
There’s no wrong way to do self-care. The important thing is that it gives you a break from the many responsibilities trying to drag you in different directions. That helps create space for you to feel your emotions so you can reignite some passion.
3. Treat yourself with kindness.
We are often our own worst critics. Many of us must learn how to treat ourselves with kindness when dealing with different situations.
Consider your internal dialogue with yourself. Is it kind? Do you speak positively to yourself? Or is it a stream of negative thoughts? Do you call yourself stupid, worthless, or similar adjectives?
If so, that needs to change.
You’re allowed to be human. You’re allowed to have negative feelings. You’re allowed to have fears, anxieties, and concerns. These things are all part of the human experience.
And if you talk to yourself this way because someone in your life has made you feel inferior, then it’s worthwhile to consider the source.
After all, kind people don’t tear others down or purposely target another’s self-worth. So why allow the words of an unkind person to inform your opinion about yourself?
You deserve kindness. Everyone does. Especially from yourself.
4. Nurture your physical needs.
All too often, we let our physical needs slide. Maybe we don’t eat well, get enough sleep, or exercise regularly. Yet, these physical needs are extremely important for our mental and emotional health.
Sleep is the primary time that your body and brain replenish important mood-balancing and emotional regulation hormones that it will use in the coming day.
Exercise primes our body to produce many hormones that assist with health. It helps to improve your endurance and cardiovascular system, and it tunes the machine that is your body.
Nutrition is the fuel that keeps it all going. If you don’t have the right gas in your tank, you’ll lack energy and emotional resilience. Being exhausted and hungry for the right food is a good way to wear down your emotional resilience.
Don’t neglect your physical needs and health. Get adequate sleep, try to eat nutritious food, and exercise regularly.
5. Avoid alcohol, drugs, and unhealthy coping skills.
Unhealthy coping skills can do far more harm than good. Alcohol, drugs, and other unhealthy coping skills teach your brain to deal with difficult emotions in an unhealthy way.
For example, suppose you turn to alcohol whenever you feel depressed or empty. In that case, your brain is going to come to associate drinking with that feeling. It can link the two, so you will feel the need to drink to cope.
The same principle is true with self-harm. A person who cuts themselves to deal with emotional pain is teaching their brain to associate physical pain with emotional pain.
Given enough time, that person will start feeling a need to cut when they experience emotional pain. And considering one can grow a tolerance to pain like any other drug, that can become really problematic as the severity of the self-harm increases.
Alcohol, drugs, and unhealthy coping skills only smother the problem for a while. They may make you “feel” something, but those feelings are superficial and unhealthy. They won’t help you grow, heal, or recover from your emotional damage.
In fact, they’ll only add another issue to those you are trying to avoid. If you are able to overcome your emotional damage, you’ll then have to deal with alcoholism or some other unhealthy habit and the impact it’s had on your life.
6. Talk to someone that can help.
“Talk to someone.”
You have undoubtedly heard this message many times over. But, unfortunately, it’s a saying that does not accurately convey the message it is trying to send.
Yes, it is important to talk to someone, but that message should actually be “talk to someone who can help.”
It’s all good to reach out to your loved ones, friends, or support network when you need emotional support. But these people aren’t therapists. It is very unlikely that they will be able to help you address the trauma, develop better habits, and nurture your emotions back to life in a healthy way.
It’s far too complicated of a problem, and people tend to boil it down to three-word platitudes. It’d be like saying, “Oh, you have heart disease? Go talk to your dad about it. That’ll help.” Can Dad offer emotional support and love in that situation? Sure! Can Dad help you address your heart disease? Probably not.
But for some reason, people don’t believe that psychological issues are as serious as other medical concerns.
The truth is that feeling emotionally broken, numb, or damaged is likely the result of something bigger than self-help and self-care. It could be trauma, PTSD, mental illness, or any other number of things that have harmed you in a way that you need to heal from.
And for that, you will likely need to seek professional help to get this problem under control, heal your wounds, and feel the emotions you should be able to feel.