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20 Photos That Show What It's Like to Be Emotionally 'Numb'

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Though it’s not exclusive to people who live with mental illness, feeling emotionally “numb” is common when you live with conditions like depression or borderline personality disorder (BPD).

So why do people feel emotionally numb?

Sometimes rapid cycling emotions or intense mood swings can make folks exhausted, and numbness follows the crash. Other times, medication might dull certain emotions, making you feel numb in times you ordinarily wouldn’t.

There are so many reasons why someone could feel emotionally numb, so it’s important to remember people are complex and experience things in different ways. If you can relate to feeling numb, you’re not alone. If you’re struggling, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question about it on the site to get support from other people in our community who get it.

We wanted to share what struggling with emotional numbness really looks like, so we turned to our community to share their photos with us. Below you can see very clearly that numbness looks different for everyone who experiences it.

Here are the photos our community shared with us:

1. Somedays you don’t feel anything.” — Stephen F.

man laying down on pillow

2. “Here’s this. It was actually in the parking lot before therapy lol. I have dead eyes, I notice that a lot.” — Rebecca M.

woman looking at the camera

3. “Numb is the end result of exhaustion (mentally, physically and emotionally), incredible loneliness, sadness, emptiness. This was taken shortly after my marriage had fallen apart and my son taken from me. All I had at the time was work, so I buried myself in it, gave up, sure that this was all there was left. I wanted out, wanted it over. Only reason I’m still here is because of my son.” — Robert D.

man in glasses looking out car windshield

4. “Me during a breakdown. I feel intense emotions and when it gets all too much, I feel numb afterwards. Everything in my brain just stops and I’m left feeling empty.” — Tash R.

woman crying selfie in bed

5. “This one is really personal and as raw as I care to get on social media. I was kicked out of where I was living while pregnant, was abandoned by ‘friends,’ was unemployed and had a traumatic birth and obstetric abuse from the staff. The depression and BPD were so full force that I couldn’t even enjoy my first year with my babes, but I gave him all I had. I feel proud that he had all those smiles even if I couldn’t.” — Marie L.

sad woman holding smiling baby

6. When all my emotions get shoved down, I’m left completely numb, forcing me to put on a fake smile.” — Amanda O.

woman with head resting on hand smiling slightly

7. “I’m known by my Facebook friends not to smile in my photos. I am close to finishing my second to last semester of college and I am drained. I wish I could sleep for days but family expectations and social obligations keep me busy. Everyone can see I am tired, but no one understands why.” — Thomas M.

man grimacing selfie

8. “I do this for weeks at a time. I feel he is the only one that really cares about me.” — Claudia R.

woman laying with a pug

9. “I hide behind Snapchat filters. It’s my way of feigning happiness when I’m eternally struggling.” — Joanna L.

woman selfie with dog snapchat filter

10. I haven’t cried in years. I wasn’t even sad when I was at my aunt’s funeral because I was jealous she died and I was still alive.” — Nicholas J.

man in glasses looking up

11. “When my BPD is at its worst, all of my emotions and thoughts come so quickly and so powerfully that eventually I end up completely floored by them. My eyes in this picture are dead. I felt absolutely nothing. Feeling absolutely no emotions at all is worse than feeling the way I do at my lowest times. It’s scary, it’s confusing and it’s exhausting. I just wish I knew how to stop it.” — Hanna T.

woman with purple hair selfie

12. “There honestly were days when not even makeup could help my eyes look better. They would just look so tired like dead.” — Ileana P.

woman smiling selfie

13. “Sometimes I am so confused about how I feel. I am constantly dissociated from everything, so it makes it difficult to pinpoint what emotion I am feeling the most… I hope people I know who see this don’t think I’m just looking for attention and see what I’m actually trying to do.” — Ashley P.

woman selfie in hoodie

14. “This was taken a few weeks after I got out of the marines. I hadn’t slept in over a month and had completely pushed everyone away, not sure where or why they decided to photograph me, but here it is.” — Joshua H.

man sitting in kitchen on floor

15. Went through a horrific breakup and all I could do was try and drown it out. Sent this to a friend as a joke, but kept it to remind myself how bad I’ve been. Was relying on the beer to make me feel something. It didn’t! I’m dead behind the eyes.” — Kerri K.

woman selfie with beer bottle

16. This is really old. I was probably 16 in this picture. I was struggling with my gender identity, my sexual orientation and my abusive household. I was struggling with my mental health and not receiving the best care for it. I was a mess, but somehow — 10 years later — I am still here. Grateful for friends who stuck by me, my family who looked after me and my best friend who happens to be my wife for nearly never giving up on me except for when I needed to be kicked in the butt.” — James T.

teen boy mirror selfie

17. “There are very few pictures of just me. This one was a day we had a house full of people and I as usual was feeling completely alone. Everyone’s comment was, ‘Are you mad?’ All I could think was, ‘No numb, uninterested and completely alone.’ Typically family gatherings wipe me out and within days I have full emotional breakdown and need three days to recover from it.” — Tracie R.

middle aged woman selfie

18. “A skeleton of the person I used to be. Numbing myself with anything I have really — cigarettes, alcohol other drugs. It’s all just going through the motions of life.” — Marisa C.

woman with skeleton face paint smoking a cigarette

19. “Smiling while I wait for my class to begin. This is the smile I ‘wear’ every day even though inside I feel nothing. I’m numb. I’m disconnected from everything and everyone, and it’s excruciating. I really just want to scream!” — Kira O.

woman smiling selfie

20. “Insomnia is a big struggle for me, so the night leaves hours that are filled with endless thoughts — intrusive, suicidal, negative, self-hating and dwelling thoughts. I spent three hours tossing and crying in bed before the numbness followed after… I took this photo immediately after wiping tears away and leaving my body (dissociating). I have no clue what compelled me to take this, but this just goes to show that you absolutely have no clue what kind of battle someone is facing just based off of looks, a smile can be more deceiving than anything else.” — Montanna S.

woman selfie messy hair

If you’re struggling with feeling “numb” you’re not alone. We are so grateful you’re here and in our community. If you need support, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question about it on the site to connect with people in our community who get it.

Originally published: December 5, 2018
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