What is Emotional Detachment?

Emotional detachment is a mental health condition in which the person detaches from all or almost all emotions. The person may appear cold, indifferent, or unemotional to others. They may seem to have a “flat” mood (less reactive emotionally) and lack empathy toward other people. Here is what you need to know.

What Causes Emotional Detachment?

There are several categories of triggers. People with this disorder have experienced one or more of these causes. Identifying a potential cause is important for the treatment process since it can change based on which cause is likely at fault.

Trauma and Life Experiences

Trauma or other upsetting childhood events and stress in adulthood can bring about this condition. Also, emotional abuse during childhood or growing up with emotionally detached parents.

Research showed that adults with this condition were likely abused as children. It could be emotional, physical, sexual abuse, or a combination of the three.

Mental Health Disorders

Several mental health disorders are associated with this condition. People with major depressive disorder or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) may detach from emotions.

People with the following conditions have a higher chance of experiencing emotional detachment.

  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Narcissism


Certain medications can cause this condition. Antidepressants like Prozac and Seroxat (Paxil) are commonly associated with it. These medications are often prescribed to people with depression and anxiety.

Some people report feeling detached from emotions taking new medications. Specific types of medications are linked to emotional detachment.

Physical Health

A connection between this condition and physical health can exist. People who are emotionally detached may be less likely to visit a doctor, go for routine checkups, or take care of their physical health in general. People who have poor physical health are at a higher risk of emotional detachment.

Data from the CDC shows that people with poor physical health symptoms like pain or fatigue are more likely to experience depression. Poor physical health has also been linked to suicidal thoughts and actions.

Coping with Problems

In some cases, people detach from their emotions in response to trauma and stress as a means of self-care. This is a willing step that some people take in an effort to avoid feeling overwhelmed and crumbling under pressure. Although it is voluntary, it may be difficult to undo once that stress has passed.

Emotional attachment can be used to minimize situations where people can be hurt. If detached, traumatic situations can have less of an impact. This can be helpful if someone has experienced a series of traumatic situations that have made them emotionally detached.

What Are the Symptoms of Emotional Detachment?

The symptoms of emotional detachment can vary widely from person to person. It may not be easily visible depending on the symptoms and how severe they are. People live functional lives with emotional detachment without anyone knowing.

In other cases, it becomes obvious in situations where emotional responses are expected, but never received. For example, relationships tend to fall apart due to a lack of emotional attachment.

These are some of the possible symptoms:

  • “Flat” or “boring” mood
  • A lack of emotion that seems to be a problem with your personality
  • Lack of empathy
  • A lack of feeling or concern for other people’s feelings
  • Lack of compassion toward others
  • Loss of interest in other people or socializing
  • Avoidance of relationships and other people

Emotional detachment may lead to other psychological disorders and/or physical symptoms. Some people have specific symptoms while other symptoms are rare. It can vary widely by person.

Diagnosing Emotional Detachment

Not everyone who has emotional detachment has the same symptoms. But if it is a problem, it needs to be treated. Many people who have emotional detachment don’t recognize it as a problem. They learn to be “self-sufficient” and detach from people. It is an extreme form of self-care. But even if you are self-sufficient, it is important to be aware of the symptoms and seek help if you think they cause problems.

People with emotional detachment struggle with:

  • Creating deep relationships
  • Maintain relationships
  • Getting excited about things
  • Feeling like a watcher in their lives instead of a participant
  • Having emotional responses when appropriate

What is the Treatment for Emotional Detachment?

The best treatment for emotional detachment is treatment for past experiences. Participating in a therapy program can help you acknowledge and repair the damage done by your past. It can help you recognize and accept your emotions. It can teach you how to control your emotions and express them in healthy ways.

While experiencing emotional detachment, there are ways to cope with it. It is important to focus on engaging in and maintaining relationships. Allowing relationships to fall apart can prolong the emotional detachment or make it worse. You should also try to be more mindful of how you feel and take time to identify and explore your feelings. This can help you reconnect with them and determine what triggers them.

Clinical therapy can help many people with emotional detachment and other co-occurring disorders. Treatment can be challenging because emotional detachment is a state of mind. Treatment approaches change based on the patient’s mental health, symptoms, and other conditions. However, it is entirely possible to fully treat emotional detachment.

Recovery is Possible With Help

Recovery begins by addressing your concerns with the appropriate help program. If you have an addicted loved one that needs help, contact the Harmony Recovery Group. The Harmony Recovery Group has treatment programs that can help you diagnose and treat emotional detachment.