Emotional numbness and addiction often go hand in hand. Substance abuse is often born of a desire to reduce negative emotions. Whether it’s related to a traumatic experience, stress, fear, or overwhelm, this can lead to perpetual emotional numbness and addiction.
Many patients feel they’re coping with their emotional pain or circumstances but what “numbing out” truly does is create an unhealthy suppression. A substance-related coping mechanism is a short-term band-aid that comes with very real and lasting consequences.
Another connection between emotional numbness and addiction is found in the appearance of the opposite problem, a natural lack of emotional experience. Some experiment with substances because they naturally feel so little emotion that they want to feel more deeply.
In either case, over time, substance addiction can lead to worsening symptoms and the need to increase one’s substance dosage or frequency. An addiction must be fed regardless of the acute presence or lack of emotional pain.
Effects of Substance Use
Depending on the substance in question, the effects and severity will vary. However, one thing is always consistent. The high or low is always temporary. If emotional pain is suppressed with substances, it can resurface, or worsen, once the effects of the substance wear off.
A vicious cycle begins as what started as a coping mechanism to mask the pain is now riddled with cravings and withdrawal symptoms that drive the sufferer to continue feeding the addiction. Withdrawal symptoms alone can be medically dangerous or even fatal. If you or a loved one are suffering from substance abuse, seek help immediately to heal and recover safely.
Effects of Emotional Numbness
Aside from the consequences of substance use, numbing out also has its own effects. Some cannot develop or maintain healthy relationships or fulfill all of their obligations and responsibilities. There is also an overall lack of happiness and enjoyment of life or friends due to the inability to feel natural emotions.
As we continually neglect emotional processing through substance use, we become emotionally stunted and develop an unhealthy relationship with ourselves. Our capacity to identify and communicate our feelings is reduced, resulting in poor emotional intelligence and a lack of self-awareness.
Signs of Substance Addiction
Substances are chemically, mentally, and physically addictive. They change the hormone levels in the brain and give the mind and body a temporary euphoric experience. Over time, the patient can develop a tolerance that reduces the effects of the drug.
Once this occurs, the body then demands more frequent and higher doses. Increasing dosage is a sign that addiction has taken root and, if unchecked, can lead to overdose.
If the first drug no longer gets the desired results or attempts to deal with withdrawal symptoms, that patient may switch to another drug. In this manner, the patient becomes addicted to multiple substances. Mixing drugs is also dangerous and brings severe withdrawal symptoms.
If you or a loved one are exhibiting signs of addiction, seek help right away. There is healing and freedom on the other side of recovery.
Practical Solutions For Emotional Pain or Numbness
The best option for patients struggling with emotional numbness and addiction is to reach out to friends and family for support in their emotional struggles and accountability in their life. This often empowers the patient to seek professional help from primary care providers, mental health practitioners, and addiction specialists.
Releasing the body from the grip of substances is the first step on the journey to sobriety and recovery. Depending on the substance in question, the effects of withdrawal can be mentally, physically, and emotionally dangerous. In some cases, it can be fatal. No one should attempt to quit their substance without medical guidance and safety oversight.
Treat The Whole Person, Not Just The Addiction
However, merely ridding the body of harmful substances isn’t enough. The specific root cause of substance addiction must also be addressed through medical and therapeutic treatment. It is not always pure curiosity but a more significant cause.
Patients and providers must determine what the initial catalyst was. How was the patient feeling at the time? Why did they feel a substance was their only option? Was there a traumatic life event? Or was it long-term self-suppression or inability to process an experience?
Recovery treatments focus on reconnecting the patient with the experience and empowering them to balance their emotions with healthy coping skills rather than a substance.
Overcome Emotional Numbness and Addiction With Silver Sands Recovery
There are many tools in the Silver Sands Recovery toolkit, from dual diagnosis, 12-step programs, experiential therapies, and other evidence-based holistic modalities. Our goal is always to help patients establish and maintain sobriety safely and confidently. Contact us today to learn more.
About the author:
Lisa Waknin is the Founder and Director of Silver Sands Recovery, located in Prescott, Arizona. Lisa started Silver Sands Recovery after immersing herself in the addiction treatment world for several years to figure out what could be done differently to help her daughter and others like her to overcome addiction and stay sober. She believes in a hands-on treatment approach, which includes taking someone out of their environment, providing a 90-day program in a structured environment. During treatment, clients not only recover physically but also learn to live their life again. Lisa is a sought-after expert speaker for recovery support groups, charities, schools, communities, and companies wanting to educate themselves on the explosion of opiate and heroin abuse in our country and the best way to understand, treat, and beat it.