College Mental Health: Coping With Emotional Numbness
Why you can trust Lightfully Behavioral Health?

Lightfully’s professional culture is designed to keep everyone connected, motivated and nutured. Why is this so important? We believe the way we treat our employees is how we show up for clients – through encouragement, honesty, and compassion.

Clinically Reviewed 
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Feel a blankness or distance when it comes to your feelings and unsure how to cope with this mental health struggle? You may be dealing with something called emotional numbness, which is a common depression symptom. Here are some potentially helpful coping strategies for college students struggling with emotional numbness:

  • Regular exercise — Through regular exercise, you can give yourself space to become more in touch with your feelings. Examples include walking around campus or a nearby street. 
  • Breathing exercises — Breathing exercises can help you feel more present in your current situation. As breathing exercises only take several minutes, they’re great to do in between classes. 

For example, belly breathing involves placing one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. As you breathe in, only the hand on your belly should move upward. Then tighten your stomach muscles as you exhale. The hand on your belly should move back downward.

  • Adequate sleep — Adequate sleep can give you more energy. Getting enough sleep involves maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. If you find it difficult to get at least eight hours of sleep each night, consider taking brief naps during the day. 
  • Self-disclosure with a member of your support system — Opening up to a trusted peer, professor, coach, etc. about your struggles with emotional numbness can help you feel less alone. These confidants may also be able to direct you to helpful mental health resources on campus.
  • Stress-reduced environment — If you’re experiencing emotional numbness, try to minimize the stress in your environment that may be its cause. For example, you can find a quiet space on campus — such as the library or a study room — to help you more easily reflect on your feelings. If you feel uncomfortable finding a new study space, then you can listen to calming instrumental music on YouTube, which can help you feel more in touch with your emotions even in a crowded space.
  • Nutritional food — Eating nutritional food like nuts and bananas can help you get the energy you need to feel more present in your daily activities. If you feel more present, you may have less difficulty accessing your emotions. One small, manageable change you can make to incorporate more nutritional food into your diet involves adding a nutritious side (e.g., nuts, bananas, etc.) to one of your daily meals.

2 mental health care options that can help you manage emotional numbness

If you feel like you need more support for managing emotional numbness, here are two options to consider:

  • Process-based therapy (PBT) Process-based therapy (PBT) is a fully personalized treatment that includes the most effective parts of evidence-based modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and cognitive processing therapy (CPT). PBT focuses on these four driving factors of emotional numbness:
  • Struggling to access your emotions
  • Struggling to understand your thoughts
  • Struggling to complete your daily activities
  • Struggling to maintain your relationships

In PBT, a therapist can help you identify why your emotions feel so overwhelming and show you how to implement positive coping skills to deal with these emotions. For example, a therapist may recommend going on a walk as an opportunity to process emotions.

  • Group counseling — If you’re experiencing emotional numbness, you may benefit from group counseling. Group counseling gives you the opportunity to listen to other college students who may also be struggling with emotional numbness. It’s helpful to know you’re not the only one sometimes.

Key indicators of emotional numbness

Emotional numbness is a common sign of depression. It’s important to be aware of emotional numbness so you can engage in positive coping skills. Here are a few common indicators of emotional numbness:

  • Feeling no joy during your favorite activities — Emotional numbness may cause you to feel empty even while listening to your favorite song.
  • Feeling isolated — If you feel empty and have trouble discussing emotions, you may have a hard time relating to your loved ones. If you feel like you can’t relate to your loved ones, you may isolate yourself from them, creating a negative cycle. 
  • Feeling like you’re not fully present — Emotional numbness may cause you to tune out during class or social events. You may tune out because of academic burnout (i.e., feeling drained because of a heavy workload). If you don’t feel fully present, you may struggle with academics and relationships.
  • Feeling empty during intense situations — If you have emotional numbness, you may feel empty during either intense positive or intense negative experiences. For example, you may have trouble accessing your emotions during a friend’s birthday party or the funeral of a loved one. You may feel disconnected from the people around you, which can worsen your mental health.
  • Looking for sensations by engaging in negative coping strategies — If you’re having trouble accessing your emotions, you may look for sensations elsewhere by engaging in negative coping strategies. These strategies may include self-harm and/or substance use. As a result, you may feel even more disconnected from others.

How long emotional numbness lasts depends on the individual, but seeking treatment can speed up your recovery process.

Lightfully U can help you address emotional numbness 

Are you a college student dealing with emotional numbness?

Lightfully is a clinical treatment provider that prioritizes you as a whole person — not just one aspect of your life. We have applied this treatment value to a service designed specifically for college students. This service is Lightfully U, a Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP). The goal of this program is to provide the support and care you need if you’re experiencing emotional numbness. A Lightfully U vIOP represents a safe, welcoming space for college students. It includes:

  • An initial psychiatric assessment
  • 10 to 15 sessions with a peer group led by a mental health professional per week (peer groups are capped at 10 students, allowing for a more personalized experience)
  • An individual session with an experienced primary therapist every week
  • Experiential activities intended to help you apply the skills you’re learning in your therapy sessions to real-life situations.

Change is possible. If you’re interested in learning more about how to address emotional numbness, contact us. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

Connect with Admissions

Related Content