6 Signs Of Emotional Detachment In Relationships

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emotionally detached woman looking blankly at the camera

Do people around you often say you’re cold or hard to read? Do you struggle with intimacy and openness in your relationships? These could be signs of emotional detachment.

It’s normal to want to protect your feelings and avoid getting hurt, but sometimes you might take that a little too far. It’s not that you intend to push people away, but you just can’t help shutting down when things get a little too serious.

Emotional detachment can interfere with your ability to make friends, romantic connections, or even move up your career ladder. Recognizing this trait is the first step to melting that icy heart and living a more full, intimate life with the people closest to you.

What is emotional detachment?

Emotional detachment is an unwillingness or inability to connect with other people on an emotional level.

When emotional detachment is involuntary or chronic, it could be a sign of a deeper problem, such as anxiety, depression, an attachment disorder, a trauma response, or another mental health condition. If you suspect this may be the case, consult your physician or find a qualified mental health professional who can offer you insight.

In less severe circumstances, emotional detachment can be helpful for setting certain boundaries in relationships and avoiding unnecessary drama from people who demand too much emotional investment.

But finding yourself feeling numb in situations where others typically express emotions or struggling to open up to those who you keep close in your life can inhibit you well being, as well as your relationships. This might leave you feeling even more lonely or depressed than you already were.

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6 Signs of Emotional Detachment in Relationships

1. Being uncomfortable with other people’s feelings.

Someone who is emotionally detached may put up a wall in the hopes that other people won’t come to them with problems. If they're in a situation where someone is expressing emotions, they may feel awkward.

It’s normal to not always know what to say to people, but if having to console someone puts you on edge or makes you feel uncomfortable, you might be emotionally detached.

Supporting people through the good times and the bad strengthens your bonds. You might prefer to cope with your emotions alone, but if someone is willing to open up to you, have an open heart and don’t shut them down in their time of need.

2. Not sharing emotions.

You don’t want to seem clingy or weak, so even in your darkest times, you tend to bottle your emotions and avoid being vulnerable. This stops you from making any sort of emotional connection with other people.

For you, emotions are private and you’ll never look for a shoulder to cry on. But being able to open up to people and be honest about your emotions is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Shutting other people out will only weaken your relationships and make your problems worse. The people you care for want to be there for you, and there’s no shame in letting them in.

3. Using sarcasm to shield feelings.

You’d rather deflect from serious topics with a self-deprecating joke or a sarcastic comment.

This is because you're determined to seem unfazed in times of disappointment, grief, or even in happy moments. You want to seem strong and unaffected by the issues in your life. Or, maybe you just don’t want all the attention on you.

Deflecting from your true emotions only makes these issues more of a burden to you. When you successfully distract people with a joke, what you’re actually doing is denying yourself the opportunity to free yourself from your own negative thoughts.

4. Getting angry when people try to address problems.

When people call you out for being cold or unavailable, you feel defensive or under attack. They have intentions of helping you or giving you space to be honest, but your first instinct is to retreat and deny that there is a problem. This is because you feel uncomfortable that they have been able to detect something you’ve tried so hard to hide.

You use anger as a buffer so they can’t help you explore the truth. It can be scary when you feel forced to talk about something you’re not ready to address, but maybe it’s time to let someone in. If someone is willing to help, it shows they care and aren’t trying to upset you.

5. Shutting down relationships.

To avoid any level of vulnerability, you end relationships before they even get off the ground. This can be friendship, romantic partnerships, or even family relationships. Whenever you see signs of getting too close to someone, you’re quick to bolt and won’t get into a situation where they might dig a little into your emotions. When you’ve been hurt in the past, it’s understandable to feel closed off, but life can be long and lonely.

Being open in your friendships and romantic relationships might seem like a big risk, but the rewards are even greater. If you build up some meaningful connections, you’ll have more people to support you if one relationship backfires.

6. Withdrawing to be alone.

Why do you shut down relationships? Because you tell yourself you don’t need anyone. Knowing that another person won’t complete you is an important realization, but wanting to have someone to lean on sometimes will enhance your life for the better.

Your need to be alone can be isolating in times of adversity, and if you keep pushing people away, you’ll have no one there if things get tough. Being independent is a good thing, but what’s the point of life if you don’t have friends and loved ones to share it with?

RELATED: How Your Life Will Change When You Stop Suppressing Your Feelings

What causes emotional detachment?

There are several reasons for emotional detachment and why someone can become emotionally detached. When a person is voluntarily emotionally detached, it could be that they believe it's easier or don't want to get involved.

Another cause is experiencing traumatic events, abuse, or a previous encounter that resulted in emotional detachment. In such cases, a person can become standoffish due to their experiences, which makes it difficult to connect and open up to family and friends.

Emotional detachment may also be a side effect of certain antidepressants, or mental health conditions and personality disorders like bipolar disorder.

Emotional detachment can cause you to feel alone and deeply depressed. It's best to speak with someone to help you navigate this with advice, diagnosis or treatment, and to give you additional information that can help.

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Alice Kelly is YourTango’s Deputy News and Entertainment Editor. Based in Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest.