Why am I shutting down emotionally? (+3 coping tips)

This article will discuss what are the main reasons that may be leading you to shut down emotionally. It will also show you what it can feel like, and what are the best ways to cope with it.

Why am I shutting down emotionally? 

There are some reasons why people may shut down emotionally. Here they are.

It can be a coping mechanism for a difficult situation 

Sometimes it can be that our feelings and emotions can be so out of control that we just shut them off. It is important to know that this will often happen without any conscious decision of the person. 

At some point in their life they may be dealing with such a huge burden of emotions, or for so long, that they just shit down. They stop feeling, and caring for whatever is happening around them. In this sense, being emotionally shut down is a coping mechanism.

And even though it may not be the most positive one, it can give the person some sense of relief, since they won’t feel as bad as they did before. If that is happening to you, it may sound like a benefit that you have the possibility of shutting yourself down emotionally. But be aware that, with time, living life in that manner can create different problems for you.

It is a trauma response

It is quite common that people that have been through traumatic situations shut themselves down emotionally. For example, a woman that is a victim of constant abuse by her husband, may, with time, shut herself down emotionally.

This will often prevent her from coming to terms with what she has been going through, and all the pain this situation is generating. 

And even though to some extent it may be good that the person doesn’t realize all they have been through, such as a war victim that doesn’t emotionally assess what is happening around them, it is also something that will prevent the person from facing the reality, and looking for a way out of this troublesome situation.

You have a pattern of avoidance

Some people may shut themselves down emotionally because they simply have trouble dealing with emotions. This form of denial can help the person avoid emotions, and thoughts that could be hurtful to them. That can often happen unconsciously, but it can have many detrimental effects on the person’s life.

As you go through life not allowing yourself to feel, you will likely lose the ability to deal with your emotions, and that can make it harder for you to make decisions in which your emotional side should be the driving force, like starting a relationship with someone.

If you are suspicious you may have shut yourself down emotionally, but are still not sure, here it is how that can often feel.

How does it feel when you shut down emotionally?

When you shut yourself down emotionally, it can have many effects on you. It can cause you to withdraw from your life, you may feel like you don’t want to be around people, or in pretty much any situation. You can feel a sense of dread without knowing why, and you are unable to let go.

It can make you feel hollow and numb. Shutting yourself down emotionally can affect your sense of confidence, and your self-esteem. Your ability to communicate with others can also decrease.

When you shit yourself down emotionally, it can be that you experience something called dissociation. Something is triggered in you that makes you feel overwhelmed, and you can’t access your emotions.

Being emotionally shut down can often affect your decision-making process, and cause you to freeze when facing a difficult situation. That can make you feel confused, anxious, and have intrusive thoughts. That causes you to avoid thinking about things, but the more you avoid it, the worse it tends to get.

How can I cope with being emotionally shut down? 

There are some ways you can cope with being emotionally shut down. Here they are.

Practice mindfulness 

One great way to try to connect yourself to your emotions again is through mindfulness. This technique, which offers you the possibility of looking at your feelings at the moment, and allowing yourself to feel them, can help you come out of such a difficult situation.

Through mindfulness, you can not only become more emotionally aware, but you will be able to look at your emotions more safely. Which will allow you to process them better, even when they are difficult, or demanding.

It also offers you a way to deal with the thoughts and feelings that you can’t control, offering you the possibility of looking at the present. As you feel you can deal with your emotions, you will become more confident in them.

Talk about it with your loved ones 

Sharing how you are feeling, or what you have been pushing down in order not to feel, with your loved ones can give you the opportunity of not only externalizing your concerns but also giving you the opportunity of looking at your emotions through someone else’s eyes.

What they may tell you can give you some new source of comfort, and help you realize that your emotions, although sometimes can be difficult, and overwhelming, are precious, and there are always ways to cope with them.

Look for professional help

As seen before, you may have begun to shut down emotionally as a way to cope, or even as a response to traumatic situations. In those cases, it may be necessary for you to look for professional help.

Dealing with what triggered you to emotionally shut down can take a lot of work, and it can be difficult to do it alone. You may want to have a professional with whom you can share, and in that safe space, the two of you can understand better what you have been through, and create a strategy so you can learn how to embrace your emotions, instead of fearing them so much.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Why am I shutting down emotionally?  

How can I help a friend that is shut down emotionally?

When someone you love is shutting down emotionally, there may be a few ways for you to help them. First of all, you should make a point of being present in their life. Be it physically, or even through text if it is not possible to be there.

Even if the person doesn’t show their appreciation for you being there, understand that the avoidance of it has less to do with you, than their emotional condition. At first, they may have trouble talking about their feelings, but if you show them this is a safe space, in time they can begin to feel it is easier to open up to you.

When they are telling you something make sure to listen to it attentively, and do not judge them. Ask questions whenever it is necessary, and make sure to reassure them that you are there and that they can count on you as much as they need.

What is a dissociative shutdown?

A dissociative shutdown is an event that a person may have whenever they experience a traumatic event or something that triggers the same response as this traumatic event did. It is something that can commonly happen to people that have experienced abuse, or neglect in their formative years.

Repeatedly living in a dangerous situation, which you feel you were unable to get out of, can make the person develop a need to shut themselves down to not feel the suffering they are being put through. So whenever they go through the situation of abuse, for example, it is likely that they will dissociate from it. 

It is as if they are turning their emotions off, and as said before, this can happen in the first experience of trauma, but it can turn into a pattern response, that the person will experience whenever they go through something that reminds them of that abuse.

What are common signs of emotional suffering?

There are five common signs of emotional suffering. First of all, when you are going through intense suffering, you can feel that you are changing in a way that you don’t recognize yourself anymore. Aside from that, you may begin to display anxiety, become angrier, or even irritable. 

When a person is in intense emotional suffering, it is possible that they will withdraw from people, and can easily become isolated from others. Their sense of self-care or even hygiene can also change, and they can begin to take actions in a more impulsive, or even risk-taking way. 

Finally, a person that is overwhelmed by suffering can also begin to feel hopeless that anything will change in their life. They are stuck in a negative mindset, begin to feel worthless, and have low self-esteem.

How can I cope with intense emotional suffering?

When you are struggling with intense emotional suffering, there may be some things you can do. First of all, you may want to focus on your self-care. Caring for what you are eating, the quality of your sleep, and how your routine makes you feel, can be a positive way out of the suffering.

It may also be important to open yourself up and share with others. You may want to talk about how you are feeling with your friends, family members, and in some cases even a therapist that will help you understand why you have been suffering this much. Make sure that you maintain a healthy relationship with the people you are sharing with, so they can be helpful.

Finding ways to relax, be it by meditating, reading, cooking, or even exercising can be important to improve your mood and your overall sense of well-being.

What is stonewalling?

As the name says, stonewalling talks about the ability a person may have to build a walk between them and the world around them. It most commonly is a momentary situation, and if a person ever sees themselves in a conflict situation, or in something they don’t know how to respond to, they can stonewall the person, and distance themselves from what is being said.

This can happen because the person feels that the situation is too emotionally draining, or they feel overwhelmed by it. 


This article discussed what are the main reasons why you may be shutting yourself down emotionally. It also explained how it can feel when you shut yourself down emotionally, and the best ways to cope with this situation.

If you have a question or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.