Bipolar & Emotional Disconnect 

Posted: April 9, 2015 in Bipolar, Bipolar Disorder, Life and the Pursuit of Balance & Happiness

Although I’ve been experiencing it for quite some time now, and off and on my entire adult life, I did not know that emotional disconnect was common in bipolar patients. Recently, when I began to actually feel certain things and was a little astounded by these new emotions, I decided to do some research on the issue. I learned that many people with bipolar disorder experience some level of emotional disconnect or detachment. 

According to Wikipedia Emotional detachment refers to an “inability to connect” with others emotionally; it is often described as disocciation. 

We all know that the “by the book” definition is only one minsicule part of any symptom and our own experiences are much more diverse. So, I’ve decided to share what emotional disconnect means for me. 

I feel less. Things that would normally rouse great emotion in me doesn’t have that effect anymore. Things I would normally (and I use that word very lightly as we all know there is no such thing as just one norm) have a strong reaction to, a strong feeling for, or would make me feel great emotion just doesn’t anymore. 

Sad movies used to make me cry. Titanic left me in tears and with nightmares for weeks. The Notebook had me sobbing like a toddler who lost their favourite toy. Basically any Nicholas Sparkes book or movie left me in tears with an ache in my heart. Most recently I watched the movie The Best of Me, another Nicholas Sparkes book turned movie, another tear jerker, heart breaker. I watched it with my 16 year old son, Big K, and near the end of the movie when the sad parts came into play, my son sat next to me in tears, warning me that I was never choosing the movie again because this one was heartbreaking. I was emotionless. I didn’t cry, not even for a second. In fact, I didn’t quite understand why my son was crying. (Spoiler alert) So the love of her life died at the same time her son had heart failure and the heart donated to save his life came from the dead body of her one true love. So what? I felt nothing. To some people this might not seem like a big deal, but to me, who once broke down into sobs while watching a cell phone commercial where an estranged father gave his daughter a cell phone for Christmas, this was a big deal. 

Maybe I shouldn’t complain. Maybe not crying over sappy movies and cheesy commercials isn’t such a bad thing. However, this lack of emotion, sympathy, compassion, and reaction carry over into other parts of my life. This is an area I am not comfortable talking about, as I know to someone with an outside view I will seem inconsiderate, mean, selfish, basically like a complete and utter bitch. And I am none of these things, normally but……

The love I have for others is monotone.  I love them. I know I love them. They know I love them. Do I express it? No, not often enough. Why? Because I just don’t feel the need or want to express love. I know without any doubt that I love them. I just simply don’t feel this love. I tell my children that I love them everyday. I tell my mom, my sister, my niece, nephew, best friends. Because I don’t always feel,  I ensure they never forget that beneath this disorder that has stolen my emotions, is still the same person who has been loving them their entire lives. 

Anger has been an issue of mine since my teenage years. Yes, I had a lot to be angry about, yes, there was definitely a part of it that was teenage angst. But the point is, I got angry. Very angry. I screamed and I yelled and I use words to hurt whoever I was angry with. I wrecked friendships and relationships, and sometimes my anger hurt the people I loved most. The worst of this anger, and quite possibly the root of it, was my father, who was emotionally/verbally abusive to my mom and my sister and I. Our fights were all out screaming matches and more than once he would raise his hand to hit me and I, a tiny creature next to this giant man, would glare in defiance, daring him to hit me. I had so much anger. Had being the key word. I know many of you are thinking well, isn’t that a good thing? No, not necessarily. Although it’s good to not feel such extreme anger, I still want to be able to feel anger. Anger is an emotion and emotions let us know that were alive. Now all I feel is a slight annoyance and there have been times when I needed to get angry, when I needed to lash out, but most importantly when I needed and should have felt the anger and defended myself, stood up for myself and my rights as a human being, as a woman and a wife. 

Happiness, sadness, love, anger, …all perfectly normal and healthy emotions, yet I feel little to none of them. 

Is is just me? Do others who have bipolar disorder feel this way as well? How are your emotions affected by bipolar? I would love some feedback! 

  1. I think that emotional disconnect, dissociation, and depersonalization / derealization all come out of C-PTSD from childhood abuse of some kind, even mental / emotional abuse.

    I also have found that many people with bipolar disorder have C-PTSD from mental abuse as a child, even if they are not aware and have not been diagnosed with C-PTSD.

    My feeling is that people with bipolar disorder also have these disconnecting types of disorders, because we were not able to process everything that happened to us as children.

    This may not be true for everyone, but when children and teenagers are subject to emotional / mental abuse, they learn to disconnect from stressful things, as a coping skill.

    I think I have started a new post, I should just copy and paste this and keep going …LOL

    Great post. I have these disconnect problems and trouble relating to people in person often. I almost always feel out of place in social situations and tend to phase out my brain and disconnect from the situations.



  2. hbhatnagar says:

    I’m a depressive, but I feel and understand the emotional disconnect you talk about, You’re definitely not alone. Many relationships end when one person of the two has a mental disorder because of this lack of emotional bonding. And it is so hard to talk about, to own up to. I don’t know if it goes away, but either way it leaves deep scars.


  3. I felt like I was reading a story about my own life. Currently I am numb, basically emotionless and right now I know it’s a defense mechanism. I am petrified what will happen to what’s left of me when the flood gates of emotion finally break open. You are definitely not alone at all.


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