Affect is the outward display of one’s emotional state. One can express feelings verbally, by talking about events with emotional word choices and tone. A person’s affect also includes nonverbal communication, such as body language and gestures.
Blunted affect is a markedly diminished emotional expression.
What is Blunted Affect?
Someone with a blunted affect displays little feeling in emotional contexts. For example, a person recalling their father’s death might simply recount the factual details of the death. The person might not share much information about how they felt. They may show little facial expression or speak in a monotone voice.
Blunted affect occurs on a spectrum of expression.
- Flat affect describes when a person displays absolutely no emotion.
- Blunted affect is a step above flat, with some mild expression present on occasion. Any emotional display is severely restrained.
- Restricted affect involves slightly restrained expression. It is a step below typical behavior but less severe than blunted affect.
Blunted Affect and Emotional Blunting
When blunted affect reflects a person’s emotional state, they are said to have “emotional blunting.” The person may experience an inner apathy or emptiness. They may be unable to draw up strong emotions about things they cared deeply about in the past. If someone feels little emotion, they will likely express little emotion.
Yet the amount of emotion expressed is not always the same as the amount of emotion possessed. Someone may display blunted affect yet feel strong emotions inside. One person may avoid expressing emotions to prevent feelings of vulnerability. Another person may struggle to express their feelings due to a psychological condition.
What Causes Blunted Affect?
Blunted affect is a symptom rather than a diagnosis in itself. Ongoing blunted affect is a common symptom of the following conditions:
Treatment for Blunted Affect
A blunted affect can interfere with communication and social relationships. It can also be a sign of a larger mental health concern. People who experience ongoing blunted affect may benefit from seeing a mental health professional.
Treatment for blunted affect often involves treating the underlying diagnosis. If the person has no diagnosis, a therapist can still help them practice recognizing and communicating emotions. With time and help, a person can become better at expressing their feelings.
- American Psychological Association. APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.
- Blunted affect. (n.d.) Medical Dictionary. Retrieved from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/blunted+affect
- Folk, J. & Folk, M. (2018, April 21). Emotional blunting anxiety symptoms. Anxiety Centre. Retrieved from http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-symptoms/emotional-blunting.shtml
- Killian, S., Asmal, L., Goosen, A., Chiliza, B., Phahladira, L., & Emsley, R. (2015, June 2). Instruments measuring blunted affect in schizophrenia: A systematic review. PLoS One, 10(6). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4452733/#__ffn_sectitle
Last Updated: 06-7-2018
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joy p.April 4th, 2017 at 12:29 AM
I want to remember blunt affect
SabJuly 22nd, 2017 at 4:23 PM
Is there a cure for blunt emotions? I dont feel sad i just feel nothing.
LauraOctober 12th, 2017 at 9:33 AM
I am experiencing this and would like to know more
StephMarch 14th, 2018 at 6:18 AM
I wonder the same thing my dude, guess we’re stuck feelin empty. Least there’s marijuana stay tokin.
Wham-Sham!April 10th, 2018 at 10:25 PM
Anti-depressants such as SSRIs and SNRIs have been known to cause reduced affect display otherwise known as emotional blunting and can persist long after discontinuation of the medication. I know because have taken Zoloft 8 months ago now, for only one week and still have emotional blunting along with sexual dysfuntion. My therapist & psychiatrist have been trying to convince me that it’s my depression but I’ve never had depression, the reason I seeked my therapist & psychiatrist in the first place was because of my OCD & social anxiety. I was a very emotional and sexual person before Zoloft and now I’m the opposite with chronic fatigue. Sure I was sad for months back in 2015 because A girl I knew went on with her life but I highly doubt that’s the reason I can’t cry or get an erection. I can’t get startled as well, someone can point a gun to my head and I won’t feel anxious, I don’t have the flight-or-fight response anymore AND IT’S ALL THANKS TO MY PSYCHIATRiST, PFIZER AND ZOLOFT
Wham-Sham!April 10th, 2018 at 10:45 PM
Also not everyone with schizophrenia has blunted affect there are people with schizophrenia without blunted affect. People with schizophrenia who have blunted affect are also highly likely to have sexual dysfuntion. Makes you think, that maybe blunted affect is iatrogenic in nature and not due to a mental health condition.
Here’s the study that point to the fact that blunted affect is most likely not a negative symptom of schizophrenia but rather a iatrogenic condition caused by the use of psychiatric medication:
"uncomfortably numb"September 4th, 2019 at 10:33 AM
My “Blunt affect” or “affect” started right after my first hit with marijuana i havent been myself since tried a few top brand anti depressants they all didnt work. i dont think these doctors fully understand mental disorders. i wish i didnt smoke anything or drank any booze bc now i drink alcohol to feel again its a sad sad situation im in. i told my docs i would mind taken esketamine or psylocibin. i need help always feelin suicidal. please share this story dont do drugs or alcohol or youll end up like me. peace love happiness
CindyDecember 16th, 2019 at 5:47 PM
Your words really got to me. I am also struggling similarly. I plug along and even thrive in many parts of my life but I still experience this emotional flatness and I’m starting to seek “feeling” in other ways that are inappropriate. I have no one I can talk to about it. No one that understands it. Thanks for sharing. It made me feel less alone.
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