Can you become numb to death?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have lost more than 620,000 Americans (and is still increasing) due to the COVID-19 virus. Many of us have returned to pre-pandemic activities and may no longer worry about the daily death toll. Although these deaths felt like tragedies at first, they have now become commonplace.

The frequency with which we experience something reduces our sensitivity to it. When you often face death, you may become insensitive to it, which affects your way of empathy, mourning, and grief.

Basic knowledge of desensitization

Desensitization can be used to treat phobias, phobias, or other mental health disorders. It can help train your brain to eliminate the anxiety or fear that accompanies triggering situations, such as seeing a spider, driving a car, or vaccinating. Treatment may start with imagination and end with elimination of trauma, minimize fear and make you insensitive to the situation, so when you encounter it in real life, you will not panic.

Although desensitization is good for your mental health, it can also be harmful. If you become insensitive to violence or death, you may become less sensitive to the pain of others, lose your ability to empathize, or start to act in a more aggressive manner.

“Desensitization is a process or treatment through which repeated exposure will reduce the emotional response to negative, disgusting or positive stimuli,” said Bryan Bruno, MD, Medical Director of Mid City TMS. “Desensitization can happen to anything, including death.”

Signs and symptoms

Although there is no “normal” reaction to death, grief and mourning are natural. After the loss, you may feel shocked, numb, angry, guilty, helpless, longing, or sad. People who have not experienced an emotional response to death or have no sympathy for people who are sad may be signs of desensitization.

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Bryan Bruno, MD, Medical Director of Mid City TMS

For some people, death desensitization is preferable. But stopping emotions altogether can lead to negative effects.

— Bryan Bruno, MD, Medical Director of Mid City TMS

If you are experiencing desensitization to death, Dr. Bruno explained that you may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Lack of sadness
  • Can’t mourn
  • Comedy reaction to death
  • indifferent

Anyone who witnesses death often becomes insensitive. If you see people’s death experience normalized in real life or in the media, you may no longer have an emotional reaction to it. You cannot cry; you may not feel sad or angry. You can continue your day as if nothing happened.

Risk factors

Those who are more susceptible to death desensitization are soldiers, medical professionals, front-line workers, drug users, recovered people, and people living in areas with high crime rates.

Watching violent movies And playing violent video games It may also lead to insensitivity to violence, but exposure to violence in real life will have a greater impact. A study found that adolescents exposed to high levels of violence may experience more trauma and avoidance, avoid fantasies, and express less compassion. This in turn affects their social relationships and may lead to more violent behavior and/or inability to intervene in violent situations.

For those in situations where death is inevitable, such as trauma units or wars, desensitization can benefit survival. Avoiding death-related emotions may make it easier to cope with continued exposure. Nevertheless, if left unresolved, it may harm your mental health and your relationships with others in the long run.


If you live in a crime-prone neighborhood, you may often witness violence and death. If you are an oncology nurse, you may be surrounded by dying patients. If you are participating in a rehabilitation program, you may lose friends due to drug overdose. You may not be able to avoid death, but you can practice coping mechanisms to deal with it.

“The world is full of death now, with hate crimes, systemic racism, and COVID-related deaths,” Jessica Ais, owner and clinical director of Ajana Therapy & Clinical Services, MS, LPC-S, NCC Man (Jessica Eiseman) said. “If you have been exposed to death, you don’t need to be overwhelmed by the media.”

If you want to prevent desensitization or practice coping mechanisms, Eisman offers the following suggestions:

  • Practice grounding techniques, such as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. “Grounding calms our nervous system and allows us to live in the present,” Eisman said. “When we are more focused and present, it gives us room to deal with things in a more intentional and clear way.”
  • Minimize or reduce burnout and compassion fatigue. Eisman explained that the more exhausted we are, the more likely we are to become cynical, have lower overall job satisfaction, and have less compassion for ourselves and others. Remember, when you are numb, she adds that not only do you numb the bad things, but you also numb the good things.
  • Reduce your stress. Eisman said: “In other areas of life, the more you can reduce stress, the more likely you are to cope with death-related difficulties.”

Eisman explained that attending treatment can also help. You can work with professionals to eliminate difficult images, memories, thoughts, or other traumas.

Desensitization treatment

“The fight against death desensitization requires therapeutic intervention,” said Dr. Bruno. He explained that a common therapeutic intervention uses “regression.” This includes creating a therapeutic experience in which the feeling of desensitization can be reconnected with the experience and the environment. Although it brings positive and negative emotions, it can help people who have died desensitized to recover and lose healthy relationships. ”

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help. Eisman explained: “This type of experience-supported therapy can actually change the pathways in your brain. So if exposure to death produces certain neural pathways, then working with a well-trained therapist can challenge your thinking And behaviors and create new pathways in your brain to help counteract this situation.”

Eisman also recommends the Internal Family System (IFS), which can help you re-engage your emotions and learn to become sensitive to death again.

However, you also don’t want to indulge in death. If you have been thinking about death or have death anxiety, treatment may help.

Very good sentence

If you often face death, you may find yourself hiding your emotions or laughing at it, but it is important to find a healthy way of coping. If the coping strategy does not work, or you are worried that you are not sensitive to death, then you need to consider talking with a mental health therapist.

As humans, we know that death is inevitable, but when people around us die, we naturally feel emotional. Grief is not easy to deal with, but support can be provided to help you get through it.