Written by Violaine Guéritault, Ph.D.

What is it?

We all have experienced feeling disconnected or withdrawn at some point in our life. When we feel this way, it seems more difficult to fully engage with or relate to our own feelings or those of others. This means, for example, that it may be difficult for us to identify and name our own emotions, that it’s hard for us to feel deep emotions toward someone we love, or that we’re just generally feeling “empty.” It can be a temporary state due to extreme stress, or a more lasting condition.

How do we get to feeling that way? One reason worth mentioning is that we live in a world of modern technology and innovation, which in appearance, promises us to stay more connected and informed than ever before. And yet, why do so many of us experience the exact opposite? The unintended consequence of modern technology is that our interactions with others have become much like “drive-thru” experiences that lack depth, meaningfulness, and often compassion and kindness.

What is feeling disconnected/withdrawn telling your young person?

Feeling disconnected and withdrawn is alerting them that they may be losing their sense of self, and that they can’t connect to other people in a healthy and positive manner anymore. It’s telling them that they’ve become disconnected from their own life, going through it in “automatic pilot” mode, as if they were observing it from the outside. Feeling disconnected may also be telling your young person that for any given reason, they are in a place where they don’t want to feel their emotions anymore in order to avoid emotional pain. This is called a defense mechanism. They don’t have to go through life feeling this way. They need to trust that things can change and that they can feel again. It’s time for your young person to reconnect and love their life.

Suggestions for your young person on how to manage feeling disconnected/withdrawn?
  • Meditate and breathe. Learning to breathe deeply will restore control and peace in their life. It will make them feel grounded and will help them remember where they are and who they are.
  • Stimulate their five senses. Help them give themselves permission to “feel” life through their sense of touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste. The results will surprise them.
  • Face and reflect upon how they feel. This will help them connect back to themselves.
  • Practice gratitude and rediscover the joy that can be found in the simple things in life. Help them focus on love and beauty, whether in nature or the people in their life, and help them realize that there can be so much to feel alive for.
  • Work with them on adopting a healthy lifestyle (good sleep, exercise, and eating habits). Help them be kind to themselves and fall in love with their life all over again.
  • Encourage them to join activities that bring joy and meaning to their life including art, volunteering, working, or sports.