Definition of Emotional Withdrawal

Emotional withdrawal is classified as a lack of emotional connection to others and the inability to communicate due to a lack of desire or as a means of control. The causes of emotional withdrawal can be seen as an early stage of schizophrenia, abusive relationships, and stress. In each scenario emotional withdrawal reveals itself in specific ways that can be treated with counseling and or drug therapy.

Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders

Sufferers of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders experience many negative symptoms such as emotional withdrawal. Negative symptoms subtract something from the their life that non-sufferers experience. Schizophrenics lack the ability to become close with others emotionally because there is a disconnect. In social situations or one-on-one, schizophrenics don't feel as if they belong. As a result, they become isolated away from others -- unable to share emotions. A combination of psychotherapy and medicine is needed to treat the disease 1.

Emotional Exhaustion

Sufferers experiencing emotional exhaustion are overcome with the chaos related to life, such as change, grief and over-working. Emotional withdrawal is a reaction to these stresses. Those suffering from exhaustion can't properly recharge, and become emotionally withdrawn because they lack the energy to share their burden. In regards to grief, sufferers experience an immense amount of sadness and distance themselves with other while they cope. Although sadness is passing, prolonged emotional withdrawal can be a sign of depression and needs to be evaluated.


Veterans and others who have experienced traumatic events often suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sufferers are unable or unwilling to share their painful experiences, and distance themselves from loved ones to protect them or themselves. Counseling is needed to cope with the traumatic event to regain the ability to communicate and trust others.


Emotional withdrawal in relationships occur in two different ways -- as a defense mechanism, and as a method of control. In a struggling relationship, one or both members may isolate themselves as a form of self-preservation. Emotionally withdrawn partners will leave their families and ignore appeals of others to avoid humiliation, failure or confrontation 1. In other instances, a partner may withdraw to gain control. For example, ignoring their significant other to get what is wanted. In both instances counseling is needed to regain a healthy communication platform.