In psychology affect is term used to describe display of outward emotions of an individual. Affect is an expression of feeling or emotion that can be verbal or non verbal in behavior. It is expressed in the form of tone of voice, facial expression or body movements and gestures. Blunted affect is intense reduction of outwardly emotional expression of an individual. The emotional response to a situation is extremely diminished as compared to a normal individual who will respond to the same situation. For example if a person has got a telephone call that he has won a lottery, his immediate response will be; may be screaming out of excitement.His heart rate may increase and he may jump around with facial expression of happiness.
However, a person with blunted affect may display very mild emotional feeling after hearing the same (winning a lottery). His voice tone, his bodily gestures etc will be restrained or diminished. Blunted affect is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of other underlying conditions. It is actually a state of apathy wherein a person concerned does not express his strong emotions about situations.
Causes of Blunted Affect:
As by now we know blunted affect is not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying condition.Most of the diseases that are responsible for blunted affect are linked with mental disorders or brain pathology. There is unusual activity in the brain in such patients, especially the area of brain that is meant to transform emotional expression into physical reaction. Conditions that are responsible for blunted affect are:
- Schizophrenia: A person suffering from this psychiatric condition may have blunted affect as one of its symptoms.
- Depression: A depressed person has imbalance of chemicals in his brain. This can interfere in proper functioning of the brain giving rise to blunted affect.
- Brain injuries: The function of brain can deteriorate if it is severe damaged due to brain injury. Blunted affect can be one of the symptoms in such patients.
- Autism: This brain condition can produce blunted affect. Patients suffering from autism often express less emotional expression to any activity or a situation.
- Post traumatic stress: It is a disorder caused after a person has experienced some kind of serious event in their life such as a death of near and dear one, financial loss, damage to the property etc. Such patients may suffer from depression, anxiety, nervousness, withdrawal and even bunted affect.
- Parkinson disease: Patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease have blunted affect.
- Medications: Antidepressants and drugs meant to treat seizures are known to produce blunted affect.
- Facial paralysis: Person suffering from facial paralysis may not be able to display any physical response to emotions that they feel.
Blunted affect is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying disease. Hence the aim is to treat the disease that has caused blunted affect. For example if it is a symptom of mental disorder such as schizophrenia or depression, the management is focused on addressing these psychiatric illnesses. It can be both with the help of medicines as well as behavioral therapy. Taking behavioral and occupational therapy over a period of time will help the patient to recognize and create proper response to an emotion. In this therapy, the patient is taught verbal communication technique and expressing facial reactions to feelings and emotions.