Flat affect is a condition in which the concerned person is unable to express his emotions through facial expression, voice or bodily language. For example a normal when happy will display his emotions on his face by smiling, laughing or in any other way. But a person with flat affect will not react or show his facial, verbal or bodily expression of happiness. Flat affect is not a disease in itself but a concomitant symptom of certain psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, autism, brain injury, facial paralysis, medications etc. Patient affected with flat affect needs to be examined and treated by a psychiatrist.
Signs and Symptoms of Flat Affect:
Patients who suffer from flat affect show following symptoms:
- No change in facial expression even when a person is sad or in happy mood.
- Person is not able to express his emotions by action or verbally.
- Speaks only in monotone voice.
- Avoid eye contact with other person.
- There is no compassion in the tone while talking.
Causes of Flat Affect:
Flat affect is not a disease in itself but a condition that is linked with some other medical condition, usually a mental condition. There is an abnormal activity in the brain. The area in the brain responsible for arousal to a response is not active as it is in normal people.And hence there is lack expression to any emotions. The person experiences emotions but he does not express it on face or through action.
- Schizophrenia: It is a mental illness in which the affected person has hallucinations both auditory and visual. The behavior and thoughts of such patients is abnormal and disorganized. These patients have expressionless face.
- Depression: The imbalance of chemical that results from depression may lead to flat affect like symptom.
- Brain injury: Injury to brain can produce various symptoms such as apathy and depression. He may also have features of flat affect.
- Autism: Many patients suffering from autism have less emotional reaction to any stimulation.
- Stress after some traumatic event in life can make the person expressionless to any emotional stimuli.
- Medications: Side effect of medicines, especially anti depressants and anti epileptic drugs.
Flat affect is a symptom of many different mental conditions. Usually treating the underlying condition brings about significant restoration of emotions among people with flat affect. The treatment consists of two aspects. This includes addressing the underlying illness such as schizophrenia, depression, etc. Once the primary cause is treated, person will start to display his emotions in a better way.
In the second treatment type, the patient learns ways to express his emotions to a stimulus. Here a psychologist, behavioral therapist plays a major role to make the person realize and understand emotions and react with appropriate response. The response may be in the form of facial expression and verbal communication.