Victims of post-traumatic stress syndrome are often said to display blunted affect. Veterans of intense combat have been described as having the thousand-yard stare (or thousand-yard gaze). Some of these veterans clearly suffer from a grave disorder commonly known as shell shock and may suffer from recurring nightmares or otherwise experience psychological distress. Others have developed less emotional reactivity as an arguably natural reaction to stress. Those displaying on this end of the spectrum may self-report dissociation but no psychological distress per se. At least one analyst of military basic training has described one primary goal of said training to be inducing this state of being, considered desirable for maintaining calm and rational decision-making capability during combat situations.
Blunted affect should not be confused with anhedonia although the two share some characteristics. Anhedonia is the decrease or cessation of all feelings of pleasure (which thus affects enjoyment, happiness, fun, interest, and satisfaction). In the case of anhedonia, emotions relating to pleasure will not be expressed as much or at all because they are literally not experienced or are decreased. A person with anhedonia may be unable to laugh or smile, for example. Conversation will not be pleasurably stimulating for a person with extreme anhedonia, and thus that person may not be as responsive to conversation or its emotional subject matter. Both blunted affect and anhedonia are considered negative symptoms of schizophrenia, meaning that they are indicative of a lack of something. Other negative symptoms of schizophrenia include: alogia, lack of concentration, social withdrawal (sometimes called social anhedonia), etc. People with depression also sometimes experience anhedonia and it is a major component of the diagnosis for clinical depression.
One final consideration worth noting is that adults generally display less affection than children. This suggests blunting one's affect may be a normal part of maturation.
Constricted affect is an affect type that represents mild reduction in the range and intensity of emotional expression. If the client is consistently euphoric and all intensity is congruent but are unaffected by content, this would be still considered constricted to a euphoric affect.
Labile affect refers to the pathological expression of laughter, crying, or smiling. It is also known as "Pseudobulbar Affect", "Emotional Lability", "Pathological Laughter and Crying", or, historically, "Emotional Incontinence". An individual may find themselves laughing uncontrollably at something that is only moderately funny, being unable to stop themselves for several minutes.
Qualities describing the affective response include:
Emotions may be blunted in Alzheimer's patients; subdued reactions may be mistaken for depression, researchers suggest.
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