I feel spaced out

Published on April 24, 2020

Betty often felt spaced out when she was at home alone.  She was so used to going and working hours on end, that when she had downtime, she felt anxious.  What “should” she be doing?  She was exhausted, but she felt guilty for resting.  She would lie down on the couch and space out.  Her brain felt like mush.  She was running on adrenaline so often, that her body would eventually wear down and crash.

Sam had just lost his father due to a sudden and unexpected illness.  When he sat in class, he couldn’t focus.  He felt like he wasn’t there.   He didn’t feel real; it was almost as if he was sleepwalking.  He started to be confused as to what was real or a dream.  He began to worry about passing his exams.

Anne would feel like she was out of her body, and do aggressive things she wouldn’t normally do when she was having an argument with her husband.  When she came back into her body, she felt ashamed and shocked.

Why do I feel spaced out?

From time to time, we might space out or check out.  The reasons can be different depending on the situation and the person.  Sometimes, our brain just gets tired and needs to rest.  Other times, our mind might be dissociating to avoid pain.  During trauma or a shock, our brain might numb out as a way to survive.

Sometimes the dissociation happens when we least expect it, and it can create more distress. Here are some things to consider if you’ve been numbing out:

1. Are you exhausted?

Is your brain exhausted? When was the last time you took time just to decompress and recharge?  How many hours do you work in a day?

2. Do I feel out of body?

Do you feel like your body isn’t yours? When do you dissociate?

3. Do you feel real?

Do you have feelings that you are separate from others, or that you are living in a movie? Do you feel disconnected from others? Do you feel like you are floating?

4. Are you avoiding anything?

Sometimes when we try to avoid emotions, pain, trauma, grief or stress, we can numb out. If you are avoiding, what can you tolerate feeling or looking at in small doses?  When you learn that you can tolerate your feelings, you might numb out less over time.

5. What is the frequency?

Spacing out or zoning out from time to time can be normal. If it is often happening and making you nervous, therapy can be helpful.

6. Is it disruptive?

If your spacing out, or numbing out is hurting your relationships, school or career, if so, it’s best to seek help from a qualified professional.


If you would like to set up an appointment please contact me on +852 2521 4668 or email m.borschel@mindnlife.com. We can always book an online therapy session.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Category(s):Anxiety, Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD, Social Anxiety / Phobia, Stress Management

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

Registered Clinical Psychologist (HK)

Dr. Borschel specializes in Attachment, trauma and Loss. She is experienced in helping adults, teens, children, and families adjust to anxiety, trauma, abuse, divorce, separation, loss of a loved one, and loss of finance. This may include deciding what is in the best interest of the children during custody disputes, strengthening the relationship and communication between the parents and the children.

From Nov 2020 Dr. Borschel is only available for online consultations.

Dr. Borschel’s attachment-based therapy along with EMDR and Brainspotting enables her clients to find healing within themselves. In so doing, she can help her clients to overcome anxiety, trauma, neglect, emotional, verbal, physical abuse, and child abuse.

Furthermore, as an attachment specialist, she also helps individuals understand relationship patterns which prevent them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships. She is able to help reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and promote confidence and self-esteem.

Dr. Borschel is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. She graduated with her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in New York City. She later moved to Hong Kong to pursue her doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in Social Work and Social Administration.

Registered Clinical Psychologist with The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology (HKSCP). Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), The British Psychological Society (BPS), and the Hong Kong Family Law Association (HKFLA).

Mental Health News