How does emotional blunting impact the life of a person with major depressive disorder?

Watch the video with Dr. Roger McIntyre, Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology (University of Toronto, Canada), discussing the negative impact of emotional blunting in patients with MDD.

Emotional blunting has substantial negative impacts on everyday functioning and health-related quality of life § of patients with MDD.1 In fact, 60% of patients with MDD taking an antidepressant report emotional blunting. #2
Emotional blunting is a frequent reason for treatment discontinuation in patients with MDD1. In a survey, 45% of patients feeling emotionally numbed indicated that they think their antidepressant is affecting their emotions.¥1 39% of these patients considered stopping or have already stopped their antidepressant because of its emotional side effects.¥1

Data from a cross-sectional, observational survey study with patients with MDD (patient-reported, n=752), who are using a prescribed antidepressant and who reported emotional blunting during the past 6 weeks, and HCPs (HCP-assessed, n=383) completing the survey for the last two eligible patients they had seen one in the acute phase one in the remission phase of depression. Emotional blunting was described as follows: ‘Emotional effects of depression and treatment vary, but may include, for example, feeling
emotionally “numbed” or “blunted” in some way, lacking positive emotions or negative emotions, feeling detached from the world around you, or “just not caring” about things that you used to care about.’1
Significant impact defined as a score of 6–7 on a Likert-type scale from 1 (no impact at all) to 7 (significant impact). Emotional blunting was assessed using the Oxford Depression Questionnaire (ODQ). Functional capacity in daily life activities was measured with the Functioning Assessment Short Test (FAST).1
§Patient survey item: To what extent do you think your emotional blunting impacts your ability to function effectively a) at work or in studies, b) at home or in family life, c) in social life and d) overall, to what extent do you think emotional blunting impacts your overall quality of life?1 60-66% of patients with MDD in the acute phase of depression reported a significant negative impact of emotional blunting on all aspects of daily functioning, including work/studies, home/family life and social life, and overall health-related quality of life.1
# In an online survey of 1,829 patients treated with antidepressants such as venlafaxine, paroxetine, citalopram, fluoxetine, sertraline, escitalopram, tricyclics.2
¥ Assessed by the ODQ. The ODQ consists of three sections, the last of which gathers the perceived connection between antidepressant use and emotional blunting.

MDD, major depressive disorder; ODQ, Oxford depression questionnaire.


1. Christensen MC, et al. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2022;21:22.
2. Read J, et al. Psychiatry Res. 2014;216:67-73.