What is Flat Affect – Its Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

flat affect

The person lacks non-verbal expressions, like facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, etc. Because of which one seems as apathetic or unemotional. They show symptoms like monotonous voice, no or low eye contact, little or no interest, low pitch of voice, facial expression, etc.

People with flat affect lacks response to any emotion.  This post will discuss about what is flat affect, its causes, symptoms and treatment.

What is Flat Affect?

What is Flat Affect?

A Flat Affect is a state in which there is depletion in the expression of emotion in an individual. People with this problem lacks response to any emotion. They seem extremely constricted in expressing their feelings to others. Individuals do not lack emotions or feelings but there is a deficiency in illustrating their feelings.

Blunted Affect

Individuals with blunted affect will display little or low feelings in emotional contexts. It refers to diminishing the intensity of an individual’s expression of emotion. The emotional response of an individual with blunted affect is a lot weaker than one would expect in similar situations.

Restricted Affect

In this, the expression is reduced in range and intensity while displaying the emotions physically. Restricted affect is less severe than blunted affect. Individuals suffering from depression show restricted affect until the depressive symptom alleviates. It is also known as ‘constricted affect’.

Symptoms of Flat Affect

Schizophrenia is a neurological disorder, in which disrupts the normal functioning of an individual. It is clinically assessed and is a negative symptom of schizophrenia, which means there is a reduction in the expression of emotions.

Autism spectrum disorder is a neuro developmental disorder, in which there is a continuous deficit in the social communication and social interaction of an individual. There can be seen abnormalities or challenges in speech and non-verbal communication, their face seems blank and their voice tone may not change described as having a flat affect.

Symptoms of Flat Affect

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder, which develops as a reaction of an individual experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event or situation in his/her life. The traumatic event’s experience can last long term anxiety or fear which can be deliberating. The resulting symptoms cause flat affect in the individuals suffering from PTSD.

Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder, which includes manic and depressive episodes. In a depressive episode, the individual losses interest in activities, productivity decreases, etc. Individuals in this state of mind and body may display it.

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Causes of Flat Affect

1. Traumatic Experience

Individuals who have witnessed a traumatic event which developed a flat affect as a reaction to it.

2. Medications

The medications individual is taking for mental or physical illness may have some side effects of flat affect.

 3. Drug Withdrawal

Drug addiction is dreadful, and while recovering, the withdrawal symptoms can cause an individual a flat affect.

4. Brain Damage or Neurological Dysfunction

  • It can also result from physical damage to the brain due to an accident, or tumor, dementia.
  • Facial Paralysis or Muscle Disorder
  • It is a situation in which there are no facial movements because of nerve damage.

Treatment of Flat Affect

Treatment of flat affect can be difficult, as it depends upon the cause which develops it, which is different for each individual. The plan should begin by consulting a therapist or psychologist, or anyone who diagnoses and treats mental health conditions. In which the expert aims to address the underlying causes of symptoms. The following are the treatment for this symptom:-

1. Therapy or Intervention

By seeking help from professionals, therapy or intervention could help in reducing or eliminating flat affect. The expert will able to recommend the appropriate treatment for an individual’s particular situation.

The therapies which could help are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is used in treating schizophrenia, Social Skills Training will benefit the individual, in which the training to express emotions is given. Speech Therapy could also be beneficial to help individuals with modulation of voice to express emotions.

2. Medications

The mental health professional could prescribe medications that will help with a flat affect. Antipsychotic medication will help control the symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. Their function is to block the receptors for dopamine, and also other anti-psychotic medicines influence other transmitters in the brain which can help with a flat affect

3. Coping

To cope with daily stress or depression can lessen the symptom of it. Coping with stress or any past traumatic event can assist in reducing it. By exercising, giving an ample amount of sleep to your body, avoiding drugs, etc., will help balance the mood.

4. Support from Caregivers

If an individual is suffering from a severe mental or medical condition, besides medication or therapy, the role of caregivers is essential for the recovery of the individual. Support from an individual’s family, friends, etc., can help heal faster.


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Flat Affect and Relationship

Flat affect in a relationship is an obstacle. The spouse/husband may not feel motivated to care for the other anymore, because the individual doesn’t show any emotions. The relationship will become a complication for them.

Flat Affect and Relationship

While, if the partner of the individual with this symptom, seek professional help for both of them, the conditions could become better and there is a chance that the condition of relationship could improve.

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Genral FAQs

 How long does flat affect last?

This is a condition in which the emotions of individual experience but cannot display them physically or verbally. The time period of this symptom depends upon the severity of it. For instance, in chronic schizophrenia, where characteristics of symptoms are long-lasting, a flat affect can be long term. With treatment the severity could decrease, as from mild it can be reduced to negligible, but from severe it will only drop till moderate level.

Does flat affect go away?

Flat affect, the reduction in expression of emotions, can be treated with the help of professionals. Treatment could be difficult, as it depends upon the severity of the cause behind it. Learning more about the cause of it can help diminish its effect. The individual, with the help of therapy or intervention, could be helped to show some emotions, but it differs from case to case.

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