I don't mean someone who lacks emotion because they "don't care", but because either they can't feel emotion or the emotional response is delayed because of a genetic disposition.

Maybe there is an appropriate medical term that could be used.

The word stoic is recommended from a similar question, for example - but that question and its answers relate to an individuals ability to endure/tolerate a situation or simply ignore their emotions.

  • 2
    The answer is simple: "He's a real Spock." Of course that could also mean he is good with children, but, hey, language is ambiguous.
    – Fraser Orr
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 2:56
  • They're often, but not always, sociopaths. Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 5:41
  • The title and body ask subtly different questions. It is possible for a person to be able to feel emotion without being able to show it.
    – jimreed
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 12:25
  • @jimreed Thanks for pointing that out, I think I fixed it now. I think it's possible for a person to hide/mask their emotions, from what is described in the blunted affect. I am looking for help in describing a person who can't feel emotions similar to Anhedonia (a type of inability).
    – SaultDon
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 16:34
  • "My mother? Let me tell you about my mother."
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 18:25

13 Answers 13


Blunted affect may be the noun, but if you're looking for an adjective to describe someone like that the term is affectless.

affectless : showing or expressing no emotion; also : unfeeling

  • This is the closest I think so far because of the keyword unfeeling where it could indicate the person has no control of or lacks an emotional response. They are therefore, what an average person may assume, unaffected.
    – SaultDon
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 1:47

The medical term is blunted affect. A more extreme case is called a flat affect.

From Wikipedia:

Blunted affect is the scientific term describing a lack of emotional reactivity on the part of an individual. It is manifest as a failure to express feelings either verbally or non-verbally, even when talking about issues that would normally be expected to engage the emotions. Expressive gestures are rare and there is little animation in facial expression or in vocal inflection

  • Thanks for the prompt reply but I'm having difficulty using that in a sentence. I think something more specific would be helpful because this one seems to describe an overall type of phenomenon. I wonder if there is a name for the type of behaviour that I am talking about that doctors or psychologists would use?
    – SaultDon
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 1:40

Reminds me of a line in Shawshank Redemption.

You strike me as a particularly icy and remorseless man, Mr. Dufresne.

"Cold" (or more poetically, "Icy", as used in the movie) can mean you are not easily affected emotionally, and do not show emotions.


If you're looking for a term to use in everyday conversation (your request for an appropriate medical term aside), it's common to describe someone as being emotionally detached.

  • Your answer is definitely close. The word detached could also describe how the person is simply ignorant to another persons plight, for example. I think it could mislead the reader if not used with more description.
    – SaultDon
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 1:51

Possible synonyms:

  • reserved / suppressed
  • restrained / self-restrained / self-contained
  • discreet
  • overinhibited
  • dazed

Are you thinking of Asperger's?

Asperger syndrome or Asperger's syndrome or Asperger disorder is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests

  • For example, Dustin Hoffman's character in Rainman is supposed to have a disorder on the autism spectrum. Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 22:06

How about nonchalant, indifferent, stoic, expressionless or unconcerned? I am one of those people you describe, and I find these words often describe me quite accurately.


Related to the medical term "blunted affect"

Dysthymia: a mood disorder that has a number of typical characteristics: low energy and drive, low self-esteem, and a low capacity for pleasure in everyday life [...] They will usually find little pleasure in usual activities and pastimes


is a personality construct characterized by the sub-clinical inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. The core characteristics of alexithymia are marked dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment, and interpersonal relating. Furthermore, individuals suffering from alexithymia also have difficulty in distinguishing and appreciating the emotions of others, which is thought to lead to unempathic and ineffective emotional responding

Adjectives to describe someone who is emotionally shallow and lacking in empathy

Insensitive lacking feeling or tact = so insensitive as to laugh at someone in pain

Non empathic to be incapable of recognizing emotions that are being experienced by another person.

Emotionless showing, having, or expressing no emotion

Callous 2. a feeling no emotion b : feeling or showing no sympathy for others


Asperger's is cetainly a good medical diagnosis of the described behaviour. In the vulgate, it could perhaps be "aloof." Pretentiously, you could use use "unclubbable."


Robotic. Zero ability to show emotional highs or lows. Not able to understand or meet the emotional needs of others.


In extreme cases, the word you want could be "sociopath" or "psychopath". Despite fictional portrayals of "psychos" as being twitching, gibbering wrecks, in reality they tend to be very controlled and normal-seeming (hence the cliché of "He seemed so normal- kept himself to himself... " and other bystander-generated camera-fodder).


apathetic apəˈθɛtɪk/Submit adjective showing or feeling no interest, enthusiasm, or concern. "an apathetic electorate" synonyms: uninterested, indifferent, unconcerned, unmoved, unresponsive, impassive, passive, detached, uninvolved, disinterested, unfeeling, unemotional, emotionless, dispassionate, lukewarm, cool, uncaring, half-hearted, lackadaisical, non-committal

  • This is interesting. Lots to use here - "cool" is actually a neat word to use if you could surround it with some pretext as to how it relates to the emotional aspect of things.
    – SaultDon
    Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 21:40
  • @SaultDon: I'm surprised that you like this answer, since most of these words mean don't care rather than can't care, and somebody else mentioned cold three years ago. Commented Sep 8, 2014 at 22:08

Psychopathic or sociopathic are both descriptors of people without normal emotion.

  • 3
    I think you'll find that they have rather specific meanings and are inappropriate merely for describing someone with little emotion.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 15:51

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