01/03/2012 12:23 pm ET Updated Mar 04, 2012

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills : Blunted Affect

In the past two episodes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, we've seen not only the other cast members essentially outing the abuse claims on national TV, but also Taylor and Russell's reaction to it. As I watched Taylor and Russell awkwardly and disjointedly interact in the car ride home, a friend of mine commented, "Didn't she seem to shrink into herself? It was like she was trying to make herself look as small as possible."

I had a similar thought.

The face that Taylor "put on" in the car was similar to the one she wore a few episodes before when Camille addressed the abuse allegations -- she seemed to block her face from showing the emotions she was feeling. In essence, she showed blunted affect.

My previous RHBH piece talked about stunted growth, but this piece deals with blunted affect. The times when I've observed conflicted, blunted or flat affect have been in situations where someone seems to feel threatened and is altering their affect as a defense mechanism.

You can read more about affect here. In short, affect is the expression of emotion or feelings that someone displays to others through their facial expressions, gestures, tone, and other signs such as laughter or tears.
Constricted affect is a slight restriction of the range of emotions.
Blunted affect is a more severe reduction.
Flat affect is when someone's voice is monotone, their face is expressionless, and their body is motionless.

Constricted/ blunted/ flat affect is different than "faking it." When someone is faking it, they're projecting certain emotions they don't truly feel. (There's no need for me to give an example -- I'm sure you know what faking it is.) On the other hand, someone with constricted/ blunted/ flat affect isn't displaying the emotions they're feeling.

When I saw Taylor's behavior in these scenes, it brought a memory to mind. A woman's partner had apparently just hit her. I noticed the situation because the woman fleeing, and the man was chasing her, but it became real for me when I heard the slap. I looked then, and the woman was now cornered, and she averted her eyes from her abuser and I could see that her eyes dulled and she looked disconnected. A few moments before, she'd looked frightened, but now she looked resigned. I didn't know it at that time, but years later I realized the person had flat affect, making her face as unreadable as possible and she appeared to shrink inward to avoid being hit again. (Being young and having no experience with abuse, I did the only thing I could think of -- yelled -- and thankfully the woman's partner retreated.)

I share this because it was primarily from that situation that I was able to notice Taylor's altered affect.

When Taylor and Russell were in the car after leaving the party, Taylor displayed blunted affect. Her emotions seemed muted. It leads me to believe that regardless of whatever was occurring -- of which I'm not privy -- at the least she felt threatened by something or someone. After hearing about events that happened shortly after that episode was taped, it makes those scenes in Real Housewives of Beverly Hills even more uncomfortable.

What about you? Have you, or someone you know, experienced affect? If so, how have you -- or how are you -- dealing with it?