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This is when a character has one or more (or Crystal Dragon Jesus forbid, all) their senses deadened, sometimes to the point of total insensibility. This can happen because of an accident, damage to an organ/nerve, becoming a cyborg/robot (in which case, expect this to contribute to Cybernetics Eat Your Soul) or becoming one of The Undead.

Just as in real life, the character will feel horrified and distraught over losing such a fundamental (and undervalued in hindsight) faculty. They will probably lament that while they can "feel" something, it doesn't cause pain or pleasure or comfort. Feelings of alienation are sure to follow, and an identity crisis is rarely far behind.

Interestingly, this might be counterbalanced thanks to Disability Superpower granting Super Senses in another faculty, or even oracular ability a la Blind Seer. However, a non-human or superpowered character who had senses past the standard five and lost one (like Telepathy, X-Ray Vision, or something stranger), the anguish will be no less acute. He, she or it will have to learn to make do with the puny five human senses.

A Sense Freak will likely find this the only form of torture that isn't kinky. The Deaf Composer keeps on making music (or other art) despite this loss. See also Sensory Overload and Brought Down to Normal.

Examples of Sense Loss Sadness include:

Anime and Manga

  • The third episode of the 80's AD Police OVAs (based on the 80's Bubblegum Crisis universe), tells a story of a policeman who had to undergo Emergency Transformation into a cyborg. Turned into a super-cyborg cop, he is actually slowly going insane because of the extreme sensory deprivation, not being helped by the fact he is treated more as a machine than a human being.
  • Al can't feel anything anymore until the end, that is.
  • This is what kicks off the culprit's Roaring Rampage of Revenge in the Case Closed movie The Fourteenth Target. He had lost his sense of taste after being injured in a traffic accident, which was especially devastating given his career as a sommelier--a highly-trained wine specialist.
  • In Berserk, Guts loses his sense of sight and hearing while attempting to stab the heart of the Sea God. He attempts to have Shierke (who is communicating with him telepathically) direct him to it, but the heart keeps attacking him with pulses of sound. Eventually, his whole body is rendered numb, and without any of his five senses working, Guts isn't sure what he can do.
  • Akito loses his sense of taste in-between Martian Successor Nadesico and The Movie. Considering he is a professional cook, it is a very hard blow.

Comic Books

  • Max Damage from Incorruptible goes through this every time he wakes up. He only gets about an hour of normal senses before his invulnerability robs him of his senses of touch and taste.
  • In the Hellraiser comics, Pinhead wishes to become human again because all Cenobites experience Sense Loss Sadness when they are transformed, and he is sick of it. But to do that, he needs to find a suitable replacement...


  • The crew of the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean is cursed with living undeath, which makes them completely immortal and nearly unstoppable. This would be a pirate's dream, except they can feel nothing but hunger and pain. Naturally, they gripe about it quite a bit and seek to undo the curse.
  • Part of Renard the Anarchist for being, well, an anarchist in The World Is Not Enough is that there is a bullet in his head that removes his ability to feel pain. While it does mean he can push his body further than a normal human, it also means he can't enjoy getting intimate with his love/ Stockholm Syndrome-afflicted heiress Electra King.


  • There's a spy novel where the hero is charged with retrieving a superweapon, which turns out to be a gun that disconnects every one of the victim's senses (the hero knows it's fired because the victims are trashing on the ground, screaming like there's no tomorrow). In the end, he destroys it.
  • Cordwainer Smith's classic SF short story, "Scanners Live in Vain," features humans whose sensory nerves have been cut to allow them to deal with an unbearable pain that is a side effect of space travel. The story explores how they deal with it, and how the loss makes most of them, well, a little crazy.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, when Leia's children are abducted, an alien caretaker is hit with the equivalent of a high-power flashbang. She is seen later, standing alone with an apathetic expression. It is explained that though she seems unhurt, her hearing has been damaged - it is now about human level - which for her is devastating, since her species uses subtler inaudible-to-humans sounds to express emotion.
    • The Star Wars EU also has ysalamiri, creatures that "push back" the Force. People next to one can't feel the Force. In The Thrawn Trilogy, when they're introduced, this is uncomfortable and limiting but Force-Sensitives grit their teeth and get on with it. Authors who want those same characters taken down a peg bring out the ysalamiri and invoke this trope, as in The New Rebellion. Interestingly, in I, Jedi Corran Horn likens being around ysalamiri to becoming colorblind, but also notes that Luke, whose Force-Sensitivity has been active for so much longer and who must feel its repression more keenly, is more optimistic and upbeat. Being cut off from the greater galaxy means he's not as aware of his overwhelming responsibilities as the only active Jedi Master.
    • Here's how the "pushing back" is introduced. Luke wakes up imprisoned and somehow can't sense the woman talking to him. She mocks him, welcoming him back to the world of mere mortals.

 -and with a surge of adrenaline, Luke realized that the strange mental veiling wasn't limited to just her. He couldn't sense anything. Not people, not droids, not even the forest beyond his window.

It was like going blind.

    • Dengar Roth has a version of this. After he took massive brain damage, the Empire rebuilt him with enhanced senses and a chemically-induced Photographic Memory... but they also cut away his ability to feel all emotions except for anger, hope, and - accidentally - loneliness. The idea was to make him into a dedicated bounty hunter, who could use anger while on the hunt, and whose hope that the Empire would do as promised and fix his mind if he served well enough would make him serve. Without compassion or sorrow, he wouldn't have that pesky morality in the way. Ironically, he still refused to kill a group of religious children that rebuffed the Empire's demands and left their service, and eventually had most of his emotions restored by a technoempath woman he ended up marrying. (Boba Fett was the best man.)
    • The Yuuzhan Vong is an entire race that went through this at once in their backstory when their warmongering destroyed their sentient homeworld. The death of the Vong's homeworld severed their connection to the Force and caused them terrible agony. Their cultural obsession with pain is their means of coping with their lost symbiosis and Force connection.

Live Action TV

  • In Battlestar Galactica, Cavil is furious over never having had machine senses/sensors and being "trapped" as an Artificial Human. That machine/man had serious issues.
  • The Invisible Man: Augustin Gaither became Thomas Walker this way. After losing all his senses except touch, he built a "sensor array" that was wired directly into his brain, granting him a very limited form of sight and hearing and translating speech to braille for him.
    • Darien also finds other subjects of the same experiment. These "insensates" have gone mad and spend their time scratching themselves and walking into walls. Anything to feel something.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Loss". Counselor Troi loses her telepathic/empathic abilities due to contact with alien life forms. She has difficulty functioning as Ship's Counselor after this due to her dependence on the abilities. Fortunately, Riker and Guinan give her each a firm Quit Your Whining speech with Riker calling her out on how smug she was with her powers and Guinan announcing that she was going to take over as Ship's Councillor since Troi, who is formally trained in the position on top of her powers, is doing nothing useful. These paired kick in the pants gets Troi to do her job, and find that her skills are adequate on their own to save the day just before she gets her powers back.
  • In Little House On the Prairie, this trope provides the series' ultimate Tear Jerker when the moment the Ingalls were dreading happens and Mary's declining eyesight goes completely.
  • One episode of Scrubs has JD screw up medications and cause a patient to lose his sense of smell. The guy is understandably distraught and angry over this. At the end of the episode it is revealed that it was just the progression of his condition and not JD's fault at all, but JD allows him to continue thinking that it was because it helps the patient cope with the loss to have someone to blame.
  • In Charmed, an Empath gives up his power to stop a demon and becomes so depressed by the loss that he ends up in a psychiatric hospital. He gets over it eventually, when he realises he can still help people even without his powers.
  • In Angel after her depowerment Illyria mourns her new inability to hear "the song of the green", i.e. plants.
  • In Kamen Rider OOO, an overwhelming hunger for sensation combined with dulled senses is revealed to be part of the reason the Greeed became evil. When Ankh gets a human body he becomes a minor Sense Freak who eats enormous amounts of ice lollipops.
    • Conversely, when Eiji and Dr Maki begin transforming into Greeed, they slowly lose their senses.

Radio Drama

  • In the arc in the Eighth Doctor Big Finish Doctor Who stories taking place in a dimension where time does not exist, the Doctor becomes depressed, grouchy, and morbid when he effectively loses his time-related senses because of the aforementioned absence of time.

Tabletop RPG

  • Warhammer 40000 gives us the worshippers of Slaanesh, who revel in any form of sensation, from the ecstatically pleasurable to the excruciatingly painful. Occasionally, the Inquisition feels the need to torture them. To do it, they stick them in a sensory deprivation tank and wait for them to crack. It doesn't take long.
    • Since Chaos has a sick sense of humor, most Slaanesh worshippers eventually experience Sense Loss Sadness anyway. They need to seek out more and more intense stimuli to feel anything as their senses become deadened. The lucky ones die before their senses do.

Video Games

  • The Jedi Exile in Knights of the Old Republic II has an option of saying "Imagine all your senses dead. At once" when Atton asks him/her about how it feels like to be cut away from The Force.
  • Collette's angel transformation in Tales of Symphonia. She starts by losing her taste, then the ability to sleep, then pain, then her voice, then finally loses her soul, through her heart and memory.
    • It turns out that this was actually planned as part of gaining her angel powers. Cruxis's goal was to make her into a puppet, and therefore wanted to get rid of the personal senses that made her human.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, Naked Snake loses the use of one eye during a torture sequence. Later, when he's recuperating, there's a sad moment where he fails to grab a butterfly because he lost his depth deception.
    • Becomes a crowning moment of awesome when he forms some C4 into a butterfly, tosses it in the air, smoothly catches it, and slams it into place to blow the target sky high
  • Completely inverted by Sandro in the Heroes of Might and Magic series. In The Shadow of Death, we see his gradual transformation into a lich. In one mission he is shown musing on how much better life is without flesh. No more itchiness, hygiene concerns, or foul odors to worry about anymore. He's also happy to be rid of his lust, seeing that as a distraction.

Web Comics

  • Black Mage of Eight Bit Theater first noticed he was no longer king of Hell when he lost his eight new senses.
  • Xykon of Order of the Stick snapped when he realized that his transformation into a lich robbed him of his sense of taste.
    • More like Sense Loss Unstoppable Rage as he immediately executes an innocent (well, she was fiendish but hadn't done anything) waitress. He was bad before, but this truly made him a Complete Monster.

Western Animation

  • In one episode of Futurama Fry's "human horn" (ie, nose) is harvested by aliens to be sold as a black markest aphrodisiac for aliens. Futurama being Futurama, this causes him to lose his entire sense of smell until his nose is reattached.
    • In another, Bender is upset because, as a robot, he has no sense of taste. At one point he says that he'd give up his other eight senses, even "smision"[1], to be able to taste things.
  • Metallo does this in Superman: The Animated Series in his introduction episode before he turns on Luthor. He is a mercenary diagnosed with a fatal disease. Lex Luthor offers a cure - to transfer his thoughts and brain patterns into a Killer Robot, powered by Kryptonite. Naturally Metallo is sent to kill Superman, but he soon realizes he cannot smell, taste or feel anything. Superman eventually defeats him by pointing out Luthor infected him in the first place to try out the experiment, and he turns against Luthor.
  • Inverted in SpongeBob SquarePants, when Patrick gains a sense of smell--and immediately hates being surrounded by foul odors.

Real Life

  • A lot of people who suffer from Anosmia (lack of sense of smell) tend to fall into deep depression because of it.
    • Actually, that's only for people who become anosmic later in life, and can happen to anyone who loses any sense (such as being blinded or deafened by an accident). Those who are born without it tend to not realize they're missing out on anything - or later realize they're missing out on the bad and the good, and not smelling the roadkill skunk is pretty awesome when the rest of the car is gagging. However, you have to remember that the majority of taste also comes from your sense of smell, so your ability to enjoy food and drink disappears as well.
  • One of the more tragic cases of Anosmia is the late lead singer of INXS, Michael Hutchence.
  1. rhymes with "vision"
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