I Feel Empty: What You Can Do To When You're Feeling Down Or Feel Nothing

Updated October 6, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

To feel emptiness is a strange sensation. The feeling can be momentary empty, situational empty, or if a long-lasting empty feeling, it can leave you feeling like you have a symptom of a serious condition related to mental illness or substance abuse. This feeling can be pretty uncomfortable, and leave you feeling overwhelmed. When you're feeling this void, "I feel broken",  it can feel unfulfilling, confusing, and upsetting. It's important to recognize when it seems to go on for an extended period of time, especially if you don't feel good. While a normal emotion to feel from time to time, it can be concerning if it is ongoing with no end in sight or when accompanied by other symptoms related to poor mental health.

Why Do I Struggle With Emotions Of Emptiness Or Worthlessness?

If you’re wondering ‘why do I feel empty’, it’s important to think about what could be contributing to these feelings. It might sound strange, but emptiness is an emotion. When you are feeling empty, you are experiencing an uncomfortable emotion. Some people report feeling emptiness as a physical sensation in their bodies that keeps them from being able to live their daily life the way they want to. You feel as though it’s hard to process happiness or sadness, no matter the situation. You may feel worthless or meaningless. You may have a hollow feeling in your chest or feel lethargic. Or, you might experience boredom most of the time and think nothing matters. It's like an emotional numbness that you can't shake. Feeling emptiness can be scary and it’s a human experience no one wants to have, but treatment such as online therapy can help you work through this emptiness.

People managing these feeling sometimes ask questions like:

What can cause feeling empty?

There are many reasons that a person may experience a feeling of emptiness, such as a major life change (like the loss of a loved one), lack of fulfillment in one’s activities or relationships with friends or family. There are also certain mental health conditions that can cause a person to feel empty, such as depression, borderline personality disorder, and alcohol or drug addiction. If a mental disorder is present, treatment is available that can help individuals to experience reduced distress, improved mood and affect, and enhanced quality of life.

What does it mean when a person is empty?

A person may describe feelings of emptiness as a persistent emotional numbness or lack of meaning and purpose. They may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to fill the void, such as substance abuse or other self-destructive behaviors. Sometimes, emptiness is indicative of a mental disorder such as depression, occuring alongside other symptoms like loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, feelings of hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts. If you believe you may be experiencing warning signs of depression, it’s essential to reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional who can provide diagnosis and explore treatment options.

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, reach out for help immediately through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

How do you deal with emptiness in life?

In addition to seeking professional treatment for any mental health condition or substance abuse challenges that may be contributing to a feeling of emptiness, additional strategies for increasing one’s sense of meaning and purpose include:

  • Investing in a new hobby
  • Starting a creative project
  • Giving back to the community through volunteer work
  • Seeking a new job if one’s current work feels unfulfilling
  • Adopting a new spiritual practice
  • Engaging in self care that nourishes your body, mind and spirit
  • Investing in your important relationships (whether with a best friend or with family)
  • Making new meaningful connections

Experiencing emptiness can also be a chronic feeling for many people. You have a hard time for many years feeling anything. You may feel detached from your life and have the sense that something is missing. There's a void that can't be filled. This experience can happen to people who seem to have everything together: a healthy family, a good job, and a busy social life full of loving relationships.

Feeling Empty or Feel Almost Empty?

Emotional numbness isn't exclusive to those who are missing these life achievements. That's because emptiness does not come from outside; it comes from within, and it can affect every aspect of your adult life.

If you're feeling this way, you likely feel concerned and want to know the cause of the emptiness. One of the reasons could be a mental illness or disorder such as depression, substance use disorders, or adult ADHD that requires professional support and treatment. For others, however, it could be caused by negative experiences growing up in one’s family, or other stressful and even traumatic life events. If you haven’t been supported by your emotions in the past, there is a good chance you have suppressed your emotions to the point where you no longer feel them.

External And Internal Factors

When you are feeling like you have no emotions, empty, or numb, it can be alarming. You may be wondering if the emptiness has been caused by something outside of yourself. Emptiness is an internal state, and while it's not easy to get rid of, you ultimately have the power to manage and shape this internal struggle.

Here are some common reasons for why you may feel numb and empty below before we go over tools to combat these types of feelings:

  • Stressful or Hard Situations
  • An Unfulfilling Job or Other Unrealized Goals
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Alcohol and Drug Addiction
  • Too Much Media
  • Too Much Social Media
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Death Of A Loved One
  • Eating Disorders
  • Friends, Romantic Relationship, or Family Issues
  • Other Medical Reasons or Mental Health Reasons

Understand The Source

It is important to understand where feelings come from, and you may be able to take steps to realize the root of the issue. If you can't find some means of addressing the negative thinking patterns, you may try to fill the void with unhealthy choices that don't necessarily address the problem. Seeking to fill the void through food, alcohol or drugs is very common in America's communities today. The same is true of mindless pursuits like spending your time binge-watching television because you are trying to destress from a demanding job. These activities are likely to increase your feelings of dissatisfaction with your life even if they feel good for a fleeting moment. Instead of distracting yourself from feeling empty, try some of the steps outlined below.

Try Journaling

Write your emotions and thoughts in a journal. You may not understand what's going on in your mind and why you're feeling a particular way. Begin journaling about things that happened throughout your day, helping you combat feeling empty. Once you establish this routine, take time to not just write down life circumstances that happen but assess each event as well.

By assessing each situation, you can determine if each event is positive or negative and ask yourself how you should feel and respond to the things that happen. Writing your emotions can be a gateway to help you process what's going on inside yourself, and combat feeling empty.

Set Life Goals that Establish Meaning

An essential part of getting your life moving again and finding meaning is setting goals. A lot of the time we flounder and feel lost or empty because we haven't set goals for what is important to us. Sometimes this means reevaluating or revisiting past goals, and other times you have to brainstorm goals for the first time.

Make a Conscious Effort to Acknowledge Your Feelings

Many people who are not feeling deep meaning in their life might feel this way since they have subconsciously "turned off" their emotions. They might have reached a point where their emotions become overwhelming and cause them anxiety, leading to choosing "empty" as an emotion instead. The first thing you can do after acknowledging this numbness towards emotions is to start reconnecting with your emotions; allow yourself to feel again. Your emotions may come out inappropriately at first, such as sadness being expressed through anger, but remember no emotions are wrong or bad, as long as you continue making an effort to recognize them and grow. It may also be helpful to process feelings with a trusted person, such as a close friend, family, or treatment professional.

Engage in Activities You Used to Enjoy

Right now, you may not feel like doing your usual hobbies or rituals, but you should try to do them anyway. This is a part of taking care of yourself. Pay attention to how you feel when you are doing these things. You may be able to connect with some of the joy or peace you used to feel, or you may find that it is time to replace this activity with something else. Either way, doing things that are just for you can establish self-love and reconnection to your emotions, which can combat feeling empty.

Want To Work Through The Feeling Of Emptiness?

Talk To Support Groups

In addition to leaning on support from friends, family, and mental health professionals, you might benefit from joining a support group that deals with the concept of waves of emptiness. These support groups may consist of people who have a mental illness that is contributing to feeling empty, or they may consist of people who are just trying to figure out how to find a meaningful life.

Alternatively, you could consider trying group therapy. Group mental health treatment helps people who have a state of emptiness by allowing them to communicate with one another and help find solutions that way. You'll be surprised how often an empty group of people can find the treatment for their emotions by speaking to one another.

Go to a Treatment Center for Severe Issues

Work may be unsatisfying, or you don't have the time and energy to make friends. There are many reasons you may feel empty. However, if you feel severely empty to the point where it's hurting your mental health, or you have a severe mental illness, going to a treatment center can help. Importantly, if you are experiencing suicidal ideation, immediately reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255

Don't Avoid People and Reach Out to Those Close to You

You may not be ready to actively plan a time to hang out with friends or family, but if you get invited somewhere, go ahead and accept the invitation. Isolation may increase your feelings of emptiness. Your existing support system cannot support you if you alienate them. If you find yourself spending a majority of your time at home, go somewhere where other people gather.

Seek Help

Whenever these feelings start to rise and make you feel like what you're doing isn't worthwhile and you’re starting to lose touch of your sense of purpose, take out your list of goals. These are your reminders that your life has a purpose and you do have an unclear or unstable sense of direction. If you're finding it difficult to take steps toward your goals or you feel stuck, don't be afraid to reach out for professional help and treatment. An online therapist can help you get to the bottom of your feelings of emptiness, so you can improve your mental health and live the fulfilling life you want.

A licensed mental health professional can support you in exploring those feelings of emptiness, finding the source, and working through them. Many people have talked with online counselors about their emotional numbness, received support, and moved forward by practicing self care. According to the APA (American Psychological Association), many research studies show that online counseling is just as effective as in-person therapy.

Many people who have dealt with similar issues have emerged as more resilient and fulfilled individuals. In fact, one study by the Berkeley Well-Being Institute found that clients with major depressive disorder reduced their depressive symptoms by 70% through BetterHelp services.

You may read the full study here: Depression: Effectiveness of a Multimodal Digital Psychotherapy Platform for Adult Depression: A Naturalistic Feasibility Study

The counselors at BetterHelp want you to experience all the emotions life has to offer. If you're feeling empty, they won't judge you. People have come to BetterHelp feeling stuck and gotten the support that they needed to process their feelings and begin experiencing a full range of emotions. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people just like you or I.

BetterHelp Therapist Reviews

"Rachel is one of the best counselors I have ever worked with. She is kind and encouraging, she's not judgmental and is incredibly understanding. She's also not afraid to tell me what I need to hear, even if it's a difficult conversation. Without Rachel, I would have been stuck in the rut that I had been in for years. She is truly a blessing."

"Dr. MacLeod is a deeply caring and insightful counselor. She offered several helpful and practical coping strategies that enabled me to overcome a particularly challenging season of my life. In addition to her thoughtful advice, she is also a fantastic listener. I'm very grateful for the support she has offered."

Final Thoughts

Wondering "how can I get the help I need for this feeling?" If you're finding that you're unable to combat chronic feelings of emptiness on your own, or if these emotions are related to drug abuse, substance abuse, or a mental health condition like clinical depression or bipolar disorder - it's important that you get professional help. Don't hesitate to seek therapy or counseling when you can't seem to feel anything. These are temporary feelings that can go away and you deserve to get the support you need and live a fulfilling life.

Other Commonly Asked Questions

What can cause feeling empty?

What does it mean when a person is empty?

What is the feeling of being nothing?

What is a person with no feelings called?

How do you deal with emptiness in life?

What can I do to be happy again?

Why do I cry so easily?

Why do I cry when someone yells at me?

How do you hold back tears?

Why do girls cry so much?

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