Feeling Empty Inside? It Could Be Something More Serious

By: Sarah Fader

Updated October 18, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Fawley

Wondering "why do I feel empty?" is a strange and uncomfortable sensation. It can be momentary, situational, or if long-lasting, a symptom of a serious condition related to mental illness or related to substance abuse. When you're experiencing emptiness, this emptiness can feel unfulfilling, confusing, and upsetting. It's important to recognize when you're experiencing emptiness that goes on for an extended period of time (with no apparent end in sight).
 

Is Feeling Empty Normal?

It might sound strange, but emptiness is an emotion. When you are feeling empty, you are experiencing an uncomfortable emotion. Some people report emptiness as a physical sensation in their bodies that keeps them from being able to live life the way they want to. You feel as though it’s hard to process happiness or sadness, no matter the situation. You may have a hollow feeling in your chest or feel lethargic. Or, you might feel bored most of the time and think nothing matters. It's like an emotional numbness that you can't shake. Feeling emptiness can be scary. 
 
For some people, emptiness is a chronic feeling. 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. 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 life.

If you're feeling this way, you likely 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. For others, however, it could be caused by a lack of a good emotional support system in the past or present. 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.

Reasons You Might Wonder, "Why Do I Feel Empty?"

When you are feeling 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 common reasons for feeling empty below, before going over tools to combat feelings of emptiness.

  • 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

  • Feeling Like You Don't Have a Purpose

  • Eating Disorders

  • Friends, Relationship, or Family Issues

  • Other Medical Reasons or Mental Health Reasons

How to Combat Feeling Empty

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 issue, you may try to fill the void with unhealthy choices that don't necessarily address the problem. If you find yourself turning to food, alcohol, or drugs for comfort, you may be coping with this emptiness in other ways. The same is true of mindless pursuits like spending your time binge-watching television. 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 events 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.

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 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 caused them anxiety. 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. 

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.

Talk To Support Groups

You can find various support groups that deal 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 can go to group therapy. Group therapy 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.

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 makes you feel like what you're doing isn't worthwhile, take out your list of goals. These are your reminders that your life has a purpose and you do have a 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 help. 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.

An online counselor 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. 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 depression 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

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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.

Counselor 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."

Conclusion

If you're finding that you're unable to combat feelings of emptiness on your own, or if these emotions are related to drug abuse, substance abuse, or mental health issues like 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. You deserve to get the support you need and live a fulfilling life.


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