Feeling empty is a strange kind of experience to have. It’s like there is a void inside of you where no emotion seems to penetrate.
Everyone feels empty inside from time to time, and these feelings normally dissipate as randomly as they seem to have come about. It is not uncommon or unheard of, especially after going through a difficult time, such as the death of a loved one, losing your job, or going through a breakup, just to name a few.
By itself, feeling empty inside is not indicative of a mental disorder.
And yet, for quite a lot of people these days, emptiness is a feeling that either doesn’t go away or keeps consistently coming back. This is known as chronic emptiness, characterized by a sense of disconnection from both yourself and others.
If you think you may experience chronic emptiness, it’s likely that you are going through hard times right now. Bear in mind that nothing in life lasts forever, and emptiness is no exception.
But there is hope.
If you’re wondering how to stop feeling empty, know that there are ways to cope, tackle, and overcome chronic emptiness, ranging from things you can do by yourself starting right now to psychotherapy in its many forms.
Why Do I Feel Empty?
Negative emotions, despite not being enjoyable or fun to experience, are not a bug or a glitch of our brain – they are a feature. Sadness, anger, frustration, and many others, all serve one purpose or another that is needed for our healthy functioning.
Usually, they are a signal that something is wrong and requires being attended to. If we are sad, it’s because we need social support. If we are angry, it’s because something isn’t going our way and we need a motivator to correct that (in a productive, healthy manner, of course).
Emptiness is a symptom of a greater problem. If we feel bad in any way, it means we need to listen to ourselves.
What does emptiness have to say? There are a few possibilities.
Emptiness is a strange feeling because it manifests as an evident lack of something rather than that something by itself. It is not uncommon for loneliness to manifest as emptiness. When we feel lonely, our loneliness indicates a social lack. This can be a lack of close relationships, emotional intimacy, or just someone who cares and is willing to listen.
Ask yourself, “would I feel empty if I felt loved and cared for right now?” If the answer is yes, your emptiness may be an expression of loneliness.
Approximately 19.4 million, or 7.8% of American adults, are estimated to have had at least one depressive episode. These numbers are pre-pandemic and do not include children and adolescents, but they paint a very real picture – depression is simply very common.
When we think of depression, we often think of intense sadness and hopelessness. What we don’t usually think of is emptiness – a numbness to the world and everything in it. Feeling empty is a lesser-known symptom of depression and one that can go overlooked. If you suspect you may be suffering from depression, make sure to go over the signs of this mental illness.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
BPD is a mental disorder associated with having unstable emotions, behavior, and self-concept. It is estimated to affect 6% of the population, and one of its established symptoms is frequent and severe chronic emptiness.
Within the context of BPD, chronic emptiness is strongly linked to impulsive behavior, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide. Thus, if you suspect you have other symptoms besides feeling empty, you are advised to seek professional help.
A lack of meaning in life
Have you ever stopped to think about what life means to you or what sense of purpose drives you forward from each day to the next? It is not uncommon for people to get stuck in that area and start feeling empty. Maybe because something that used to feel meaningful no longer felt this way, or perhaps they are going through an uncertain, transitional period in their lives.
Feeling empty inside often indicates the dissatisfaction that stems from this lack of meaning and is a sign that something needs to change in your outlook towards life and how you live it. It means it’s time to get in touch with yourself and see what’s wrong.
What Should I Do About My Emptiness?
The first thing you should do when you’re feeling empty inside is to accept that feeling rather than ignore it or distract yourself from it. Recognize that your brain is trying to communicate a problem, and seek to identify what that problem is to deal with it effectively.
Doing so involves asking yourself introspective questions and being honest with yourself about the answers. Examples of such questions to ask include:
- Am I unhappy? If yes, why?
- What makes me want to live?
- Am I living a life true to my values?
- What goals am I pursuing? Do my actions reflect that pursuit?
- Does my life feel meaningful?
Note that these aren’t necessarily easy to answer. In fact, they often are outright difficult, and most people don’t know what to do with their answers once they have them.
While emptiness does not fit the traditional narrative of what reasons are ‘worthy’ of reaching out to professional help, the reality is that a lot of people seek psychotherapy due to feeling empty and feeling like life has lost its meaning.
It’s not something to be ashamed of in any capacity. It’s a psychological problem like any other, so why shouldn’t you get the best help possible?
Feeling Empty Can Be Dealt WithStart Online Therapy
Tackling the Emptiness With Therapy
When we’re feeling empty inside, it can be difficult to find hope or even the motivation to keep looking. With psychotherapy, you’ll have the support of a professional therapist in tackling the emptiness inside.
With a therapist, you’ll learn how to delve deep into the root of the problem and face the cause of your emptiness, learn how to cope with it, and how to take it as an opportunity for change and growth.
Most importantly, a therapist will be able to assess whether your emptiness is a symptom of a mental disorder, such as depression or BPD, or not.
How can they do all of that?
There are different therapeutic approaches that can be used when helping a client who’s feeling empty inside. There is no correct option or a one-size-fits-all solution, but different therapists will utilize different approaches depending on their expertise and which one they believe will be best for you and who you are as a person.
Existential therapy is a therapeutic approach based around the idea that psychological issues occur due to our conflict with certain aspects of the human condition, such as death, isolation, meaninglessness, freedom, and responsibility.
The aim of this therapy is to help you face those conflicts and understand that you have the power to make decisions in your life. Those decisions are what determine whether you consider your life meaningful or not. When you feel empowered, it is hard to keep feeling empty.
The process of existential therapy is largely one of talking, specifically through introspection and retrospection. The goal is to navigate your core beliefs and find the “spots” in which you hold power but just aren’t aware of it yet.
Humanistic therapy sees you, as a person, as having inherent value. It seeks to help you value yourself and provide you with an enriched sense of personal liberty, self-awareness, and a positive outlook towards life.
Similar to existential therapy, this is mainly achieved through talking about feeling empty inside and reflecting on the meaning of the words being spoken.
This therapeutic approach is similar to the previous two in terms of goals but is more structured in how the therapy itself happens. According to person-centered therapy, six factors play a role in facilitating your growth through psychotherapy. Without them, growth is unlikely to take place:
- Therapist-client psychological contact – the relationship between you and your therapist.
- Client’s incongruence/vulnerability – the difference between your experience and how you see yourself, which makes you vulnerable to fear and anxiety.
- Therapist’s congruence/genuineness – the therapist should remain honest, consistent, and self-aware as part of the therapeutic process.
- Therapist’s unconditional positive regard – the therapist should accept your experience unconditionally and without judgment, making therapy a safe space for you to explore yourself.
- Therapist’s empathy – the therapist should be empathic and understanding of your experience without becoming emotionally involved.
- Client’s perception – you should be aware of your therapist’s empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard towards you.
Logotherapy, which literally means “meaning therapy,” seeks to help you gain awareness of the internal resources and tools you already have within you and use them to find your own subjective meaning and purpose. Three main techniques are used in logotherapy:
- Dereflection: Redirecting your attention away from yourself in order to enable you to look at things without being self-absorbed (which often happens when you feel empty).
- Paradoxical intention: Using humor and ridicule by wishing for what you fear most, causing the fear to lose its power over you.
- Socratic dialogue: Pointing out your words to you so that you can find new meaning in them.
Those approaches are quite similar to one another because they all focus on you and the experience you have as an autonomous person living your life. It is through this perspective that psychotherapy examines why you’re feeling empty inside and what you can do about it.
These days, you can engage in psychotherapy through the medium of online therapy. With online counseling, talking to your therapist can be done wherever you feel comfortable and at a reduced cost.
From Empty to Whole
Although feeling empty inside from time to time is very common, no one should keep feeling empty inside frequently or indefinitely. Emptiness signals a larger problem and should not be avoided or ignored. Instead, it should be explored, learned from, and used as a stepping stone for personal growth and a greater sense of empowerment and meaning in life.
Psychotherapy, regardless of the therapeutic approach used or whether you rather have in-person or online therapy, is a great way to deal with feeling empty inside with the help and guidance of a professional therapist.