- Does your life feel like it is dull, and boring, with nothing to look forward to?
- Do you lack interest and motivation to do anything?
- Does it feel like things are hopeless, that they will never change?
- Do you struggle to see your value and worth, and question if life is worth living?
- Do you feel alone–lonely and disconnected?
- Is it hard to experience a range of emotions and all you feel is emotional numbness?
*Note: If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or mental health crisis, call 988 or your local crisis resource numbers.
Biopsychosocial factors such as genetic predisposition to mental illness, experiences of stressors and trauma, social, and environmental factors can all contribute to feelings of emptiness. For some people, these thoughts and feelings are in response to an event that changes them. For example, perhaps you can recall a time in which you experienced interest and pleasure but then an event happened that sucked out all the joy and life inside of you.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge that many people have experienced some awful events, especially within the context of relationships. It pains me to think of all the children who experience neglect, abuse, and other adverse childhood experiences (ACES). For adults who have experienced complex trauma in childhood and are continuing to be impacted in adulthood, it can take time to feel integrated and whole when parts of oneself have been disconnected. This includes part of the physical body, one’s mental state, and the spiritual aspects of self.
Feelings of emptiness may be present in various mental health conditions. While feeling empty is something most people are likely to experience at times, this is different than when feelings are present for periods of time and associated with other symptoms. For example, loss of interest and pleasure, feelings of hopelessness, and low self-worth are common in depression. Chronic feelings of emptiness and emotional detachment, known as depersonalization are symptomatic of borderline personality disorder. Descriptions of chronic emptiness in patients with borderline personality disorder include the following: “feeling dead inside”, “void”, “feeling swallowed”, “like a shadow”, and “social alienation”. Similar symptoms are also characteristic of trauma disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
There are many interventions that come to mind that can be helpful, depending on the unique experiences of each person. If you would like to talk to a trained mental health specialist about therapy options, CARE Counseling has in-person and telehealth options with a wide variety of therapists: https://care-clinics.com.
Here are some things to consider in terms of opposites and possible needs:
- If you feel life is dull and boring, perhaps what you need is something interesting and exciting to look forward to.
- If you lack interest and motivation, perhaps what you need is to treat any underlying mental health conditions, create healthy routines to help renew energy, and seek support with an accountability partner.
- If you feel like things are hopeless, perhaps what you need is some hope that things will get better. This will become more real as you start seeing changes in your life while reframing unhelpful thought patterns.
- If you struggle to see your own self-value and worth, I want to let you know that you are precious. You matter and your life matters. Let’s talk about this.
- If you are feeling alone and lonely, then you likely need to feel that you are loved and have support. Seeking connection and companionship where you can talk, listen, build relationships, and be part of a community can help.
If you struggle to experience emotions, then what you may need is some therapeutic support to work with emotions, parts of yourself, and the experiences which have contributed to numbness. Rather than feeling like a shadow, you can start to see and experience yourself, becoming stronger, more vibrant, and fully alive.
Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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