‘I Feel Empty’: How to Overcome Feelings of Emptiness

Sad man sitting in sunsetFeeling empty from time to time may be a normal part of the human condition. But if you experience persistent feelings of emptiness, there may be something you can do about it.

What does emptiness feel like?

  • You don’t have a sense of purpose.
  • You perceive a lack of meaning in your life.
  • You’re not happy, but you’re not particularly sad, either.
  • If someone were to ask you how you feel, you might say, “I don’t know.”

What causes feelings of emptiness? No one knows for sure, and there may be more than one cause. A common reason you might feel empty is self-alienation—feeling like a stranger to yourself. This sensation develops over time, usually as a result of pushing away unwanted emotions.

Our emotions are an important aspect of our experience of ourselves and our quality of life, yet most of us have some degree of trouble allowing ourselves to have certain feelings. Anger is one emotion that many people try not to experience, for example.

What happens to our feelings when we refuse to acknowledge them? They stick around in the shadows of our minds, gumming up the emotional works and, eventually, cutting us off from ourselves altogether.

The result? We feel empty. We have a pulse, but we’re not really alive.

Life is an emotional experience.

If you come from a family that didn’t “do” certain (or any) emotions, you’re at increased risk of feeling empty.

Here are some ideas for getting out from under this uncomfortable state:

  • Stop looking “out there” for a sense of purpose. Your purpose springs forth from your uniqueness. It’s not something that floats around the earth independently like a cloud, waiting for you to find it. If you don’t have a strong sense of who you are, it’s can be hard to feel in touch with your purpose. You are someone in particular. You have a story, of which you’re the star.
  • Think about this question: “Who is the person experiencing this feeling of emptiness?” Your authentic self is the person who cries when you’re sad, and laughs when you’re tickled. It’s your authentic self who wants to inhabit the void, filling you with meaning, purpose, and connection. Start where you are: Someone is feeling empty. Who is it?
  • Ask yourself how you might feel if you weren’t feeling empty. Look at your life—past, present, and/or future. What comes up as you think about it? Any so-called negative emotions such as anger, disappointment, or despair are showing you what might be hiding under a numbing blanket of emptiness. Are you protecting yourself from something you’d rather not know? Be curious, not judgmental. Compassionate, not accusing.
  • Embrace your emotions, whatever they are. This is the same as embracing yourself. Although emotions aren’t literally a part of you, they’re a reliable reflection of you in this moment. How you feel in any given moment is the road that connects you with your authentic self. Try a little constructive wallowing in any emotions you have, and remember: curiosity and compassion, not judgment, is the goal.
  • Be a joiner. There’s meaning in connection with other people. Consider sharing your sense of emptiness with another person. If there’s no one in your life you trust with that information, a support group could be valuable. A grief support group might be a good choice. Many of us have endured enough loss in our lives to fit right in. You can’t be closer to another than you are to yourself. Be honest and kind to yourself, rather than looking to other people to fill you up.
  • Root out shame. There is nothing inherently wrong with you. It’s hard to be close to someone you despise, and shame encourages you to reject yourself.
  • Try therapy. A good therapist holds up a metaphorical mirror, helping you see and appreciate who you are. If you need a little help, find a therapist in your area.

You don’t have to live your life feeling empty if you don’t want to. You deserve a good relationship with yourself and a meaningful, purposeful life. Let this article reach that part of you that’s there under the surface, waiting to reconnect and dispel those feelings of emptiness.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Tina Gilbertson, MA, LPC, therapist in Denver, Colorado

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 45 comments
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  • Ada

    Ada

    November 12th, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    I have sometimes felt this way but it is hard to explain because you can’t really put a name to it, can’t explain it really, and sometimes I don’t even have the word top actually describe what I am feeling. You think that therapy could help with this, but I have often backed away from that just because it seems like it would be hard to even talk about what I am actually feeling!

  • Cathy

    Cathy

    February 13th, 2018 at 8:44 AM

    Ada, it is hard sometimes going to therapy. Sometimes I talk about things from my past that absolutely drain me. But in the end, it does help me to get these feelings out and get it off my chest to someone. She also has a lot of great suggestions for me of ways to think about things or change the way I think about things. I think therapy is great. ♥️

  • Theodora

    Theodora

    July 12th, 2019 at 2:24 PM

    Knowing God can help, Jesus fills the deep emptiness. The greatest love.
    “I have come that ye might have life and have life to the full”

  • Federico

    Federico

    September 21st, 2019 at 7:09 AM

    It is not God, neither anybody else that can truly fill your void. You are your own puppeteer, start feeling like you ave more agency in your life and choose your own path. Don’t look back and try not to predict the future. For now, only the present exists.

  • bralie

    bralie

    November 12th, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    My mom always is always telling me that I have to stop looking for others to fulfill me and that I need to find something that will allow me to do that for me.

    But I don’t really understand how I am supposed to find that happiness all alone… I still feel like there is something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on

  • John

    John

    November 13th, 2014 at 7:45 AM

    Think of finding meaning in life as a journey. In the process of exploring what we like and dislike we will discover who we are. In order to do this we need to feel safe: safe to feel our feelings whenever we are feeling them, and not hold them in or hide them or avoid them, regardless of what others might feel or think of us. What other people think of me is none of my business. My business is to let me feelings flow and be what they are, so that I can be free to be who I am. Enjoy the ride!

  • dying inside

    dying inside

    November 13th, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    This is exactly how I feel. Empty & dead inside. I feel I have no purpose in life and I don’t care if I live or die. However I have not always been life this. I’ve had direction, hopes & dreams. I’ve had good times & brilliant times. Severe depressive episodes however wipe out all the good and all that remains is dark, bleak & miserable :-(

  • Jaynice

    Jaynice

    November 13th, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    Honey, you are in the position of a new beginning. Your first ‘purpose in life’ is about caring.

    1st, get a plant. Water it – not too much, not to little. Talk to your plant and tell it how lovely it looks, and how you love the shape of its leaves .. Plants dig that :)

    After a time you might get more plants, then include other living things, these are all your purpose, and it begins with your 1st purpose, and keep this one alive and well.

    As you connect to this purpose, you will re-discover connections again within yourself that you care about.

    Do these things too – they are also your purpose .
    Start with the plant :) xXx

  • doreen

    doreen

    August 30th, 2016 at 9:50 PM

    to dying inside…. am feeling the same way as you describe wish i know what to do to get my feeling back….

  • Campbell

    Campbell

    November 13th, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    We all get this way from time to time and I get that. What i never understand are those who can’t seem to get to that point of being able to see that the cup is actually half full sometimes and not always the proverbial half empty that they expect or maybe even want it to be. This isn’t going through life with rose colored glasses but it is going through life with the expectation that sometimes I am going to have to work a little to be happy, it may not always just land in my lap.

  • Tina Gilbertson

    Tina Gilbertson

    November 13th, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    Thank you all for your comments. I want to respond to Dying Inside by saying that “dark, bleak & miserable” is a horrible place to be. Please don’t be there alone.

    There’s a very old saying: All things must pass. But sometimes we need a little help to see our way through to the other side.

    Severe depressive episodes call for intervention.

    If you don’t already have a friend, family member, therapist or and/or other caring person who knows what’s going on with you, please reach out and ask for support. You could feel substantially better sooner with good therapy, the right medication, or both.

    I wish you peace and a return of your direction, hopes and dreams. Thanks for writing. Hang in there.

  • Chris

    Chris

    November 13th, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    Emptiness is a lonely feeling. I had an incident with my now ex-wife in 05 while in Iraq. I sat in my “can”, what we called our two man trailers we lived in, with a shotgun under my chin. My kids and God above saved my life that day. I’ve come to learn that no matter how empty and alone you may feel there’s always God to fill that void. Just keep the faith and he will always be there. When everyone else deserts you God never will, and I say “Thank you God” for being in my life.

  • jess

    jess

    November 17th, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    Thank you for the post and your service. You are right. I understand the love and trust in God. I will recall you and your posting the rest of my life.

  • Mike

    Mike

    November 14th, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    I never liked my job as a programmer, but I discovered when I left my job for medical reasons and started living off disability payments (four years now) that having no job and being disabled is even worse. After four years I’ve started having feelings of not caring if I live or die. In fact wishing I could die, if it could be arranged without harming my family and friends. But I’ve started to dream of a new career, teaching or tutoring math. Even though I’m not well enough to work full-time, I’ve started taking concrete steps toward this end by reviewing math and doing a little volunteer tutoring. This has made a tremendous difference.

  • Cadence

    Cadence

    November 16th, 2014 at 8:46 AM

    I spent years feeling like this, feeling like I had no friends (because I didn’t) and feeling like I didn’t really have a place where I belonged.

    I spent a whole lot of time looking at why I was being shunned by other people and that I didn’t have the closeness to others that so many other people seemed to have.

    It stunned me really when I thought that maybe I could do something to change all of that. It kind of went against type because I am am true introvert at heart, but I started making more of an effort to engage and that has really helped me become close to some that I didn’t think that in a thousand years I would ever have anything in common with.

    Once I stopped looking for the answers in others and started looking at the things that I could personally do to change, well, then there you had it- the answer I had been searching for.

  • zaza

    zaza

    November 18th, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    this is me to a T

    chris and dyin inside: I’ve been where you were too and I’m not going back. I had a teacher who helped me get some help and I’m doing a lot better. not great but not as bad as I was when all hope was gone for me. There are many of us out there whose fighters

  • doreen

    doreen

    August 30th, 2016 at 10:04 PM

    zaza…. can i get some of that help pls and thank you….

  • Loretta

    Loretta

    November 18th, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    I never really thought that I was the therapy type, but I got to the point where I didn’t like myself anymore so it was kind of easy to figure out why other people didn’t seem to like me either.

    Going to therapy has helped me see that I am not unlikable, but that there are some things that I can do to be a little more relate-able to other people. It is a challenge, I am not trying to become someone different, but just a better version of me, someone who is happy and happy enough to let others in too.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    November 19th, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    Thank you all for sharing your experiences here! It is wonderful to see so many supportive messages and learn that people are successful at making positive changes in their lives.

    Please know that if you are experiencing a crisis or believe you are a danger to yourself or others, you should seek help immediately. Here are some resources if you are in crisis: https://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    You can also search GoodTherapy.org confidentially for a therapist near you, here: https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html

    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Michelle

    Michelle

    December 13th, 2014 at 8:25 PM

    It interesting to read other peoples experience with this. I have had feelings like this for a while, after losing my job and not being able to reenter the workforce, also my partner had a severe brain injury and he is now wheelchair bound and can be quite difficult (behaviorally). I feel trapped, I would like to get out but he needs care, I would like to get away for a year after my kids leave school next year and travel but with my partner its near impossible. I think of suicide quite a bit.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    December 14th, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Thank you for your comment, Michelle. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at https://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Robin

    Robin

    January 6th, 2015 at 11:40 PM

    Growing up I have spent most of time looking to others for acceptance and feeling sorry for myself because I don’t accept and love myself, being only 18,
    I’ve been feeling empty from time to time, I don’t have a social life because I’m not sociable as most teens my age would be. I’ve never been one to try to fit in because I’ve always stood up for what I believe in. But, it gets difficult when you are someone who is different and you feel alone sometimes. Only God can help me through these difficult times. But, it’s always nice to have someone you can share these things with…

  • oumie

    oumie

    August 10th, 2015 at 11:39 AM

    Hey robin i feel your pain , im from morocco and refusing to go with the flow has lead me to this unsocial life im living right now

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous

    July 6th, 2017 at 6:35 PM

    I just turned 40 not too long ago, and am more or less waiting to die.
    Sure, I tried therapy—many times, in fact. It didn’t work; there was nothing they wanted me to do differently.
    Life feels empty and meaningless, no matter what I do.

  • Alexis

    Alexis

    March 8th, 2015 at 12:46 PM

    I have felt like this for as long as I can remember … Just lonely. I have family and friends who love me and I spend time with them, so I’m not alone persay, but it doesn’t help shake this feeling. I’ve been to therapists, groups, been inpatient, and tried every combo of antidepressants out there but this feeling never goes away. I have looked high and low for a solution, so I wouldn’t always feel like something is missing. I feel as if my body occupies space but my heart is empty. No professional even knows what to do with me anymore. Any suggestions?

  • Shannon

    Shannon

    May 11th, 2015 at 3:30 PM

    Alexis, I’ve been through a lot and feel your frustration. I don’t have answers, but it bothers me a lot that it seems like no professional can help anymore.

    Have you tried art therapy?

  • Kat

    Kat

    July 19th, 2015 at 2:52 PM

    I am ok until I compare my life and situations with other people’s lives. I used to be a social person until I lost my hearing at the age of 34 and became physically disabled at the age of 55, so it is super hard. I have had a lot of losses too, home, job, financially, losing my home so I feel displaced and when you are 60, you should be settled. I don’t.

  • GEG

    GEG

    September 1st, 2015 at 12:06 AM

    I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m 18 going to college soon and I just don’t seem to care about anything anymore. I don’t feel happy or sad I feel nothing at all. I don’t even know who I am anymore. I have been to a psychologist since 4th grade. I don’t believe I have a purpose anymore. I have no talents at all. I fake a smile so people don’t ask me what’s wrong because I honestly don’t know. I have a best friend that I sometimes ignore because I don’t feel like talking to her. I don’t know what to do anymore.

  • Carol

    Carol

    October 9th, 2015 at 3:04 PM

    But you do know what to do. You just wrote about it on this fb page – you are reaching out. But you need to reach out to a real person, use this fb page to find a therapist in your area. Social media therapy is not an answer.

  • maddy

    maddy

    November 4th, 2015 at 5:36 AM

    Hi! I’m in the same boat I’m about to go off to college soon but I have no feelings towards it. I’m not scared, but I’m not excited or nessecarily happy about it and I kind of have just given up on everything. Right now, I haven’t been putting in any effort into anything because I’m unhappy. I feel like there’s no point to any of the stuff I’m doing. I also have a best friend but lately I’ve just been really short with her and getting agrivated really easily which I feel really guilty about but yeah, I totally get where your coming from.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    November 4th, 2015 at 8:28 AM

    Hi Maddy,

    If you would like to talk about these feelings with a therapist or counselor, you can use our website to search for one in your area by entering your ZIP code or city here:

    https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html

    Please know that help is available. The GoodTherapy.org Team is not qualified to offer professional advice, but we encourage you to reach out and discuss these or any other concerns you might have with a mental health professional.

    Kind regards,

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Filiberto

    Filiberto

    November 2nd, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    My father is dead. The rest of my family is divided. The little support group I got I am not feeling. I expected from this person and I made a mistake losing my cool temper. I am the Hulk to them. Things cannot go back to the way they used to be. I sleep my days. I am a poet with all this pain and I feel for them. Inside of me is not feeling. They don’t care about my life. What do I do? It’s frustrating a lot.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    November 2nd, 2015 at 4:19 PM

    Dear Filiberto,

    The GoodTherapy.org team is not qualified to offer professional advice, but we would like to encourage you to reach out. Help is available. If you would like to talk about this concern, or any other issue, with a therapist or counselor, you can use our site to search for one in your area:
    https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html

    We wish you the best of luck in your search.

    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Zee

    Zee

    April 6th, 2016 at 8:12 AM

    Last 2-14, two of my best friends died, Then last 2015, my closest uncle and my grandmother died. I am now in a long distance relationship with a man whose language is different from my own and i feel that he’s asking too much from me given that I am only 21 years old. I live in a house which is like a pressure cooker. I study masters, i thought I’ be active again but it did the contrary, my teachers give to much work I feel like suffocated, my church mates hate me for not being active at church like I used to and I hate my job. I just feel like I’ve been living inside a pressure cooker for a year now. I don’t laugh as often as I used to, I do not feel any emotion, I do not even cry when people die anymore. I just feel empty, I don’t know what to do anymore, just gotta keep breathing and living because I have fear on the heavenly father and I know self harm will do me and me family no good.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    April 6th, 2016 at 9:47 AM

    Dear Zee,

    Thank you for your comment. It may help to talk about this or any other concern with a mental health professional. Feel free to return to our homepage, https://www.goodtherapy.org/, and enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area.

    Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. From this list you can click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. You are also welcome to call us for assistance finding a therapist. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time; our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext. 1.

    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • kimdiedanddiedagain

    kimdiedanddiedagain

    November 11th, 2016 at 11:48 PM

    im 24 im still in studying, i think im in the zone of emptiness, i tried to discuss this with my mom yet she ignore it.. but i really dont know what should i feel after talking to her. i feel empty and nothing, this year my dad passed away and my boyfriend cheated on me, now that i live alone.. i feel nothing. i dont rvrn care if i die in this very moment…

  • zapxcero

    zapxcero

    November 19th, 2016 at 3:25 PM

    I’m 17 still studying and even there are few of my friends. They are all the same, I mean, the same as me. When we go out there should be a purpose and not a waste of time of going outside doing some fun which is the same as fooling yourself just to have time passed by. I tried to take the honors and top everyone in college but while studying I find it boring. And sometimes I realize I’m just forcing myself into thinking that I have a purpose and I should have do this and that. I’m not interested in love either, but my friends told me that “love” is my only salvation. I do nothing all day just sitting behind my computer everyday and at some point before getting off the computer my brain would tell me : What are you doing? . And I would just go to sleep and woke up again to find myself in front of my computer and sleep. I go to school, got the highest grade. I sometimes envy my classmates who are stupid for being stupid. I once asked my stupid classmate why he won’t study properly and he’s just wasting his time and he answered that he is only enjoying youth. But I think it’s just an excuse and I told him that he would be having difficulties in the future. Well who’s talking now? I see my future self dying on boredom.

  • R

    R

    March 20th, 2017 at 11:21 AM

    I lead an interesting life but since my divorce I am empty. My wife divorced me simply because she was wanting something more fun and carefree after I had put forth every effort to be a good partner and father.
    I feel I have nothing left for myself or anyone else. I know I do, or could, but it’s just not in me. I feel I could disappear and not be missed. At times, I want to just disappear. Smiles are only temporary. Appearances of happiness or confidence are put-ons. Inside, there is only indifference. I liked who I was but I don’the care. I tried to rebuild my life for me but I am now looking back at a series of false starts and abandonments of ideas from lack of real interest on my part. Interest in anything is only fleeting at best. Women like me then get weird and pull back into their shells. I suppose it is something I unknowingly project. My life inside is nothing but grey. I feel sad at times but mostly I’m just kind of “there”.

  • Nathmirr

    Nathmirr

    April 9th, 2017 at 8:01 PM

    I block my feelings of shame and regret almost instantaneously the moment those feelings surface. Smacking those emotions down, the moment they rise up, has become a reflex. I’ve done some very strange things, and I question my sanity. I just wish I was a human being without such strange flaws.

  • Tash

    Tash

    May 26th, 2017 at 2:54 AM

    It’s been quite while feeling lost and empty, sometimes feels like leaving everything behind and just walk away, sometimes feels like putting end to it, but god knowns what I am up? Trying my best to live one more day,

  • james

    james

    July 8th, 2017 at 12:04 PM

    The feeling of not being sad, but not being happy, and being stuck in between those two is the best way to describe how I feel 99% of the time nowadays. I used to get excited about doing my hobbies (gaming, snowboarding, fishing) but that has come and gone and it worries me because there’s nothing I loved more than snowboarding, especially when a big storm was coming in. I’d get excited, I couldn’t wait to be able to go, I was just full of life…. this past year was the first year I felt none of that, even after a record snow year. I should’ve been so happy about this past season but I’m not. I’m losing interest in everything that brought me joy before and it scares me because of all the things I’ve tried these are what were fun. Now I have nothing. I still force myself to workout daily and run, which helps me for sure, but I get no enjoyment out of it anymore. I’m not sure how long I can go without feeling anything before I can’t take it anymore and that’s what scares me.

  • Meshal a

    Meshal a

    December 1st, 2017 at 10:30 AM

    what to do to treat emptiness. I got sick of it

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    December 1st, 2017 at 10:40 AM

    Hi Meshal,

    While GoodTherapy.org is not a replacement for professional advice, we can tell you that a therapist may be able to talk with you about your feelings of emptiness and work alongside you to develop a plan of action. If you would like to find a therapist near you, we recommend searching GoodTherapy.org’s directory of mental health professionals here:
    https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html

  • Ryan K

    Ryan K

    December 8th, 2017 at 11:35 PM

    I’ve always had this feeling. It’s never changed and never left. It’s always been lingering everywhere I went and deep within my shadows. Lingering and reminding me of so many things: failure. How I failed to achieve my dream, how I failed to be social, how I failed to become a happy individual, how I failed to become someone. Society runs all the time on all 8 wheels with no stops and no breaks. I run endlessly hoping to get myself to the end of the road, but it never turns out that way. I’ve wanted to just chop my legs off sometimes, just to think that I could end on my own, but I am not strong enough. I honestly think I never will even with help. Maybe if I changed I could’ve done something, but no matter what could’ve happened emptiness will always be there. It will always be watching and no matter how far I run I can no longer run from it. It’s grasped me, and I willingly accepted it.

  • Teresa

    Teresa

    May 4th, 2019 at 6:51 AM

    We will all struggle with this human condition at some point in our life and the emptiness we feel is like a spititual void. We were created for eternity.. and nothing in this world, or life, can satisfy us. The deeper meaning and purpose we are searching for begins with our own inner journey into self. The world may tell us the answers are all out there and so we search in vain. We were created to participate in the life of the divine and our hearts will remain restless and empty until it finds rest there.

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