Emotions can change a lot throughout the day or even during the same event. If you often feel hopeless, lonely, or alone, which are all signs of an emotional sickness called “emptiness,” it might be a good idea to talk to a mental health professional.
What Is Emptiness?
In terms of mental health, emptiness is a state of being separate from yourself and the rest of the world. This is caused by self-criticism, a lack of attachment, and not being sure of who you are.
Catherine Del Toro, a licensed mental health counselor with Grow Therapy in Florida, says that emptiness is a group of feelings that most people have at some point in their lives, such as loneliness, sadness, numbness, or feeling disconnected from others. “Like other feelings, emptiness is normal when it’s a response to something hard in life,” she says, giving the examples of a loved one’s death, illness, or abuse.
Anthony P. DeMaria, Ph.D., a certified clinical psychologist and psychotherapist in New York, says that feelings of emptiness are often followed by a feeling of loss or absence, even when nothing significant has been lost. He says that feeling empty can make you feel hopeless and like you’ll never be whole.
Mental Health Disorders Associated With Emptiness
People who have been told they have a mental illness or condition may also feel empty. Chronic emptiness is one of nine factors for bipolar disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Several studies have been done to look into the link between bipolar disorder and emptiness. But people with bipolar illness are not the only ones who feel empty.
Dr. DeMaria says that emptiness is linked to other mental health problems like:
Clinical depression disorder
Affective Disorders Caused by Trauma
Schizotypal personality disorder with attention deficit and hyperactivity problem
People who feel empty on the inside may find it hard to control how much painkillers, prescription drugs, or even illegal drugs they use. Del Toro says, “Substance use disorders are also linked to feelings of emptiness,” since many people use drugs to “alleviate and cope with” their problems.
Even though mental health problems are often linked to feeling empty, this is not always the case. Dr. DeMaria says, “It can be felt even when you’re alone, and it can be present in people who don’t meet the exact criteria for a mental health diagnosis.”
Tips on Coping With Emptiness
Consider what you’re not getting.
Dr. DeMaria says you should do some soul-searching to figure out who or what you feel is missing in your life and is making you feel empty. He says that if you are lonely because you don’t have any good friends, you should meet new people and talk to them.
Talk to other people.
Del Toro tells people who are lonely to try to have as many deep conversations as they can. It has been shown that getting help from a professional to reconnect with yourself and others makes people feel less lonely. In addition to spending more time with people you already know, you can grow your social circle by joining a support group or volunteering. “Connecting with other people can make you feel more like you belong and give you more support,” she says.
Every day, you should work on being mindful.
Dr. DeMaria says that you can better understand and accept emptiness if you try mindfulness methods like yoga or meditation. He thinks that “learning to sit with difficult emotions and using mindful attention to shed light on the subjective experience can actually help to lessen distress instead of making it worse.”
Do something fun for yourself to give yourself a break.
Del Toro says that starting a new hobby or putting your energy into something you enjoy might help you deal with feelings of emptiness, especially if they come with a lack of satisfaction and/or boredom.
She uses things like going for a walk in the evening or starting a new craft project as examples. Recreational activities not only give people order and a sense of purpose, but they have also been shown to help some people’s mental health.
When to See a Therapist
Reach out for help if you feel lonely or alone.
“When feelings of emptiness lead to functional impairment,” says Dr. DeMaria, “it is probably a good idea to get professional help.” She is talking about problems with social relationships, work, and daily routines.
Del Toro says that if you go to a mental health worker for help, they will do an evaluation to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it.
She says, “Feelings of emptiness are usually linked to other feelings and situations.” “Because of this, it’s important to deal with them as soon as possible.”
If you are thinking about killing yourself, you should see a doctor right away. If you haven’t already talked to a professional in mental health, call 911. If you call 988, the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, you can talk to a qualified crisis counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.