Why Do I Feel Empty? What It Means When You Feel Chronically Empty & What To Do About It

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woman worn out

Your mind has a way of bringing you to places where you never wanted to go and can leave you wondering: why do I feel empty inside? 

This feeling can be triggered by having a lack of purpose or chronic feelings of emotional emptiness or numbness that might be caused by a mental illness such as depression or schizophrenia.

Lots of people find this as a fleeting feeling that lasts a week or so. In worse cases, it can persist in your daily life.

However, there are lots of reasons, both physical, mental, and emotional that could be causing you to feel this way. 

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Why do I feel empty?

There are both similarities and differences between feeling temporarily empty, chronically empty, and depressed. 

You might feel temporarily empty after the death of a loved one, after a traumatic breakup, or after another extreme change in your life.

However, these sorts of feelings of temporary emptiness do fade with time even though they are very serious and painful at first. 

While emptiness is not a mental illness itself, feeling chronically empty may be a symptom of one. Chronic feelings of emptiness could mean that you have developed a mental illness like depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder.

If you have depression your feeling of emptiness could be one of the many symptoms you're likely experiencing, such as a loss of appetite, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, problems with decision-making, and even suicidal ideation. 

What causes the feelings of emptiness?

Lisa Petsinis, a life and career transformation coach for women, encounters lots of women who may be depleted, lost, and uninspired and knows that feeling empty can sometimes be a feeling of simply having nothing more to give.

"It can happen with burnout and from juggling the demands of work and family. It can also happen during a life transition, like after job loss or grief," she explains.

1. Lack of sleep

Lots of people feel empty when they don't consistently get a full night of sleep

Research continuously shows that getting good and restful sleep has a positive impact on your physical health. You might be feeling empty only because you're physically exhausted.

Not getting enough sleep also has proven to make people think more negatively and be very emotionally vulnerable. In order to stop feeling so negative and empty, try and get more sleep and reconnect to what matters.

2. Burnout

If your energy feels like it's been depleted and you are experiencing burnout, that's another reason why you could be feeling empty.

If you're spending long hours at work or spending the majority of your time taking care of a baby or an elderly person, for example, it will most likely cause you to feel some sort of burnout at times. 

"Feeling empty can also be feeling disconnected," Petsinis says. "I work with women who seek more meaning in their lives, which addresses burnout and lack of fulfillment on a deeper level. Reconnect to what matters, feel good about yourself and what you have to offer a job, a child, a relationship, and discover your purpose in life."

If this is your case then make sure to set hours in your day or weekends all to yourself and do something you enjoy like reading a book, going for a walk, or swimming. Whatever brings you joy, make sure to set time to do that.

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3. Loneliness

After a breakup from a relationship, you will most likely feel empty without this person in your life who you've known for a good amount of time and now they are just gone and out of your life.

This easily will trigger you to feel empty without them, but you have to remind yourself who you were before you met them and that you once lived life as a happy single person doing whatever you wanted. 

Use this time to get even closer with your family members and friends who are there to support and love you after a breakup. 

4. Attachment issues

According to Clinical Psychologist Lesley Goth, your relationship with a primary caregiver during your childhood can contribute to this feeling of emptiness.

"As a psychologist and someone who specializes in trauma, I see this a lot," Goth explains. "This feeling of emptiness can come from very early attachment wounds with primary caregivers. If an early, primary attachment has been severed for a variety of reasons, it can create that sense of emptiness in a person. Even though there is no cognitive memory of the 'loss,' the body senses the loss of attachment that is necessary for feeling safe, secure, and connected."

Feeling empty is not OK, but there are ways to overcome it.

If your feelings of emptiness affect your ability to focus on other aspects of life, it's best to reach out to a professional therapist for help. However, there are other ways you can help yourself get back to feeling that you are worthy and have a meaningful life.

"To initially counter the feeling, it can help to fill up your bucket," suggests Petsinis. "Give yourself a time out, some time off if possible, and restore your mind, body, and soul. Get extra sleep, nourish your body with healthy food, meditate, and do things that bring you joy."

If you suspect attachment issues are to blame for your feelings of emptiness, "finding ways to repair those early attachment wounds is helpful," Goth says. "In addition, finding healthy attachments in the present can be healing as well."

If you or someone you know is dealing with depression, call SAMHSA's National Helpline (1-800-662-4357) for free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information. For free and confidential emotional support, call 800-273-TALK no matter what problems or type of stress you’re dealing with.

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Megan Hatch is a writer at YourTango who covers news & entertainment, love & relationships, and internet culture. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.