21 thoughts on “I feel Empty Inside -3 Fixes for Feeling Nothing

  • June 21, 2017 at 8:24 am

    This breathing exercise obviously raises the blood level CO2 level and reduces the anxiety being felt.

      • June 21, 2017 at 10:11 am

        I just did this at my desk and it works! And it’s easy to remember. Thanks for making it easy=)

  • June 21, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    I don’t even know where to start with this article other than with someone who has been diagnosed with borderline & has struggled with self-harm & substance abuse, I am incredibly disheartened by it. The lack of compassion & understanding for those going through this, especially as a teenager, is offensive (and it takes a lot to offend me).

    The entire point of DBT (I recommend this link for accurate information: https://psychcentral.com/lib/an-overview-of-dialectical-behavior-therapy/) is that dialectic part: that you can hold two truths to be equally valid & effective. For example, and the part that the article misses completely, is that cutting, drinking, using, whatever the habit is is what the that individual knows to be effective coping for them. Does it last long? Probably not, but it’s what they know to escape that pain in the moment. Those coping mechanisms, while not effective long term, are what the person knows to get through the situation & are 100% valid for that reason. Equally valid, & more effective, are the skills that DBT teaches (breathing & otherwise). However, both “skills” get the individual through the situation & the entire premise of DBT is that it ISN’T CBT which tells you “this behavior is bad, you need to replace it with this”. DBT is MUCH more complicated than this article suggests & requires A LOT of work to grasp the concepts behind, especially if you are a person stuck in your head & drowning in emotions. Yes, stuck & drowning, because mental illnesses aren’t a choice. You don’t CHOOSE to “get down on yourself for every little failing” when you’re struggling with a mental illness of any kind, but especially a personality disorder which does not have a medication to treat.

    To tell someone that is already struggling with self-worth that what they’re doing is “selfish” is INCREDIBLY invalidating (another premise of DBT) & can only bring about the “exaggeration of self-doubt” mentioned later in the article. People consistently talk about what they think adolescents “think” the world “owes them”, but most of the time they’re just feeding off of other people who are constantly attacking the generation. There are actually MANY apps available on phones that can help with the mindfulness techniques that DBT suggests. For example, my Apple Watch actually has a feature that leads me through breathing exercises. I have a meditation app on my phone that I can go sit down, close the door, & it will lead me through a short meditation. I have a coloring app (another mindfulness activity), as well as an app run by the state of Missouri that actually offers tips & tricks to those who may be struggling in the moment. There is also a component of DBT that deals with finding pleasurable activities. A pleasurable activity for an adolescent may very well be playing Angry Birds or some other app & there is nothing selfish or wrong with that.

    As someone who now has 4 years clean with my bipolar & borderline stabilized, I now work with adolescents who struggle with mental illness & addiction. If people talked to this population, they would discover that most of the time “I’m bored” has something deeper behind it. “I feel empty inside” is NOT the same as feeling bored. Kids say that mindfulness techniques don’t get them by because people aren’t addressing the underlying issues. They’re just being thrown ideas of breathing & writing & coloring & whatever else someone thinks will help (& eventually WILL help), but without addressing what is actually CAUSING the feelings of emptiness (again, not the same as boredom) there is no way that the individual WILL find long term relief from these techniques. This is particularly true for adolescents who are often stuck in the same situations that are causing them distress since they are too young to actually get somewhere for relief. Explain to a distressed adolescent that they need to settle their nervous system? Good luck. Saying to someone in distress “TRY IT” is only going to make them feel more invalidated & alienated.

    Breathing is definitely a relaxation & mindfulness technique. It is undoubtedly more effective, but just as valid as cutting, drinking, using, etc. I swear by DBT, but the way it is described here is not at all how it is meant to be used. Telling a group of people who are struggling with feeling empty or may be dealing with something deeper than being “bored” is not only invalidating, but ignorant, especially when trying to link it to DBT which focuses on only validating those struggling & meeting people where they’re at.

    • June 21, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      You are absolutely right. I have glossed over a lot in an attempt to be brief in blog terms. And I am by no means an expert in dbt. Based on your insights I am going to review and revise the article shortly! Thank you,

    • June 21, 2017 at 5:26 pm

      Thank you Rebecca for your bravery and personal encounter with this article. I just finished my own response to it, which had much more colorful language than yours, and so I am very glad to see how you were able to express your story with such honest clarity.

      • June 21, 2017 at 6:40 pm

        Again I appreciate the feedback and will be revising it shortly. I am a big fan of technology Btw!

      • June 21, 2017 at 10:40 pm

        I think you mean me, Thea (I don’t see a Rebecca), & if you do, thank you =) It’s my 4 years of learning DBT skills that allows me to actually step back & write more concisely like that because trust me, in my head, it wasn’t that pretty. In my advocacy work, I’ve learned that only responses that are well formulated & supported with evidence get taken seriously in terms of changing minds & since I’m so dedicated to breaking stigmas, I work really hard to attempt to respond strongly, but wisely. I appreciate your comment validating that =)

      • June 21, 2017 at 10:48 pm

        Hi Vanessa! I apologize for the misnomer 🙂

      • June 21, 2017 at 11:16 pm

        Thank you! I read your comment & you have a lot of valid points. I would also like to add to your list of books “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me” & “Sometimes I Act Crazy”. Have you read them? They are incredible resources for BPD & DBT. I love “The Body Keeps Score” & I’m going to check out that last one you recommended! Thanks for listing those!

      • June 22, 2017 at 12:06 pm

        I LOVED “I hate you, Don’t leave me”! There is also, “Stop Walking on Eggshells” for the audience of the loved ones and family members of those actively struggling with BPD. Despite what the title might suggest, I found it to be primarily useful in empowering people to set healthy boundaries and stick to them, which is also an important part of healing for some people with any struggles around personality. A really good compact overview/tool book is “Mindfulness for borderline personality disorder- relieve your suffering using core skills of dialectical behavior therapy” by Blaise Aguirre, MD and Gillian Galen, PsyD!!

  • June 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    I went through DBT for four months, three days a week (out patient). Absolutely was a lifesaver, as I have had depression all my life (doesn’t get in the way of functioning, though). I go back to the teachings: breathing, meditation, and mindfulness especially. Everyone could use the training.
    Thank you, Donna!

  • June 21, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    This entire article is insulting.

    If you are a person who is experiencing depression, anxiety, or engaging in self-harm, you may also have suicidal ideation, and DBT is a highly effective tool for youth (or adults) dealing with these painful cycles. However, I would never share this article with any of my clients or loved ones who struggle as deeply as you say, especially those who are believed to have Borderline Personality Disorder. “This is what kids are doing to themselves.” You know, Depression is real, right? You don’t “do” depression to yourself? To suggest such, reveals a complete lack of competency around one of the most common mental health diagnoses.

    Next, you call struggling individuals “selfish” for being on their phones instead of helping out around the house while their parents are gone? If a person feels empty inside, this means their sense of self is lost. They may struggle to find a purpose for existing or some meaning to hold onto. They may also feel incapable of reaching the parts of themselves that remembers they are even loved or have self-worth at all. There is nothing selfish about emptiness, that’s the whole point. What IS selfish here, is your clearly bias opinion about youth on their cellphones, and attempting to push your own agenda through the guise of mental health education at the expense of those who truly suffer from these symptoms.

    Each line after seems to follow the same theme around your own personal distaste for technology, and as such, you shame the youth who have literally never lived in a world without cellphones and personal computers. Sounds to me like YOU may be the one who needs to adjust your expectations. You state “young people think that the world owes them entertainment because they walk around with little computers in their hands. Go find your passion don’t wait for it to find you.” Who are you to say that passion, experience, growth, advancements, connectivity, socializing, mindfulness, emotional awareness, or anything else like these things AND todays’ technological advancements such as cellphones are mutually exclusive? Did you know there is a DBT app for Android that can be pulled up in an instant to offer immediate action-oriented tools to cope with intense emotions when a person is in crisis? Did you know that phones can be used to call friends, family members, doctors, therapists, guidance counselors… who can provide support and comfort when a person is in distress? In fact, part of distress tolerance coaching for some individuals involves 24hour access to calling/texting their DBT therapist to avoid spiraling through the self-harm cycles.

    “Learn to read, meditate and relax without substances or phones or anything at all.” I’m sure you are aware that people are reading your article on those little computers in their hands, right? And, did you know that toddlers are learning to read and write at earlier ages because of the 1000s of different educational apps that are available on tablets and phones? Also, “substances”? Where did this one come from? It sounds like your personal distaste for youth is now eroding into a broad generalization that all youth use substances? Or did you mean, just the youth who are struggling with feelings of emptiness?
    “You have a choice to get down on yourself for every little failing, react, then enter the exaggeration of self-doubt, then get so overwhelmed that you think your emotions are taking over your body. This overload is the “teen brain” at work. Drinking, cutting or sexting (what does this have anything to do with what you have been talking about?) does not cure feeling empty.” At least with your “teen brain” comment, you are finally admitting your rampant bigotry. But there is still so much more to unpack from your last paragraph, I am not going to stop there. Your accusation that feelings of self-doubt as a result of several small failings is somehow an “exaggeration,” which can lead to flooded emotions that people “think” are taking over their bodies, demonstrates an even further degree of ignorance on your part about yet another fundamental aspect of psychology, which is the effect of emotions on the body. When a person becomes overwhelmed by their emotions, (which does happen, whether YOU think so or not), a person can become physically paralyzed, or aggressive, or without any conscious choice find themselves frantically running away. This is called the Fight/Flight/Freeze response. If you would like to educate yourself more about this phenomenon, and other basic components of Psychology such as Emotions, Depression, Trauma, Dialectic Behavior Therapy, or Youth Psychology, here is a list of a resources you can download onto your phone, kindle, tablet, laptop, or listen to on audio-book for your convenience:

    The Body Keeps Score – Bessel van der Kolk M.D.
    DBT Skills Training Manual, Second Edition – Marsha M. Linehan PhD ABPP
    Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma – Peter Levine with Ann Frederick
    The Emotional Life of Your Brain – Richard J. Davidson, PhD with Sharon Begley
    Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman
    DSM-5 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition
    Counseling Adolescents: The Proactive Approach for Young People – Kathryn Geldard, David Geldard, and Rebecca Yin Foo

  • June 21, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Clearly you yourself have never struggled with a chronic and severe mental illness such as Borderline, because (whether intended or not) this article reeks of condescension, judgement, unhelpful cliches, and gross misinterpretations of why people do/say the things they do. I say this in reference to phrases like, “you kids complain about this treatment not helping”, “that’s selfish of you”, “you think the world owes you something”, “maybe your parents made X mistake”,”X is part of being an actual adult”, etc. Nevermind the fact that this is not accurately informed by DBT principles. Like, at all.

    The overuse of technology you might see in mentally ill people is largely due to the fact that it provides an exceptionally good distraction from the swirling black mess of chaos and pain and cognitive distortion, all without requiring much energy input–seeing as how chronic, unexplainable fatigue is also a common problem for a number of such illnesses. Now if this article skipped mental illness entirely and was solely addressing the psychological problems posed by technology to the average person, there might actually be some good nuggets of advice here. But this has no business in advising young people struggling with mental illness, because their technology use is only a facet of a larger, more complex issue.

    Next time you write an article that is supposed to be advice for people with mental disorders like Borderline (or really any sensitive subject that deviates from what you’ve personally experienced), I HIGHLY recommend getting informed by people who have actually lived it, or people with formal education and training on the subject. As someone who attempted suicide after years of struggling to connect with the world around me, it makes me want to scream and throw things when people’s advice consists of, “get off your lazy bum and go live life to the fullest, you just gotta believe in yourself and it’ll all be okay!”

    • June 22, 2017 at 12:06 am

      You are spot on about the use of technology as both an avoidance tool in some cases & an opportunity for learning in others. I’ve also attempted & always struggled with the invalidating part seeing things like this (even with the edits) come up AND (there’s that DBT 😉 ) I know I can only do my part to break stigmas. There’s still a lot of misleading info in this article regarding DBT (boredom does not lead to depression or self-harm…boredom doesn’t even lead to self-harm alone) & in my opinion, the pieces about it being DBT or mental illness related need to be eliminated altogether & just make this a mindfulness piece (& take out the issue that apparently surrounds adolescents…you’re not gonna win them over with these techniques alone). But I can’t change the world lol. I stumbled upon this due to a professor posting it, so at least I got to educate my classmates on what DBT actually is…

  • June 21, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    These are solid tools to add to the tool belt of some suffering from anxiety. YES there are many other treatment options and it does depend on the severity and cause of anxiety but these cannot hurt and might help someone reading this article right now…..

  • June 21, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    Are there alternatives to physical exercise? It does not help me feel better; I feel terrible and want to cry after physical activity.
    I’ve shared this with doctors, but they don’t believe me.

    • June 22, 2017 at 8:09 am


      How do you mean alternatives? For just overall health? Do you feel mentally or physically terrible? Exercise doesn’t have to be in the gym! I’m not sure which kind of exercise you’re referring to when you say you feel terrible, but there are plenty of kinds! You could do yoga, bike, hike, take brisk walks, dance, play a sport (like through a community program, nothing super competitive), etc. There are lots of options depending on what it is exactly that causes you to feel so terrible. I also encourage you to keep trying to explain your symptoms (again, I don’t know if it’s mental or physical) to doctors until you get an explanation. As upsetting & discouraging as it can be, you are your own best advocate – you deserve to be feeling well!


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