What It Means to Feel "Dead Inside"

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For anyone who has never experienced it, feeling dead inside can be hard to imagine. And, those who have struggled with it might not always have the right words to explain the confusion, sadness, and numbness that comes with this feeling.

To feel dead inside is to find it difficult to process emotions like happiness and sadness. When you feel "dead inside" feelings take on the same dull tone and are hard to appreciate no matter the situation. Feeling dead inside might cause life to seem like a boring event, one that has no purpose or end in sight. It can cause a very detached approach to everyday life.

Sometimes, this feeling might be short-lived, leaving as quickly as it appears. Other times, the sensations can last longer than days or weeks, stretching for years to cause chronic feelings of emptiness.

When you feel dead inside, it might not always be clear what these changes represent. We’ll be examining the signs to look out for, as well as conditions that might be responsible for producing feelings of deadness and emptiness. Because this state of mind is manageable, we’ll also look at the different ways to improve these feelings.

Signs that You Feel Dead Inside

It doesn’t matter if a person is at the top of their career, living through their most healthy relationship, or is otherwise in a comfortable position in life—anyone can feel like they are dead inside.

But while this feeling may appear random, there are some common experiences to look out for in a person that feels dead inside. They are discussed below.

You Feel Like You Have No Purpose

For most people, a sense of purpose provides the drive to get up and go in the morning. Whether it's contributing to end global warming, helping the homeless population, or reaching the healthiest version of yourself possible—knowing that there are tasks to be carried out every day to draw closer to these goals can be a source of motivation.

But when a person feels dead inside, this purpose is missing. Every day appears with a question mark on the next 24 hours. These feelings can make daily life tedious and unappealing.

Questioning The Meaning of Life

It’s normal to wonder what we are doing on this planet, what happens when we die, or if there is a hereafter.

But these thoughts tend to be fleeting, especially because there are no certain answers to existential questions.

When you feel dead inside, however, the meaning of life tends to become a fixation. Questions asking what the point of living is, and if existence is worth it tend to become overpowering.

Constant State of Numbness

Feeling dead inside produces a constant feeling of numbness. It becomes difficult to feel or express emotions like happiness or sadness. Life more or less takes on a monotone, with moments of joy or pain having little to no effect in this state.

You Feel Alone

When you feel dead inside, it can feel isolating to watch others move with a sense of purpose. Knowing that people are affected by happy moments, angry encounters, or sad circumstances can push you to hide this absence of feelings.

This can make it difficult to share your emptiness, and may worsen the empty feelings being nursed.

You Might Feel Physically Empty

Emotions are an important way to connect with the world. When it becomes difficult to process feelings, it can feel like you are experiencing a hollowed-out version of yourself. When you feel dead inside, it isn’t uncommon to feel like you live with an internal void present.

Conditions That Cause You to Feel Dead Inside

A number of psychological, biological, or medical reasons may be responsible for the persistent feeling of numbness.

Depression

Depression is a very common mood disorder. It stands out for producing persistent feelings of sadness and can be accompanied by changes in eating, fatigue, and sometimes body pains. One notable symptom of this condition, however, is persistent feelings of apathy.

A depressed person might no longer find joy in things that were once exciting. This condition makes life and the point of existence unclear. In very serious cases, depression can lead to thoughts of suicide.

When a person feels "empty," it may indicate that the person is experiencing depression.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs after someone has lived through a shocking traumatic experience. It causes a number of changes in the body like nightmares, anxiety, and vivid flashbacks. 

Because PTSD can lead to someone no longer feeling like themselves, they may describe that they feel dead inside.

When emotions are shut down following a trauma, feelings of numbness and emptiness can follow. This process is known as emotional numbing and can cause a person to feel dead inside.

Medication

To help manage and treat conditions like depression and anxiety, medication is a common approach. However, while medication like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) help with symptoms of these conditions, they also tend to affect how the brain processes emotions.

Feelings of indifference, as well as emotional blunting (a limited emotional response to events) are sometimes reported by people on these antidepressants.

Suppressed Emotions

In some cases, emotions can be so difficult to deal with, they are instead buried and forgotten. While this is understandable as a coping mechanism against negative emotions, this can sometimes spill over into pleasurable feelings as well.

When emotions are numbed, this can contribute to the experience of feeling dead inside. 

Depersonalization 

When you feel you are observing yourself from outside your body, this might be a case of the dissociative phenomenon of depersonalization.

This condition occurs when a person feels detached from themselves. It can feel like experiencing life as someone else’s existence. A person might feel disconnected from their body, mind, and environment, making them feel empty inside.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Chronic feelings of emptiness are one of the recognized symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and are closely related to feelings of hopelessness and aloneness.

How to Cope With Feeling Dead Inside

When the feelings you are struggling with are deadness or numbness, it's understandably difficult to gather the motivation to take the steps to feel better.

Seeking professional help through therapy is one of the most trusted ways to manage mental health challenges.

It can help you figure out the roots of your feelings of deadness, and assist you in feeling more connected and alive.

Where possible, efforts at self-care like taking up exercise, meditating, and journaling can help with improving the emotional state.

A Word From Verywell

Our emotions shape who we are and how we interact with the world around us. This is why feeling a disconnect, or worse, not feeling our emotions at all, can be so difficult. Different factors may be responsible for this state, but irrespective of the reason, methods like therapy and lifestyle adjustments can help with bringing life to our emotions.

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2 Sources
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