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15 Signs You Grew Up Feeling Chronically 'Empty'

Most of us aren’t taught about our feelings and mental health growing up. So if you were a kid struggling with chronic feelings of emptiness, it would be easy to believe there was just something wrong with you — or that “empty” is how you would always feel.

What might look like being a “quiet” or “misbehaving” child on the outside can sometimes hide a deeper struggle. Though chronic feelings of emptiness are typical for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), they can affect people from all walks of life, as well as from different age groups. It’s important to remember young people can experience chronic feelings of emptiness too  — and we need to know the signs.

To find out how people knew (in hindsight) that they struggled with feelings of chronic emptiness as a kid, we asked our mental health community to share the signs.

Here’s what they had to say:

  1. “For me, it was a constant feeling of disconnection from myself. Feeling different, like I didn’t fit in anywhere, feeling separate from myself and everyone around me. Never feeling like anything I did was good enough, that I wasn’t good enough. That I was weird, strange, alone.” — Sarah B.
  2. “Always feeling I didn’t belong with my family. I would fantasize that my ‘real’ family would someday come and rescue me.” — Jodi A.
  3. “Overeating. All. The. Time. Every meal. Every day. I hated everything but food. I couldn’t be happier than when I was gorging out. I became addicted to the way it satisfied me, but didn’t satisfy my hunger. At one point it was terrifying because I realized I was more afraid of not getting enough food than I was anything else.” — Erin W.
  4. “Feeling completely isolated from everyone and like I was always a few steps behind others.” — Rissa E.
  5. “Always canceling plans with friends. Making up excuses just to stay in isolation in my room.” — Kayla M.
  6. “Isolating. I would spend days hidden in my room reading. My nose was always in a book and I preferred it over anything else.” — Amanda C.
  7. “I was 22 before I stopped trying to fit in. I’ve always felt ‘different’ in some way, and it made me scared of having my own opinions.” — Karoline B.
  8. “I had a hard time sticking to one task. I would get bored very easily. I always complained because I was bored. I couldn’t find satisfaction in anything. It felt like nothing was ‘good enough’ to fill that void.” — Katrina W.
  9. “I was a cynical child. I always said I was so alone. That nothing mattered. I don’t remember being happy unless I had attention on me.” — Kady L.
  10. “I sought the attention of boys, sometimes men. I would feel so dirty and disgusting for allowing these things to happen to me, but it made me feel important, even if only for a moment. Feeling wanted was what I needed to live even if it was in the most vain way.” — Amanda R.
  11. “When it was my birthday or something fun was coming up, I was often asked if I was happy or not because I often had trouble showing it. I was told by an adult, ‘Well, aren’t you excited?’ I remember trying to feel happy or excited. Trying to get that emotion to stick but feeling hollow with only a memory of what that emotion looked like and relying on that emotional memory to show people what they expected to see.” — Megan C.
  12. “Feeling that if I wasn’t perfect, I was nothing… and feeling that unless I could do something to the absolute best of my ability, I wouldn’t even try… I couldn’t be seen as less than the best.” — Sindy H.
  13. “Music was the only thing that gave me pleasure. I could emulate singers and infuse feeling into the songs when I sang. I was so detached from feelings that I’d always wonder what the singers were on about.” — Laura D.
  14. “Overeating — I still do it. I was always happy to stuff my face with something and forget reality. It was like only food loved me. I have more control now, but it’s still a big part of my life.” — Leslie B.
  15. “Reckless behavior such as going out by my window and going to hang out with pretty old people at 12 years old. Doing all sorts of drugs and binge drinking. I was trying to fill a void I had inside with all sorts of dangerous actions and it was never enough.” — Millie P.

If you grew up feeling chronically empty, you’re not alone. Here at The Mighty, there is a community of people who get it. Post a Thought or Question to connect with people who can relate.

Getty Images photo via cosmaa