DEAR ALI: My son says he "feels empty"

His tendency has been to find something of interest, explore it ad-nauseum and then he’s done with it. Now that he’s in middle school, he claims nothing interests him and there’s no point to anything. He puts up a big and enduring fight if we sign him up for any organized sports or activities. When he’s home, he wears headphones all the time, either gaming or binge watching popular shows. He does well in school and enjoys late night sleepovers with friends on the weekends, helps around the house when asked, has chores to do and a dog to play with, but lacks motivation to do anything other than what is required of him. Please help. He’s too young to have an existential crisis!



I highly recommend seeking a medical perspective to explore depression. "Feeling empty" is a cornerstone symptom of depression. Additionally, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers these symptoms:




-consistently feeling sad or empty

-feeling hopeless, worrisome, and/or worthless

-lacking interest in things that used to bring joy

-spending a lot of time alone or away from friends/family

-difficulty with sleep (either wanting to sleep too much or struggling to get enough)


I am not suggesting that depression is the only outcome but I absolutely think it is worth getting checked out and feel like it would be irresponsible for me to suggest anything other than that. I agree with you, he's too young to have an existential crisis so I think your parental instincts are on to something! If he were my son, I would bring him to our pediatrician and ask for a depression screener. I think it's the first step to narrowing down what might be leading to his "emptiness".


Thank you for reaching out!


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