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Feelings of Hopelessness

Learn more about feelings of hopelessness, treatment options, self-help tools, and resources to help you enjoy life again.

What does it mean if you are having feelings of hopelessness?

Do you sometimes feel like your life is worthless? Is it hard to imagine that things will ever get better? Do you sometimes think, "Why should I even bother?" These thoughts are common examples of hopelessness and can often occur when individuals are feeling depressed or anxious.

Hopelessness can happen when someone is going through difficult times or painful experiences. Or you might feel hopeless without a specific reason. You might feel overwhelmed, trapped, or insecure, or you might have a lot of self-doubt. You might think that challenges are insurmountable or that there are no solutions to the problems you are facing.

At some point in your life, you may have experienced some of these feelings — it's a part of being human. However, when hopelessness lasts for a while, takes up a lot of your time, or troubles you, it might be a signal that you need outside support. Hopelessness might be a sign that you are depressed or that you may be on your way toward depression.

Sometimes hopelessness can lead to thoughts of wishing you could go to sleep and not wake up, or to a plan to harm yourself and end your life.

You may not have shared your feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of harming yourself with others. However, there are some thoughts or actions you and others might notice that are warning signs of a person needing help or possibly being in crisis:

  • Appearing sad or feeling depressed most of the time
  • Having persistent or worsening trouble sleeping or eating
  • Feeling anxious or agitated
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and health
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Sleeping all the time
  • Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things you used to care about
  • Experiencing frequent and dramatic mood changes
  • Having feelings of extreme guilt or shame
  • Having feelings of failure or frustration from not doing things as well as you used to
  • Feeling as if life is not worth living, or as if you have no sense of purpose
  • Feeling trapped, like there is no way out of a situation
  • Having feelings of despair or thinking there’s no solution to your problems

In addition, noticeable changes in behavior are warning signs that you may need to seek help. These include:

  • Performing poorly at work or school
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities without thinking of consequences
  • Engaging in self-destructive voilence or violent behavior such as punching holes in walls or getting into fights; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger; or contemplating revenge
  • Acting as though you have a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Putting your affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
  • Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming yourself

If feelings of hopelessness are accompanied by any of the following, you should reach out for help immediately:

  • You feel like a burden to others.
  • You are thinking you'd be better off dead, are making plans to harm yourself, or are thinking about suicide.
  • You are not taking care of yourself in the ways that you need to stay alive.

Any of these thoughts or behaviors requires attention. If you have serious thoughts of death or suicide or are thinking about hurting or killing yourself, call the Veterans Crisis Line now at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. You can also use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat, or send a text to the Veterans Crisis Line at 838255. The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

What can cause feelings of hopelessness?

Some Veterans’ distress may be related to very traumatic events like the death of someone from their unit, seeing people die, or sexual assault or abuse. Other Veterans’ difficulties may be the result of a major setback such as a divorce or job loss. Some people may think about hurting themselves due to the buildup of stress, depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress that makes life seem as if it’s just not bearable anymore.

No matter what the reason, people who think about dying may see suicide as the only way to escape their pain and feelings of hopelessness. It is important to realize that help is available and that depression, anxiety, and hopelessness can be treated — even if you can't see a solution right now.

“It was so hard to push suicidal thoughts out of my mind that I would wake up and I would think about suicide. I would sleep for my two hours a night and I would dream about suicide. You know, I would go to bed thinking about suicide.”

Most people who think about harming themselves are dealing with difficult experiences or conditions that can be successfully treated. These may include:

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is experiencing any of these signs, know that you are not alone and that help is available. 

Some people, including some Veterans, hurt themselves and don’t intend to die, but are attempting to “feel” something or “punish” themselves. This, too, is risky behavior, and help is available. Never hesitate to talk to someone about these issues or to contact the Veterans Crisis Line if you need to talk to someone immediately.

If I’m feeling hopeless or having thoughts of hurting myself, what can I do about it right away?

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is having thoughts of suicide, you should talk to someone right away. Your family and friends may already know that you’re having a tough time. You may want to turn to them and let them know what you’re feeling and thinking.

“I wanted to end it all because I thought I had failed myself as a corpsman. I had failed myself as far as I was concerned by not being the best Soldier that I could be. I felt like I also failed my family. My father had been a military man. He always told me: ‘When you serve, you serve 100 percent. Don’t come back any less than that.’”

You can also call the Veterans Crisis Line, at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat, or send a text message to the Veterans Crisis Line at 838255. The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The Veterans Crisis Line can also connect you with a suicide prevention coordinator at your local VA.

You can also take a confidential self-check quiz to better understand what you’re going through and if it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Your anonymous answers to a brief list of questions will be reviewed by an experienced counselor who will then send you a personal response to a secure website. The counselor will also provide you with resources and options for further follow-up.

Take the next step: Make the connection.

Every day, Veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard connect with proven resources and effective treatments to help them with their thoughts of harming themselves and find solutions to improve their lives. Don’t try to handle suicidal behavior and thoughts on your own. Talking to your family and friends can be a first step. You can also connect with:

  • The Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat, or send a text message to the Veterans Crisis Line at 838255. These services are free and confidential, and you do not have to be enrolled in VA to use them.
  • Your doctor. Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does. If you feel comfortable enough with your physician, he or she may be able to help you find tools to manage feelings of hopelessness even without direct experience with Veterans.
  • A mental health professional, such as a therapist
  • Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center. VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans.
  • A spiritual or religious adviser

Veterans of all ages and eras have sought help for the issues they are dealing with and are living better lives today. Follow this link to hear stories from fellow Veterans and Service members about their own battles with suicidal thoughts and behavior and how they overcame them.

Explore these resources for overcoming feelings of hopelessness.

Learn more about what you can do if you are experiencing specific concerns related to feelings of hopelessness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, the effects of military sexual trauma, or posttraumatic stress.