By definition, existential depression is a collection of thoughts and feelings we have about the meaning and purpose of life. We may feel stuck because it’s difficult to find answers to these questions. If these feelings persist or get worse, they may even have a negative effect on our lives. We feel unsure of how to react or which direction to go in.
What Is Existential Depression?
An individual with existential depression struggles to find meaning in their life and in existence overall.
Because of this, those who are experiencing existential depression might find it difficult to motivate themselves in daily activities, become preoccupied with thoughts of death and dying, be indifferent to the “irreparable” state of the world, and avoid social interactions.
How Common Is Existential Depression?
According to Jed Turnbull, PhD, LCSW, CHT, a licensed social worker and therapist, “Everyone experiences [some level of] existential depression at some point in their lives, and it is very common to find it as one moves through the challenges of the maturation process.”
People frequently ask themselves the following questions, which can set off feelings of existential depression:
What purpose does life serve?
Why does anyone suffer?
Why must people pass away?
Can I influence the world in any way?
Why do moral people suffer from pain?
According to research on the topic of meaning in life, only about 25% of American adults say they have a strong sense of purpose in life. 40% of people claim to lack that guiding star or to feel uninterested in general.
Existential Depression Symptoms
Existential depression shares characteristics with other types of clinical depression in that the person experiences sadness and may lose interest in previously enjoyed activities. Sleep deprivation may also occur.
Thinking about death and what your life means can be one of the specific symptoms of existential depression. You could also consider your life. Note that these thoughts are unsettling for the person experiencing existential depression.
Who Is Prone To Existential Depression?
Existential depression may affect some people more frequently than others. People who have higher expectations, such as unrealistic expectations or difficult-to-attain goals, may experience existential depression more frequently and to a greater extent than other people.
Additionally, there are hints that those with higher IQs may experience existential dread and depression more frequently than others.
Additionally, certain events in life have the potential to cause existential depression, such as:
Life stressors: Situations that cause significant turmoil can have a significant impact on your life. According to one study, cancer patients may start to wonder what life is all about once they realize that death is a very real possibility.
A lack of job satisfaction: Studies have linked poor mental health to a lack of job satisfaction. So, if you’re unhappy at work, your mental health may be affected. Additionally, you might begin to question the significance of your position.
Lack of meaningful connections: According to science, healthy social connections and various aspects of our health and wellness are strongly linked.
Existential Depression’s Effects
Existential depression can make people miss out on important life experiences or limit their ability to fully enjoy life. For instance, you might distance yourself from a few of the important relationships in your life.
When you do feel like your life has meaning, it can increase your level of life satisfaction. This results in more consistent happiness, a positive outlook, and an upbeat mood. Furthermore, studies have shown that people tend to live longer when they experience high levels of “eudemonic well-being,” which is defined as the joy that results from believing that your life has significance.
Researchers found in 2018 that people with a sense of purpose were less likely to suffer from heart attacks, strokes, insomnia, and dementia.
Treatment For Existential Depression
As is the case whenever someone experiences emotional difficulty, reaching out to others or talking to a therapist can be extremely beneficial. This can help you discover fresh viewpoints and lessen depressive emotions and existential questions.
The first step is admitting that you are stuck and that you don’t yet have the tools necessary to dig yourself out of the muck.
The uniqueness of existential depression also lies in the fact that it frequently triggers a period of intense introspection during which we seek to understand the purpose of our existence. Make the most of the chance for self-discovery presented by these unsettling emotions and thought-provoking inquiries into life’s “big questions.”
This frequently entails challenging our presumptions regarding the world and how it is “supposed to be.”
Turnbull asserts that in order to have the proper space to refuel and reestablish our values, we must challenge our ingrained beliefs and assumptions and be willing to be proven wrong about them. Additionally, it may give us a fresh perspective on life’s meaning and purpose, which will enhance our overall well-being.
According to Turnbull, “in more immediate situations, one’s mode of expression can be very helpful in reducing their depressive symptoms.” “Learning something new, journaling or writing, and other abstract forms of self-expression like music and art can all be ways to decrease depressive symptoms.”
Humans commonly experience existential depression. These emotions may become more prevalent as you go through particularly formative years and begin to have more in-depth conversations with yourself about the world. But depression can strike whenever. Consider beginning a journey of self-discovery if you feel like you’re having trouble figuring out your life’s purpose and meaning. Speaking with others, such as dependable family members and friends or a professional therapist who can help you work through difficult emotions, is also beneficial.
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Disclaimer: Please note that we are not a crisis intervention helpline. Should you have severe symptoms or have thought about harming yourself, please seek immediate medical help or call suicide prevention helplines such as
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