An existential crisis is a period when a person challenges their existence. They may start wondering who they really are or what the meaning of life really is. Some people may start to look for a new sense of purpose or feel the need to make other changes in life.
The simple sense of the place or the disconnection from life does not necessarily mean an existential crisis. The thought of the "deep questions" of life is quite common and not everyone is experiencing existential crisis. The judgment can be said to happen when you ask (or others) these questions and experience anxiety, frustration or depression when you can not find satisfactory answers.
Suicidal thoughts are not unusual during the existential crisis. It is important to get immediate help if you experience persistent depression or have suicidal thoughts.
What causes a crisis?
Everyone can experience an existential crisis. Some common actuators are listed below.
The transition from the age of adolescents to young adults, or in middle age or older, causes some to doubt the meaning of life. People can look at the past and the next few years and wonder what they have achieved. They may be worried about taking advantage of most of the next few years or feel as if they are not equipped to handle new responsibilities that come with increasing. Some inhabit or lose an earlier stage of life.
A life-changing event
The existential crisis can develop after events such as marriage, divorce, dissolution, childbirth, trauma or loss. These events can lead people to question life as they know it. Wounding or death make many realize their own mortality, especially if death was unexpected. Some people begin to question their identity after the beginning of a new relationship or the end of an existing relationship. For example, an individual may feel that he is in the context of his relationship, but he does not have a separate self.
A life-threatening event
It is common to have a period of crisis after being involved in a car accident or natural disaster or experiencing a life-threatening illness. People facing death from cancer or related illnesses may lose the perspective of life or fear what comes after life. The survival of an accident or a disaster can sometimes lead to feelings of the guilt of the survivors and to the search for the meaning of life. It is not unusual to question your survival and to worry that you are "unworthy".
Signs You Can Have An Existential Crisis
Existing crises often happen when something makes a person realize his or her own mortality or lose an ideal. They are usually recognized by the following indications:
- Feelings of depression and despair. These could be related to work dissatisfaction, a relationship that does not go anywhere, or the failure to achieve the goals. Some may wonder what the point of life is if they can not achieve their dreams. A recent loss could also contribute to these feelings.
- Worry. Existing anxiety can be presented as feelings of anxiety about the future, what happens after death or the meaning of life. Some may feel that they are missing out on most of their lives, but they are unsure what it is. Most people think of these thoughts from time to time, but they can cause discomfort when it's hard to stop thinking about them.
- Isolation and loneliness. The feeling that alone in the world is common in times of crisis. Some people find it difficult to relate to others or think others do not understand what they are going through. People who consider existential concepts can also spend more time on their own, working through these thoughts. Increased time alone can contribute to loneliness.
- Existential obsession. According to the International OCD Foundation, the existential OCD describes disturbing thoughts about philosophical questions or other issues that can not be answered such as "Why are we here?" These thoughts persist and can lead to depression. It can be difficult to avoid thinking about them and some spend hours walking through these thoughts, exacerbating feelings of fear or despair.
- Loss of interest or motivation. Some parts of life may begin to appear less important when seeking purpose. It is not unusual to feel that the activities of life are mundane or meaningless. Some people also find that their personal values change as they try to find meaning in life. But this can be a positive result. Making new values can lead to a new sense of purpose, which can help resolve the crisis period.
It feels like nothing makes sense because nothing you do does make a difference can lead to loss of motivation. Some begin to feel that their relationships with others are irrelevant and isolated as a result.
How an existing crisis can affect mental health
If you struggle to reconcile your present life with what you were hoping for yourself, you may experience sadness, frustration, anxiety and depression. Because people often experience depression and anxiety during a period of existential crisis, they can be diagnosed with one or both of these conditions. But depression and anxiety caused by an existential crisis are not entirely the same as typical depression or anxiety.
Existing anxiety describes in particular the fear or concern about the real meaning of life. A person may feel like he has made the wrong choices or is not free to make choices he wants to make. They may be worried about death or afterlife. Concerns about these things can prevent people from enjoying life at the moment, especially if anxiety appears as intrusive or obsessive ideas (existential OCD).
Existing depression refers to feelings of indifference, sadness, despair and loss of motivation that often accompany an existential crisis. People may feel desperate for society, the world, or other "big-picture" concepts. It feels like nothing makes sense because nothing you do does make a difference can lead to loss of motivation. Some begin to feel that their relationships with others are irrelevant and isolated as a result.
How to deal with an existing crisis
Some people can work from the existential crisis on their own. It may take time, but eventually they accept that some of the questions of life simply can not be answered. They can find a renewed sense of the purpose of life through the newly discovered values. For example, someone who felt that he did not contribute anything can decide to spend one day each week voluntarily in his community.
If the crisis lasts and adversely affects everyday life, prosperity, relationships, work or school, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist. A sympathetic, expert counselor can teach you ways to cope with the feelings of depression and despair. While existential crisis is not a mental health condition, depression and anxiety can be serious if they are not cured. If you have suicidal thoughts, it is best to contact a suicide helpline.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you learn to induce and change unwanted thoughts, can help you experience existential depression or anxiety. Therapeutic approaches such as humanitarian therapy and existential therapy can also be very useful.
- Existential therapy helps you accept the facts of freedom / responsibility, death, isolation and inconsistency – and teaches you to treat them by accepting them without letting them crush you.
- Humanitarian (human-centered) treatment helps you discover and focus on the importance of your true self. In humanitarian therapy, you can discover the changes you can make to live your most astonishing life.
When you experience an existential crisis, it can help you remember how your life makes sense to others. Do you care for a child, parent, younger brother or pet? Do you help others at work? Do you study something that will allow you to help others? Try to watch everyday goodness, compassion, positive experiences and other things that make sense in life. You can start by referring people to the life you are interested in and the ways you influence each other.
If you are struggling with a certain part of your life, consider whether it is possible to change. Treatment is a good place not only to explore life-related questions but also to identify and address the areas of dissatisfaction and talk through possible changes.
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