What is the Existential Crisis?
An existential crisis is a state of mind where people begin to wonder about the meaning and purpose of their life. They start to feel that their existence has no meaning and life is pointless. Existential crisis or also called existential anxiety often arises when there is a transition in life and there is difficulty adapting to situations. It can be a situation like the death of a spouse, divorce, or other such life-altering events. Though it is healthy to find answers to one’s life, people who undergo this feeling often view it negatively. They start to suffer from anxiety, depression or feel isolated.
Existential Crisis Symptoms
The symptoms of existential crisis are many and in general, they include:
- Feeling overwhelmed by people or situations
- Anxiety and depression with persistent sadness, headaches, and feeling of hopelessness
- Isolating self from their near and dear people
- Feeling lonely
- Lack of energy to do anything even doing their favourite activities.
- Feeling unmotivated about life
- Worrying obsessively about things
- People who have mental health issues like a borderline personality disorder, BPD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD show symptoms of this condition.
- Racing thoughts which are a condition where the purpose and meaning of life cause anxiety in the mind and causes racing thoughts. This is also known as existential OCD where there is an obsession to know the meaning of life. The mind does not rest until the answers are found.
Who is at Risk?
An existential crisis is believed to be common in people who have advanced or progressive illness. It is also common in people:
- People between 40 to 50 years.
- Who has had a tragic event like the death of a loved one
- Going through a traumatizing experience
- Who is getting married or divorced
- Has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness
- People with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, BPD, OCD
- Pregnant women or a to-be father
- Elderly people after the age of 65 who have recently retired from work
Existential Crisis Causes
An existential crisis can be caused due to the following:
- Mental health conditions like major depressive disorder, schizoid disorder, depersonalization disorder.
- Chronic sleep deprivation is a condition of having sleepless nights for months.
- Alcohol use disorder is also called alcoholism where drinking excessively causes mental health problems.
- Living in isolation for a long time
- A physiological trauma
- Learning about the eventuality of life, i.e death
- Uncertainty due to old age or ill-health
- Using psychedelic drugs is illegal and banned in many countries.
- Dissatisfaction in life or guilt about something that happened
How is the Existential Crisis Diagnosed?
To assess this condition, a psychiatrist will use standardized assessment tools and other existential crisis test criteria and make a diagnosis. The person conducting the diagnosis will ask about the symptoms in the form of a questionnaire or by asking open-ended questions. This assessment is usually done in a specialized clinic or care settings to diagnose. Based on the answers the health care provider will make a diagnosis.
Since the existential crises can happen to people of any age, a child version of interviews is also conducted in the presence of a parent. It also helps to determine if the patient is suffering from associated conditions like depression.
How is the Existential Crisis Treated?
You can solve the problem of existential crisis on your own but if the symptoms do not go away or increase then it is best to see a psychiatrist or a therapist. These are experts who can guide you to deal with this through various therapies. Existential crisis treatment includes:
- Existential therapy is a form of talk therapy where you talk about the problems that matter. The therapist will formulate plans that make your life more meaningful. Activities that can help in reversing negative thoughts are incorporated.
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy is conducted to change the pattern of thinking.
If you feel you are unable to cope on your own or have suicidal thoughts then speak to our doctors who will formulate a plan to help you tide over these negative feelings.
How can the Existential Crises be Prevented?
An existential crisis happens at a transitions phase in life and that leads to questions about the purpose and meaning of life. Though it is not always possible to prevent it, you can manage it. This is how to cure existential crisis:
- Adjusting your mindset and instead of thinking it as a crisis, think of it as an opportunity to make changes.
- Instead of isolating oneself, reconnect with people as that helps you see things differently.
- Practice mindfulness
- Redirect your energy and time in redefining things and changing the meaning.
- Don’t think of the past and instead look ahead and work on your future.