The existential crisis is characterized by extreme negative emotions which often cause people to question their place in life, their worth, or their purpose. However, experiencing an existential crisis is not the same as depression, despite their similar symptoms. Here are some strategies for coping with existential crises, and how an existential crisis relates to depression. Weathering the storm of an existential crisis can be difficult, but there are ways to combat your feelings of hopelessness.
What are the Causes of an Existential Crisis?
An existential crisis is categorized by a wondrance about the meaning of life or what a person’s purpose in life is. Many people search for meaning in their lives, but in an existential crisis, a person cannot seem to find any answers to their questions that satisfies them. This negative feeling of despair and confusion about the future can be characterized as “a break in thinking patterns” in which a person suddenly views everything in a negative light and searches for answers about the meaning of their life on Earth.
An existential crisis can affect an individual at any age, but there can also be causes of the crisis. Typically, those experiencing an existential crisis feel it after despair or following a major life-altering event, similar to what can spark a period of major depressive disorder. Some causes of existential crises include loss of a loved one, realizing our own mortality, feeling dissatisfied with life, a major life event/change (i.e. moving to a new place), or guilt about something that has happened.
What are the Different Types of Existential Crises?
Different types of existential crises include crisis of freedom and responsibility, in which a person may be overwhelmed by a choice they have to make or by the responsibilities of work or school. They may question the meaning of choice in life, whether actions are free, and why responsibilities exist. Crisis of death and mortality includes what the meaning of life is, and a realization of the inevitability of death. Aging is usually directly associated with this kind of thinking. There are also more existential crises, related to feeling isolated, to missing your purpose, to false sense of happiness. Luckily, there are ways to avoid these devastating and crippling emotions.
What is Existential Crisis Depression?
An existential crisis can exhibit the typical feelings of depression. These symptoms include listlessness, a lack of interest in everyday activities, tiredness, headaches, sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness. Given that people suffering from an existential crisis are questioning their life’s purpose, existential crisis depression can also lead to suicidal thoughts. The hopelessness of suicidal depression includes wondering why you are here and whether there is a bigger meaning to life than just working and dying.
Ways to Combat your Existential Crisis
1. Reframe your Thoughts
If you believe your life is meaningless, it can be hard to see through that mindset and into a more positive situation. But if you tell yourself that your life has no worth, you will manifest that into existence. So, it is crucial to reframe your mindset by doing things that add value to your life. This can include joining a club, volunteering, or exploring religion/worship.
Journaling can be a great way to release your negative emotions out of your body and onto paper. Ways to rid yourself of these negative thoughts may include creating a positive and negative list of people, places, and situations in your life. This can lead to a gratitude journal in which you realize that you have much to be thankful for and many more positive components to your life than negative.
3. Break your Questions Down
Asking “what is my purpose?” or “what happens when I die?” can be an extremely overwhelming and unmanageable question. It can help to break your question down into smaller ones, such as “what can I do this week to add more value to my life?” or “how can I make myself less scared of death?”. Inverting and breaking down your questions can lead to a more positive outlook on your future.
4. Do Research
You may be struggling with large questions that seem impossible to answer. However, questions like “what happens after we die?” are not uncommon questions, and many others have explored and found answers. Instead of pondering with no clarity, it may be beneficial to begin researching your feelings. Read studies, watch videos, attend lectures at local universities or go to church service, or find someone to serve in a mentorship role. All of these things may help you find answers to the questions you are asking.
5. Strive to Accept the Unknowable
It can be hard to come to the realization that sometimes our research of our existential crisis will not yield answers that we like or find to be possible. In these cases, it is important to relieve yourself of the pressure to have every answer or a perfect answer for all your questions. Your research may yield no results, and that is perfectly natural. Accepting the fact that you cannot know everything may help to relieve some of the pressure of your existential crisis.
6. Rely on your Support System
It can be easy to shrink into yourself as you search for meaning and look through answers in your existential crisis or existential depression. However, this is the time it is important to remind yourself of the people you have in your life. Talk out your feelings, ask your loved ones your questions, listen to their advice and coping strategies. It is important to remember that you are not alone in your feelings and there are people to support you through them.
7. Seek Professional Treatment
When you have exhausted all these options, it may be time to see your doctor or licensed medical health professional, and talk to them about the feelings you are experiencing. A counselor or a psychologist may be a safe space for you to talk through your existential crisis and perhaps get the guidance you are seeking. Existential therapy is a form of treatment in which the counselor allows you to guide your own therapy, talking about the problems that matter to you, rather than examining your entire life. The therapist may reformulate your own questions back to you in a way that provides clarity for what you are experiencing. Existential therapists can also help you formulate a plan to make your life more fulfilling, adding people and activities that can help you work through your crisis and potential depression to reverse your negative thoughts and feelings. However, sometimes an existential therapist will simply not be enough. If you are looking for another option, then ̧Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy could also be right for you.
TMS Therapy to Treat Existential Depression
What is TMS?
TMS by the company My Transformations is a new and revolutionary treatment for a variety of mental health disorders, including PTSD, OCD, anxiety, and depression. TMS works by using electromagnetic pulses to penetrate through the skull and into the brain, thereby activating brain cells. The brain then uses electrical currents to communicate inside the brain, sending signals to the rest of the body. The magnetic waves emitted by TMS interact with the brain’s natural chemistry to change the paths of the transmitters. It is widely believed that TMS works because it helps boost areas of the brain that were functioning, due to depression or other mental health problems, at lower-than-normal levels. It helps them become active again, releasing a large number of neurotransmitters and thereby boosting a person’s mood, allowing them to see the light and help improve negative thoughts.
How does the TMS Therapy Process work?
After a consultation, patients will complete a mapping session so TMS technicians can determine where the electromagnetic coil should be placed on the brain, and how often the pulses should be released. This depends on the patient’s brain and the severity of the mental illness. The psychiatrist on staff and the TMS technician work to stimulate the patient’s motor strip, the part of the brain near the prefrontal cortex (the target area). Movement in the patient’s hand is an indicator that they are stimulating the correct part of the brain. When the magnetic pulses are released, it should feel like a soft tapping against the skull, and length of treatment usually lasts around thirty minutes per session, and typically patients need six to eight sessions for long-lasting results. There is also no recovery time, patients are free to exit after treatment.
Anyone can experience an existential crisis, or an existential crisis that leads to an existential depression. The key is knowing when your crisis moves from questions you can work through on your own, to questions for which you need a psychologist or other professional help. My Transformations and TMS Therapy can help alleviate your negative thoughts and emotions and help you get back on track to a meaningful and fulfilling life.