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Existential Crisis: When You Question Everything About Who You Are

everyone may go through an existential crisis phase/ Photo By ammentorp via 123RF

 

“Unlike all other living creatures, we are aware of death,” Dr. Alan Schwartz, a psychotherapist and author of the article The Existential Crisis, Depression, Anxiety and Mortality, states.

Dr. Schwartz says that existential crisis is the “realization that each of us will die.” He adds that this is an understanding that life on earth happens in a limited span of time and that a person’s days are numbered. When a person experiences this, they become hyper-aware of death and may try to find their true purpose for living.

It was described by Ella Dior, author of If You’re Going Through an Existential Crisis, Come Join Me in Mine --- or Take a Break From Yours and Visit Mine as the transitioning from one personality to another. She says that existential crisis begins with a lot of questioning.

She elaborates, “Now, with all this questioning and exploring and answer-seeking, here comes the crisis --- you feel kind of groundless. I think it’s the groundless feeling that makes it feel like a crisis. I mean you’re shedding one identity and forming a new one… but while the new one is forming you’re kind of homeless.”

Dior further illustrates that a person may feel they are “identity vagrant” as their new personality is being developed. She compares the new identity to having a new “home” being built.

It is at this point in their life that an individual that they start to challenge all the things that they stand for. They may question which part of their identity is real, which part is correct and which parts of them should they let go of.

 

existential crisis begins with a lot of questioning/Photo By racorn via 123RF

 

Four Types of Sufferers

A Conscious Rethink explains that while everyone may go through an existential crisis phase, there are some people who are more likely to suffer from it than others. According to them, these are the people who are more prone to going through this:

The depressed

People who suffer from depression say that they feel a mixture of anger, sadness, and emptiness mostly. Essentially, it dampens their capability to feel. Depressed individuals may ask themselves when they last felt happiness and if they still find pleasure in their hobbies and interests.

The level of depression as well as the duration that someone suffers varies from each person. For people who have been affected by this condition for a short while, or have experienced milder versions of it, their world perception may not be changed.

However, for those who are living with chronic depression, it greatly affects their view of the world. It prevents them from seeing the beauty and warmth of living. Although life consists of highs and lows, being stuck in depression may cause a person to minimize their high points in life and magnify their low points.

When someone heals from depression, they may experience a system shock. They are suddenly confronted with a reality which they never thought could be possibly twisted, because for the most part of their life, they expended their energy on merely trying to survive.

The kind and compassionate

A person who was brought up in a loving and nurturing environment may form a narrow perception of the world. They may dwell on the thoughts of why some people only want to hurt others or why some people are only out there to ruin other people’s lives. They find difficult to accept that the malicious and self-centered do these things simply because they are able to do so and because they enjoy it or are able to profit from such activities.

They are the ones that try their hardest to see the good qualities in everyone, no matter how obscure those traits may be. Nothing or no one can be seen in ultimately black and white. There is always an “in between” or what is often considered the gray area. Yet there are some who have been too hurt or are to malicious who are unable to do things other than trying to stay away from the gray area or see everything in extremes.

The kind and compassionate who are forced to face this reality may try to escape it or may try to learn about it so that they can survive among the wounded and malicious.

 

people who are undergoing an existential crisis will seek meaning everywhere and in any form/ Photo By Mykola Kravchenko via 123RF

 

The martyr

The society idealizes being totally selfless. However, a person who gives too much of themselves may undergo a “caregiver burnout”.

Individuals who are part of charities, social services and those who have to shoulder responsibility early into their childhood may experience being overworked, stressed, underpaid and mentally drained. They may find that they have no time for themselves because of the burdens that they carry.

Later in their life, they may come to a point when they become aware that they have set boundaries so that they may also find pleasure in life. They may undergo a phase of deep self-analysis that changes their perception of the world.

The unfulfilled

There are people in this world who not only want to survive but to grow in a society that is becoming harder and more competitive to live in. People who are seeking a career may be conflicted about choosing a career based on their passions and choosing another that is profitable.

These kinds of individuals are advised to find a balance between a career that gives meaning to their life and one that is marketable, because if they take either to the extreme they may experience an imbalance in their life. When they feel this imbalance, they may also start to feel that everything in their life is meaningless and has no direction.

Signs of Being in an Existential Crisis

Learning Mind says that these are the nine signs a person is going through an existential crisis:

1. Frequenting their social media

Social media is a place where people can find individuals who are suffering the most. People who are undergoing an existential crisis will seek meaning everywhere and in any form. The more they question their reality, the more inclined they will be to aimlessly scroll through their social media. However, rather than being able to find meaning and purpose, they will find themselves being compared to others instead.

2. Feeling confused about spending time with people

Someone in this state may want to spend time with loved ones and friends, but may also desire to take a moment for themselves. This may happen simultaneously and may cause their interpersonal connections to be strained. They may try to find harmony with their conflicting emotions.

3. Thinking too deeply

They start to question everything and think deeply about difficult questions concerning their life. They will be curious and obsessed with the meaning of their living conditions and their relationships.

4. Wondering who they are

An individual in the midst of an existential crisis may have feelings of emptiness and will begin pondering about their true identity. Their previous identities may gradually disappear and so will their sense of belongingness.

They may find themselves confused by the beliefs that they have held onto for a long time. They may feel a change within themselves and a shift to a new identity. This is part of the existential awakening where the agony of not knowing transforms into the bliss of finally recognizing who they really are.

5. Drinking too much coffee

Those who are enduring an existential crisis may equate drinking more coffee to being productive. They may feel the constant need to be motivated and use coffee as a way to help them keep feeling energized. They feel that until they are able to finish a cup of coffee, they could not get started on any task or that they could not be fully awake. They may also feel that coffee helps them find answers to the meaning of life.

6. Having no motivation

Others who suffer from existential crisis may find it impossible to be productive because of mental fatigue. This may translate to physical exhaustion and they may soon stop their search for the meaning and purpose of their life. They may simply decide to give up.

7. Thinking about death

Another sign that one is experiencing an existential crisis is that they are conscious of the fact that they will have to someday experience death. They will meditate on it, worry about it, and talk about it. They will often be preoccupied with the day that they will die. This may limit their enjoyment of life.

8. Crying too easily

Individuals going through this have the tendency to cry easily over anything that is emotional. They may feel deeply affected by the pain of others, animal abuse, homeless people, and other tragic things and events.

9. May turn into a hypochondriac

Not everyone who undergoes an existential crisis may become a hypochondriac or someone who is afraid of being sick, but there are many to succumb to it. They may visit the doctor because of this apprehension, but may oftentimes not actually be ill. They may just be paranoid.

 

How to Deal With Existential Crisis

Wisegeek.com suggests various alternatives to coping with an existential crisis. These strategies are:

Therapy

Even though it is not technically a mental illness, people who suffer from this are advised to go through therapies such as psychotherapy and existential therapy. This may help them fight against the loneliness that accompanies their existential crisis.

Psychology books

They may also try to acquire psychology books that talk about human existence to help them find meaning and purpose.

Philosophy

People who suffer from an existential crisis may also turn to the works of existentialists who tried to answer questions relating to one’s existence.

Going through an existential crisis may lead one to being able to find their reason for existing and start a fresh new life. Others who have suffered from this may detach themselves from their previous belief systems and find that their lives have found a new purpose with because they are able to freely make their own decisions.

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