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Focus on .... Existential Depression

 Focus on .... Existential Depression

Most people experience some form of low mood, sadness, or depression at some point in their lives. This can often arise in response to situations in their life at that time. For example, trauma, accident, bereavement, loss of job, death of significant other, health issues and many other situations.

There are many factors that contribute to the development of low mood and depression. These include biological and hormonal factors and depressive periods can be seasonal, situational or intrapersonal. Often a period of low mood or depression develops through a combination of factors and this can be different for each individual experiencing low mood or depression.

For many, a period of low mood or depression and the feelings, emotions and symptoms that accompany such can often be short-term and don’t have a long-lasting impact on quality of life.
However, for others, low mood and depression can be longer-lasting and have a significant and powerful impact on their life, how they feel, their thoughts and their quality of life. The distressing emotions that accompany such depression can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness and lead them to questions purpose and meaning in life. They may experience existential crisis leading to existential depression.

Of course, many of us wonder about our meaning in life, why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing. It’s certainly been a debate that’s developed with friends and family across the dinner table or over a glass of wine in the local pub.

However, for many, this wondering and questioning is more than a light-hearted chat over a few pints. Those experiencing existential depression are unable to find satisfying or conclusive answers to the questions of life, death, meaning, freedom and purpose. This can cause conflict, frustration and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Some of the issues that might cause such inner conflict include: death and mortality; meaning and meaninglessness; life purpose; isolation and connectedness; emotions, experiences and embodiment.

In addition to those feelings and symptoms that individual with depression experience, those with existential depression may also have thoughts of suicide, the end of life, meaninglessness, hopelessness and conflict or difficulty with lack of purpose in life.
The feelings of hopelessness that accompany existential depression are linked to the person’s feelings of meaninglessness in life. They may ask; what’s the point in all this? Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing?’

Existential depression, like other forms of depression (e.g. persistent depression, situational, bipolar, cyclothymic, postnatal, premenstrual etc.) can vary in intensity and severity from person-to-person. The Depression Alliance have outlined some of the signs or symptoms of existential depression below. Please note that signs and symptoms can vary from person-to-person – you may experience some of these and not others – not all signs and symptoms are listed:
  • An intense or obsessive interest in the bigger meaning of life and death. The interest in exploring this may override a person’s enjoyment and engagement with other day-to-day activities.
  • Extreme distress, anxiety, and sadness about the society they live in, or the overall state of the world.
  • A belief that changes in anything are both impossible and futile.
  • Increasingly becoming, and feeling, disconnected, isolated, and separate from other people.
  • Cutting ties with other people because they feel like connections with others are meaningless or shallow and they are on a completely different level.
  • Low motivation and energy levels to do anything they would normally do.
  • Questioning the purpose, point or meaning of anything, and everything, in life.
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
    (Depression Alliance)
If you would like to explore some of these experiences with a therapist or counsellor, improve some of the symptoms of depression and/or understand and gain awareness of some of the things you are experiencing in a safe, supportive, understanding and confidential space with our encouraging, warm and empathic therapists/counsellors, please feel to drop us an email or get in touch via the website.


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