Existential crisis: What is it and how to overcome it?

Even the best of us question life at times. As unpredictable as it is, you try to find meaning in the worst of consequences, but sometimes you end up questioning everything. At some point in life, you can and will feel the stress of rushing through everything without a purpose. While in some cases it could be inconsequential, in others it could be a lingering feeling that doesn’t seem to go away. If you have been feeling confused for no apparent reason or lonely or feeling like you have no purpose in life, you could be going through an existential crisis.

While many of us go through this feeling of existential crisis, not many understand what exactly it is and how it affects you! To help you understand, Health Shots reached out to Dr Kersi Chavda, consultant psychiatrist at P.D. Hinduja Hospital and MRC, Mahim, Mumbai. Here’s what you need to know.

What is an existential crisis?

If you have been feeling uneasy about the meaning and purpose of life and this feeling is recurrent or persistent, you could be having an existential crisis. By definition, it is the feeling when you question the meaning of life or your personal purpose, or the purpose of life in general. Dr Kersi Chavda says it is common to search for meaning and purpose in life, but an existential crisis arises when satisfactory answers prove elusive. A person going through an existential crisis may find it difficult to cope with not getting the answers to these questions. The lack of answers can trigger an array of symptoms in an individual going through an existential crisis.

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It can trigger internal conflict, frustration and loss of inner joy. This type of crisis may follow significant events such as trauma or loss. Causes of an existential crisis may include guilt, unfulfilled potential, dissatisfaction with self and a lack of achievement, adds the expert.

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Understanding existential crisis. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Another reason why you may question life is the choices you make. While the freedom to make one’s choice should be valued, it also entails responsibility and accountability for the consequences, which can be overwhelming for some people. This may be especially true when they make the wrong choices. This triggers existential anxiety about the meaning of life and the choices you have made, explains the expert.

How to overcome an existential crisis?

Finding meaning and purpose in life can provide hope and assist in overcoming an existential crisis. Here are some strategies suggested by Dr Kersi Chavda that can help you in your plea:

1. Replace negativity with positivity

When you are questioning everything you are doing in life, it is natural to have negative and pessimistic thoughts. Telling yourself that you are making the wrong choices or where you’re going in life is not going to help you overcome an existential crisis. What you should do is pursue something you desire, volunteer for a cause, or just be compassionate and kind in life.

Also Read: Cut out the negative thinking and be more optimistic with these 5 tips

2. Identify your strengths

Don’t wallow in your thoughts and think that you are incapable of doing anything. We all have strengths and positive qualities that may help us understand that we can do better. Also, looking at the positive side of things, you may think that some questions may not have answers. If you can’t find one for yourself, talk to your loved ones or a professional to find a way.

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Identify your inner strengths to overcome existential crisis, Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

3. Don’t confuse existential crisis with anxiety or depression

It is crucial to differentiate between existential crisis and typical anxiety or depression to seek appropriate help if required. Accepting help, including medication if necessary, can alter an individual’s perspective and help them to better understand their role in life.

4. Seek help

It goes without saying that you need to consult a professional if you have been questioning everything in life. You should definitely seek help if you are suicidal. It will help you change the way you think and feel about your role in life.

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