Existential crisis treatment

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Last Updated: 08/30/2022

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How to survive an existential crisis with benefit

I am an HR specialist at EPAM, a psychologist and for several years I have been studying the topics of motivation, emotional burnout, life crises and psychological health in general.

It seems to me that if a person understands his own emotions, states, motives better; will be attentive to himself and to his psychological health, this will improve both his life and his environment. Therefore, I consider psychological education important and write about psychology on my blog.

I want to tell Clover readers about an existential crisis - what it is, how it manifests itself, how it differs from ordinary fatigue and burnout, and what to do if you are faced with such a crisis. What is an existential crisis?

During such periods, people often ask questions: “What am I doing here?”, “What am I living for?”, “Am I living the way I wanted to?”

If there are no satisfactory answers, an intrapersonal conflict occurs, which can lead to an existential crisis.

Existential questions accompany a person in different periods of life. Many experience an existential crisis or suffer from existential anxiety when:

  • Going through important events and moving on to a new life stage . For example, they finish school or university, have children, change jobs, retire.
  • Unable to meet social needs . These may be needs for work, family life, cultural leisure, political activity.
  • Face the fact that life is finite . The loss of a loved one, a serious illness, can push you to think about life and death.

It is believed that everyday events cannot provoke an existential crisis, since this type of crisis follows a deep despair or a situation that calls into question the way to live as one lived before. And, for example, a pandemic or major tragic events in the world can push to an existential crisis.

According to some scientists (1), an existential crisis is usually experienced in adulthood - 30-50 years. It is also called the "mid-life crisis" - when a person internally begins to count his own life not from the "beginning of birth", but "until death."

There are studies (2), according to which people can experience an existential crisis more than once, and its causes are not always associated with age-related reassessment of life's meanings.

During an existential crisis, a person may be accompanied by anxiety, a feeling of loneliness and detachment from others, disappointment, loss of inner joy, apathy.

The general signs of an existential crisis are described in more detail here.

Connection of existential crisis with other conditions

If a person is faced with an existential crisis, it can be assumed that it is the crisis that causes the development of depressive symptoms, such as apathy, prolonged periods of sadness, helplessness, loss of pleasure from things that you liked before. On the other hand, if a person suffers from a depressive disorder and feels disconnected from the world, this may raise the questions “What is the meaning of my existence?”, “Do I matter?”, “Does my life have value?”

All that is known at the moment is that existential crises are related to mental health. They can accompany mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and burnout. However, the question of what is the cause and what is the effect is still debatable and is being investigated.

Existential questions can, on the one hand, cause depression. On the other hand, to be the beginning of a revolution, a new life stage.

Existentialists view this crisis as inevitable, but not pathological. In their view, an existential crisis is a journey and a necessary experience. During a crisis, a person reassesses his views and values. This can lead to positive changes and improve the quality of life.

How to survive an existential crisis with benefit

Some people experience crisis unconsciously. If we talk about extreme options, it can be either a rejection of life or a complete disregard for the crisis - people are immersed in activities that distract from existential issues.

One of the founders of existential psychotherapy, the Austrian philosopher and psychologist Viktor Frankl described three classes of values ​​that make a person's life meaningful. These are the values ​​of creativity, the values ​​of experience and the values ​​of attitude.

Based on them, experts have formed several recommendations for those who are faced with a crisis. What can you do on your own?

Share experiences with loved ones . Ask them to tell you what they value in you, in your relationship. Through the love of loved ones and significance for others, you can feel that your life and you yourself matter.

Take an active role in finding answers to questions. Meaning is not discovered, but "made" - the answer to the question of meaning is not in the universe, but in ourselves.

Try asking yourself questions: “What activities give me a sense of meaning?”, “When do I feel that life is filled with joy?”, “What problems excite me and stimulate me to do something?”

It is important to remember that there is no “right” way, right or wrong meanings, a universal guide to managing life.

Don't try to find a one-size-fits-all answer forever: existential questions can come up in front of you throughout your life. Concentrate on what is happening here and now. What seems important at the moment may not matter in 10, 20 years, and vice versa.

Monitor pessimistic thoughts (“life is meaningless, and our efforts are worthless”) and try not to immerse yourself in them . According to V. Frankl, even when we cannot change the circumstances of life, we remain free in what position to take in relation to these circumstances.

If you realize that you cannot cope with the crisis on your own, that it is destroying you, it will be useful to contact a specialist. Including the help of a person with a medical education (psychotherapist, psychiatrist) may be needed. When existential anxiety is too strong, a combination of talk therapy and pharmacotherapy may be needed.

Coping with an existential crisis may involve a combination of self-help techniques, seeking support, and psychotherapy. Strategies tend to vary depending on age and life situation.

Existential crisis and work

Workaholism and burnout can be consequences of escaping from existential anxiety. In this case, when professional activity is interrupted (weekends or vacations come), a person is faced with an alarming state: work is no longer able to “protect” from existential issues. Viktor Frankl called this phenomenon "weekend neurosis" (3).

Some experts believe (4) that one of the main causes of burnout is a failed search for meaning in professional activities. Psychotherapist Alfried Lenglet argued (5) that those who do not realize the values ​​that they feel as their own are susceptible to burnout syndrome.

How to find meaning in work?

Above, I have already described three classes of values ​​that, according to V. Frankl, make it possible to make a person's life meaningful: the values ​​of experience, the values ​​of attitude and the values ​​of creativity. Let's take a closer look at the latter.

V.Frankl understands the value of creativity in a broad context - these are the values ​​of creation in general, which a person realizes, including in the process of work.

“If a person is busy with his own business or realizes a mission, then the highest meaning for a person becomes the search for opportunities to perform his work as efficiently as possible (…) What is decisive in the perception of the situation is not the position held, but what a person is able to bring to his work as a unique individual.

In some areas it is easier to find meaning, in others it is more difficult. It can be difficult to see the contribution and be proud of the work when you are one of a dozen or hundreds of people who work on a project.

You can find meaning in work by consciously connecting it with the specific people we serve. Ask yourself what are you creating, for whom, how does it help others? If the answers are not at all satisfactory, this is a reason to contact a specialist and, possibly, change something.

You can find more meaning by helping others. According to research (6), people who help others feel happier. You can implement this idea in your work. For example, offer help to a colleague who has been struggling with a difficult task for several days, or help a new employee understand the processes of the company and the project.

The way we arrange our own work also influences the sense of meaning in the routine. We invest more when three things come together at work: the implementation of our skills, values ​​and passion.

Think about what these three aspects are and how you can implement them in your work. It's not about changing your role drastically, but about realizing your unique strengths and how you can use them to help your team and project achieve their goals.


Existential crisis: what is it and how to overcome it? We tell you what an existential crisis is, how to deal with it and why sometimes a crisis is a point of growth

Existential crisis:

  1. What is it
  2. Features
  3. Types
  4. How to overcome
  5. Benefits of Crisis

Existentialism, one of the main philosophical trends of the 20th century, focuses on the uniqueness of human being. It is also called the "philosophy of existence". The word itself comes from the Latin existentia - existence.

The forerunner of existentialism was the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. Back in the 19th century, he first formulated the concept of "existence", opposing it to the "system" of the German idealist Hegel. Later, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Martin Heidegger and others were ranked among the existentialists. Basic in understanding the philosophy of existentialism is Sartre's work "Existentialism is humanism" (1946).

In the 1930s and 1960s, psychological schools began to appear that linked existential philosophy with psychology.

One of the founders of existential psychology was the Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher Viktor Frankl. During World War II, Frankl went through several concentration camps; on the basis of this experience, in 1945, one of his main works was written - the book "Say Yes to Life!": A Psychologist in a Concentration Camp. This and other writings of Frankl served as a source for humanistic psychology, as well as existential psychotherapy. The main thesis of this method says that the lack of meaning is the main stress for a person. Logotherapy, the method of Viktor Frankl, is based on helping a person find the meaning of life. The literal translation of this term is “treatment with meaning”.

What is an existential crisis

An existential crisis is a feeling of anxiety and anxiety associated with the loss of the meaning of life. This concept has been widely studied by such existential psychologists as Irvin Yalom and Rollo May.

Kierkegaard wrote about existential anxiety: in 1844, the philosopher's short book on anxiety was published, in which he declared: "He who has learned to worry correctly has learned the highest."

Together with Alena Kutduzova, an expert from the psychological center "On Myasnitskaya", we will tell you more about the existential crisis.

Alena Kutduzova, existential-humanistic psychotherapist:

“Essentially, an existential crisis is the loss of the meaning of life. It arises when a person is faced with life given that cannot be changed. It could be someone's death - a reminder that I will die too; loneliness - "no one will fully understand me, because there is no person in the world exactly the same as me"; the uncertainty of life - "no one knows what will happen tomorrow."

An existential crisis can be provoked by a difficult situation in the world, uncertainty in the economic sphere, illness of a loved one, a direct encounter with death, great life upheavals. An existential crisis is always connected with how a person lives his life, how fully and deeply, and arises either when this life is threatened - direct or indirect, or in a situation where life does not suit the person himself.

It is believed that existential crises are characteristic of people of middle and older age, with an already formed life position and acquired experience. However, young people also face the challenges of loneliness, freedom and responsibility, the search for meaning and purpose in life. Such a crisis is more commonly referred to as a "quarter-life crisis".

Signs of an existential crisis

Like any crisis state, an existential crisis includes several components and can manifest itself in different ways.

We will talk about some of the signs by which you can trace that a person is going through a crisis, and also what exactly indicates the existential nature of the crisis.

  • Sleep and daily routine disorders

Crisis states are often accompanied by disturbance of natural processes. The body reacts to stress, so a person experiencing a crisis may suffer from sleep disturbance, when thoughts of loss of meaning are haunted. Additionally, the crisis often provokes symptoms of depression: it is more difficult for a person to follow the daily routine, concentration decreases, appetite may change.

  • Decreased mood

Anxiety and confusion can also indicate an existential crisis. During the crisis, a person may be faced with the idea that he lives his life in vain and that nothing makes sense. This causes a feeling of helplessness, fear of the future and sadness, sometimes leading to apathy. This condition is also characterized by frequent mood swings.

  • Communication problems

An existential crisis affects relationships with loved ones and the environment, although the person himself may not track this. In a crisis, it seems to a person that those close to him no longer appreciate him or the relationship does not make sense, does not carry positive emotions. Also, trust can sometimes weaken - in this case, it is more difficult for a person to seek help and receive support from loved ones.

  • Fear of death

More precisely, an acute fear of death indicates an existential crisis. It can be caused by facing death in the form of loss of a loved one or evidence of a humanitarian catastrophe. Awareness of one's own mortality causes intense fear and anxiety, it can also lead to the idea that death makes life meaningless.

Leo Tolstoy wrote about a similar condition. The writer experienced sudden acute fear and confusion at the thought of death and called it "Arzamas horror."

  • Loss of life goal

The main problem of a person in an existential crisis is the loss of the meaning of life, the loss of orientation and life purpose. A person feels lonely, frustrated, does not understand why he lives. These experiences interfere with planning the future, setting goals and achieving them. A person in crisis is also less likely to dream; big tasks cause him stress and anxiety, but not inspiration and excitement.

Types of existential crisis

An existential crisis is an umbrella term that combines several types of crisis states. All types are characterized by such signs as anxiety, loss of meaning in life and confusion , however, they differ in causes and influence on aspects of a person's life.

  • Crisis of freedom and responsibility

Existential philosophers endowed freedom with great significance in human life. However, when a person realizes that he is free, responsibility for his own life and decisions follows. This responsibility can be frightening, can cause feelings of powerlessness and bitterness due to the uncertainty of the future. Under the pressure of this type of crisis, it is difficult for a person to make decisions, make changes in life and, in principle, make a choice.

  • Mortality crisis

This is the type of existential crisis that is accompanied by a strong fear of death and painful thoughts around it. In addition to encounters with death, such a crisis can occur in an adult, for example after fifty years, when he realizes that life is half lived.

  • Isolation Crisis

Despite the fact that personal space and time alone are very important for a person, long isolation can lead to an existential crisis. People are social and do not tolerate loneliness, so events such as a pandemic and other circumstances leading to a long absence of live communication can cause a feeling of loneliness and meaninglessness of life.

  • Emotional crisis

Crisis can also occur in those people who are used to blocking negative emotions. Sometimes it seems easier not to experience painful emotions, but in most cases suppressing anger, irritation, bitterness and resentment leads to increased stress and can negatively affect health.

How to overcome an existential crisis

An existential crisis is an integral part of human life. The crisis raises important questions, the answers to which help us take a step forward, set our priorities right and move on. However, if the crisis is experienced very hard, causes anxiety and depression, these signals should not be ignored.

  • Define area of ​​responsibility

An existential crisis is often provoked by events beyond the control of the person. Here it is important to determine what you can influence, and what should be taken for granted. Focusing on the tasks at hand will help combat feelings of powerlessness and confusion.

Alena Kutduzova:

“It is important to pay attention to how you live here and now, to what extent what you are doing right now, right today, corresponds exactly to your desires, beliefs and values. Do not put off until later something not urgent, but important for you personally. To do this, you need to conduct an audit of moral and life values, to understand what really makes sense for you, and what is imposed by the family, society or culture.

  • Let feelings express themselves

Prolonged suppression of feelings can in itself cause a crisis. However, in cases where the existential crisis is caused by something else, you should not close and block these feelings. In a crisis, a person feels lonely, misunderstood and tends to devalue relationships with loved ones.

You can fight this by opening up to others, discussing your crisis, and honestly sharing your fears. In some cases, you can join dedicated support groups where people with similar problems share and support each other.

  • Find source of alarm

Existential psychology believes that an existential crisis always has a cause. Finding and understanding this reason means making a conscious choice and getting out of the crisis.

The first symptom a person encounters is anxiety. Anxiety differs from fear in that it is not directed at something specific, it seems to be hanging in the air, and we are afraid of something specific. If anxiety attacks occur regularly, then in addition to situational ways to cope with it, it is necessary to understand its source, and for this you need to “follow” it.

Practice: follow the alarm

Set aside a time for this when no one will bother you, find a safe place for yourself, where you are calm and comfortable, sit comfortably and try to feel this alarm. Mentally follow in that direction those thoughts and images that reinforce this anxiety. Go to the end and look at the source of this anxiety, look at what you are really afraid of. Now that you know the source of your anxiety, you can consciously choose your next course of action. This practice requires a certain amount of courage, but only awareness will help you find a way out of an existential crisis.

  • Call for help

In times of crisis, it is important to monitor your condition and, if necessary, seek help in time. If a severe emotional state interferes with work for a long time, affects relationships with loved ones, health deteriorates, suicidal thoughts appear, a feeling of hopelessness and hopelessness, a feeling of despair, then you need to contact a specialist. Psychologists-psychotherapists of the existential-humanistic direction work with existential crises. If the symptoms are severe and medical support is needed, then a competent specialist will advise a consultation with a neuropathologist or psychiatrist.

Crisis is a point of growth

Despite the fact that a crisis is a difficult time, it can also become a point of important life changes. Alena Kutduzova told RBC how to survive the crisis with benefit and gain valuable life experience through it. And also what practices can help on this difficult path.

Alena Kutduzova:

“An existential crisis can be an opportunity to rethink your life, emerge from your everyday, calm and narrow little world in which we stay most of the time, and look with horror and admiration at the world order around. In fact, there is a lot to be gained from an existential crisis. Faced with loneliness, you can better understand yourself as a person, your needs and desires, reconsider your social circle.

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