Maybe you’ve heard the word before, but do you really know what it’s like to drown in an existential crisis?
An existential crisis is defined as a moment that an individual questions the meaning of life. It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? The truth is, to be in a crisis is to question much more than life itself, it also means questioning relationships, decisions, motivations and other stress-inducing scenarios. It can be closely related to anxiety, in fact.
For those who don’t know delve into the depths of their own existence, life seems pretty straightforward and cheerful. People like this seem to concern themselves more with what they want for dinner, what they want to do with their friends over the weekend and so on. I guess people like this are happier than people who worry and stress every day about their own existence but not more intelligent. After all, ignorance is bliss, right?
Having an existential crisis has certain characteristics, both good and bad.
Not to sound gloomy or place those who suffer from this crisis in a negative category, but there are certain criteria that indicate this illness. There are words, body language and even activities that mean you or your loved one is questioning their own existence and is searching for more than life provides.
Here are a few ways to pinpoint those who are in the grip of this crisis:
Spending too much time on social media
Aside from work and keeping in touch with friends, social media is not the best way to spend your time, but this is where you will find those who suffer the most.
In fact, the more they question reality, the more they mindlessly browse social media. What they’re doing is looking for meaning in any way or form that they can find. Instead of finding meaning, however, they are faced with comparisons.
Confused about socializing
Those who suffer from an existential crisis are confused about spending time with people. Although they really want the company of friends and loved ones, they also want to be alone.
Sometimes, this is simultaneous and makes relations with others strained and difficult. You will notice this trait in those who suffer, as they strive to find some balance in their opposing feelings.
This is an obvious sign. Ever meet those people who just love to spend the entire day questioning all sorts of things, swimming in their deepest ruminations and then analyzing opinions on things as well? Yes, you know you’ve been around these people many times. Well, those people are suffering, and their tough questions about existence are things that are bothering them.
The state of their lives, the meaning of their relationships – all these things won’t leave them alone and haunt their dreams at night as well. You will know they suffer from the obsession they have with always wanting to know more.
Losing identity, losing home
If someone you know seems empty, void of who they are and what they want, then you could be looking at someone who is having an existential crisis. During the throes of this illness, people will wonder who they really are, their past identities will fade, as will their previous feelings of “home”.
They will seem confused about what they stand for and what they like, as they are transitioning from one form of themselves to another. It’s as if they are truly changing from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Watch as the pain of not knowing turns into the bliss of finding true self – the existential awakening process. This part is interesting.
Drinking lots of coffee
People who suffer from an existential crisis tend to drink large amounts of coffee during the day. There are a few reasons for this. Coffee=productivity, it’s just a universal knowledge. Those who go through existential struggles need to continually feel motivated.
They also use coffee drinking as a crutch to start their day. Nothing can get done until the coffee is brewed, or you’re never fully awake until coffee hits the scene. If you are sitting around mulling over the meaning of life, then you need that coffee to provide the answer. For some people, a portion of the answer is at the bottom of the cup.
Note: Some people who suffer see alcohol and cigarettes as their crutch and solution instead of coffee. All it takes is getting to the bottom of the bottle and the butt of the cigarette – this is the solution. It’s sad but true.
Contradictory to being inspired by coffee, this crisis can cause low motivation. You will notice those who suffer will have little to no motivation, unable to be productive, and almost in a state of depression.
This mental fatigue will also transform into physical fatigue, which is another small indicator of enduring an existential crisis. Sometimes, they just give up hope for meaning and purpose. ☹
Dwelling on death
People in an existential crisis will think about death, talk about death and even create morbid images in their artwork. It’s because they know full well about their imminent death.
Yes, we’re all aware that we will die someday, but the sufferers can’t live their life without the shadow of death standing over them. They worry, every single day about when they will die. This affects the level of life’s enjoyment for them.
Crying is common
People who go through this existential darkness will cry easily. Movies will cause an avalanche of emotions, as will the mistreatment of animals, and homeless people. Even the sadness of others will have the same effect.
Everything that can be seen as emotional, will be emotional for them. It’s not something to make fun of either because so many things are truly heart-wrenching. You will notice them by the tears they shed.
Becoming a hypochondriac
Another indicator of this illness, and yes, it is an illness, is the transformation into a hypochondriac. Now, not all who suffer will make this change, which is a good thing, but many do fall victim.
A hypochondriac is someone who is afraid of being sick and they will visit doctors out of fear. Many times, they aren’t sick at all, they are only paranoid. The real illness will be what drives them.
Freedom from this hell
Crisis doesn’t create character; it reveals it.
There are treatments for people who are suffering from existential anxieties. One of the most notable treatments would be categorized as existential-humanistic treatment. Unlike routine psychology, this form of treatment focuses on your personalized concerns for your future and the things that are holding you back mentally.
Existential-humanistic psychology does one important thing according to Ph.D. Louise Sundararajan,
“It asks about the meaning of life.”
I will end on that question and let the words bounce around in your head a bit. Do you wonder? Do you question the meaning of life? Are you or someone you love suffering from an existential crisis?
If so, you’re not alone.
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