Recently, there has been much more conversation in the public sphere about mental health. Many people have opened up about their struggles with such issues as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder. While this is a good thing, there is still a lot that goes unsaid, and one topic that remains un-talked about is existential depression.
One of five subtypes of depression, existential depression is underpinned by deep feelings of emptiness and numbness; a spiritual crisis, if you will. If you find that you’re the type of person who tends to think and feel deeply, are highly sensitive, introspective and perceptive, or tend to feel alienated from society, it’s quite possible that you could suffer from existential depression. Our guide explains what is existential depression and how to overcome this mental illness.
Types of Depression
While the concept of depression, (the mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness) is generally pretty well-known, not a lot of people talk about the different types of depression. There are, however, five subtypes of depression. These include:
- Situational depression – Depression arising from a particular incident, such as the death of a loved one, loss of one’s job or home, divorce, or an accident, among other things
- Hormonal depression – The type of depression that results from an imbalance of chemicals within the brain
- Biological depression – Depression that is caused by genetics
- Seasonal depression – Also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this is depression that comes from the changing of the seasons, usually occurring in winter
- Existential depression – Depression that is characterized by a lack of meaning, purpose, and soul connection in your life.
While each type of depression deserves its own discussion, we are focusing on existential depression as it is underdiscussed and requires a different approach than the other types of depression.
What Is Existential Depression?
In a 2012 paper published in European Psychiatry, scholar Seubert found that for a specific population, the traditional idea of depression or therapy methods are not effective. This framework was linked to the theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD) – a concept of personality development devised by psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski (1902-1980). The TPD views depression not as an illness, but an indicator of a person’s creative potential.
If you think of hormonal depression as a mental disorder, you can think of existential depression as a spiritual one. Striking mostly people who are thoughtful, perceptive, and have a tendency to want to understand and make the most out of life, existential depression can be intense, pervading, and even crippling. Generally speaking, it is characterized by feelings of numbness, desolation, and emptiness.
How Do I Know If I Have Existential Depression?
If you experience any of the following phenomenon or, more critically, many or even all of them in combination, it could be a sign that you have existential depression.
- Sorrow, gloom, or misery
- Fatigue, tiredness, or lack of energy
- Having a consistent and irrepressible desire to understand questions without answers such as:
- What happens after people die?
- Why was I brought into existence?
- Is there a larger purpose to life?
- Often experiencing thoughts and asking questions about deeper topics such as the meaning of life, the purpose of human life (including your own), and the nature of existence
- Feeling a sense of disconnect and isolation from other people, like you struggle to make friends or to relate to others
- Being unhappy or dissatisfied with the state of society and the human soul
- Feeling like others aren’t preoccupied with the same things you that are, like they do not understand you and care about the same issues as you do
- A deep sense of loneliness that lasts for a significant length of time
- Feeling numb, empty, or deadened
- Sensing that society and social connections are shallow and superficial
- Feeling that most of life’s pursuits are pointless, futile, or vain
- Loss of motivation, enthusiasm, and excitement
- Losing interest in the kinds of hobbies and pursuits that once intrigued you
- Thoughts of suicide or even attempting suicide
If you found yourself nodding along to this list, it may very well be that you have existential depression.
Causes of Existential Depression
Existential depression is fundamentally different than the other kinds. It can’t be tied to a passing life event or a chemical imbalance. It’s not biological, hormonal, or incidental. Rather, it is related to a crisis of the spirit or the soul, which is an area of human life that is unexamined and not always taken seriously by the modern medical establishment.
However, losing touch with our souls, feeling that we don’t have a purpose and not understanding our place in the world are problems that are both common and serious. In fact, failing to take care of these can effectively lead to a spiritual loss of life.
However, usually existential depression doesn’t come out of nowhere. Rather, it’s triggered by something, like childhood trauma, a particular hardship, sudden life change, or life circumstances that cause you to live soullessly. This can be working a superficial job, lacking meaningful connection, lacking strong values, and so on. The good news is that understanding the root cause of your existential depression can help guide you in your process of growing past it.
5 Ways to Overcoming Existential Depression
That brings us to the final and most important question: how can you treat your existential depression? It bears saying that the approach needed for existential depression is different than other types, which may respond to psychotherapy or medication. However, many people with existential depression find that neither of these options helps them. This can unfortunately often leave them feeling even more hopeless and isolated than they began.
That’s why it’s so important to try modalities specifically meant to address what lies at the core of existential depression: a lack of meaning and soul connection. Here are just a few that might help.
Body Code and Emotion Code
Designed by Dr. Bradley Nelson to help get rid of emotional baggage and correct energetic imbalances. Body Code and Emotion Code can help clear you of harmful energy from past traumatic events. Emotion Code focuses on using kinesiology to release trapped emotions that were not fully processed, freeing you from them. Body Code clears energetic imbalances by using muscle testing to release hidden energy. Both methods, when executed by an experienced practitioner like Utopian Wellness, can help you achieve balance and heal from existential depression.
RTT, which stands for Rapid Transformational Therapy, uses techniques associated with hypnosis and hypnotherapy, like trance, regression, and conditioning. However, it goes beyond just communicating with your subconscious. The focus of hypnosis, and does the additional work of actually accessing and fixing obstructions that may be hidden there. This can be helpful if your existential depression is related to a blockage caused by an event like childhood trauma. Of course, it is important to find a practitioner you trust in order to get the most out of RTT.
If your existential depression is affecting your physical health it’s a good idea to find a holistic nutrition practitioner. These professionals are trained to look at your health from a holistic perspective. They take into account physical, chemical and spiritual factors. The goal is understanding you as a unique individual. It is worth seeking out if rebalancing your system can have an effect on your spiritual wellness – or vice versa.
A big factor of existential depression is its ability to make you feel lonely, isolated, and disconnected. A sense of the superficiality and shallowness of society can discourage you from trying to make friendships. One of the best ways you can address this is to seek others who understand you. Find like-minded people who also care about issues like purpose and spirituality.
Retreats and the community aspect of Urban Ashram offer a space to nourish mind, body and soul. You get access to others who may be going through the same types of struggle, and loneliness is the first to be alleviated. This beings the much needed foundation of building healthy habits and uplifting your perspectives. A community like Urban Ashram allows for much needed inspiration for the existentially depressed, for simply the discovery of one’s purpose alone can facilitate transformational healing .
If existential depression is making you feel stuck, unfulfilled or lacking meaning, the Urban Ashram community will help start you on a journey of healing and reconnecting with your true potential for happiness.