Do you find yourself waking up, going to work and feeling like life is a never-ending loop of the same day? Maybe you’ve started to question the point of it all, including why we’ve been put onto this planet to spend 80 years of our lives working so that we can pay our bills and take one annual vacation. If these thoughts sound familiar, you might be in the midst of an existential crisis.
Know that existential crises are normal, so you shouldn’t panic. Still, it’s not a state you want to live in for very long as it can take a toll on your mental health. It’s essential to understand what an existential crisis is so that you know how to help others — and yourself. Keep reading for a complete overview of the condition, how long it lasts and how to treat it.
What Is an Existential Crisis?
An existential crisis is an internal conflict people have when they start questioning their purpose and the meaning of life. The individual struggles with their identity or place in the world, and this crisis can often bring up feelings of unease, depression and anxiety.
How Common Are Existential Crises?
Existential crises are fairly common. It can be challenging to determine how many people have experienced an existential crisis because many go through one (or more) without realizing it. Instead, they might think they’re going through a depressive episode or a generally challenging time in their life.
Some people suggest everyone goes through at least one existential crisis in their lifetime. It’s human nature to question our purpose and wonder if we’re being fulfilled. And while these are valid thoughts, it’s important that individuals don’t let the existential crisis last too long as it can impact their mental health.
How Long Does an Existential Crisis Last?
An existential crisis doesn’t typically last forever but it can go on for a while if left untreated. Some people report their crisis lasting just a few days, while others say theirs lasted years.
If someone is experiencing an existential crisis for more than a week, it’s essential to seek professional help to work through those feelings.
The Dangerous Side to an Existential Crisis
As mentioned above, this type of crisis comes with feelings of anxiety, depression, unease and general unhappiness. Other symptoms of this condition are:
- Obsessive-compulsive thoughts
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Having low motivation and energy
- Feeling alone regardless of the support and relationships you have
These are not good feelings to live with for an extended period. Someone in this sort of state might start to behave differently, such as:
- Quitting their job and spending all their savings
- Dropping hobbies, passions and interests they once loved
- Isolating from friends and family
- Neglecting to take care of oneself
- Losing faith in religion
In severe cases where isolation, anxiety and depression have taken over for a while, individuals may be at risk of harming themselves or turning to substances to cope with their feelings.
How to Deal With an Existential Crisis
Existential crises happen, and sometimes they can be a good thing. Sometimes when an individual questions their purpose, they have the courage to make a change they’ve always wanted to make. For example, the crisis might help someone leave the job they hate and finally try to break into their dream career field. However, that’s not always how an existential crisis goes or feels. Often, it brings on negative emotions that feel confusing and difficult to understand. Luckily, there are several approaches you can take to deal with an existential crisis and work through it:
One of the best solutions for an existential crisis is connection. This type of crisis can make a person feel very lonely. As a result, talking to friends and family about your feelings can be very helpful. They can support you through your situation, which can help to ensure you don’t feel so alone. Additionally, your friends and family might have helpful insights and suggestions. For example, they might encourage you to book that dream vacation or finally start that passion project.
It sounds simple, but a gratitude journal can really help. An existential crisis comes with general feelings of unhappiness about your life. So, it’s important to shift your thinking, when possible, to the things that are great in your life. A five-minute gratitude journal every morning can help you realign to more positive thoughts and get your day started on a good note.
If your existential crisis is focused on one particular issue, like work, it might be time for a change. This crisis might be the very thing you need to push you into a new direction. Evaluate your crisis and try to understand if there’s something to learn from it that can make your overall life better.
If your existential crisis is lasting a long time or resulting in deep, negatively adverse feelings (including depression or anxiety), it’s time to get some professional help. You don’t want your condition to last years or drive you to reckless behavior, such as turning to substances to cope. A therapist can help you work through your feelings, understand what’s driving them and work with you to address them.
What to Do if It Is Causing Harm
Monitor the impact your existential crisis is having on your mental health. If it’s impacting your mental well-being, there is no shame in getting help. Make sure you seek help right away if you are experiencing the following:
- Your feelings are starting to interfere with your life (including your hygiene, work and relationships)
- You stop seeing others and prefer to be alone all the time
- You increase the use of substances to manage your feelings (drugs and alcohol)
- You have thoughts of self-harm and suicide
Restore Mental Health Can Help
Don’t go through your existential crisis on your own. At Restore Mental Health, our caring medical staff will help you get the treatment you need. An escape to a new environment may be the very thing you need to help you sort through this life crisis. Find out how we can support you today by reviewing the programs we offer.