You have probably heard the term existential crisis, perhaps more frequently in recent months. But what does it mean? According to dictionary.com, it's a psychological episode where you begin to question the meaning of your existence or life (https://www.dictionary.com/e/pop-culture/existential-crisis/).
You feel uneasy about choices, freedoms, and the meaning of life. The main concern is always this – the idea that life is pointless and our existence has no meaning whatsoever because there are boundaries and eventually, we all die.
The most common time we experience these feelings is during periods of transition. It boils down to our inability or struggles to adapt. For example, when a recent high school graduate is faced with moving away from home for the first time to attend college or an adult is struggling with a challenging divorce.
These are situations where the very foundation of your life is shaken or crumbling. So, it would be natural to question the meaning of life when faced with such change and disruption.
A Feeling of Overwhelm
To be more precise, you feel overwhelmed by the idea of death, whether it's your own or someone else's. If you suddenly have an increased awareness about the reality of death, or even how difficult life can be, then this can lead to overwhelming bouts of contemplation. You may experience thoughts like – If I am doomed to die, what is the point of living at all?
A Feeling of Sadness
Do you dwell on the past? While it's normal to sometimes think about moments from your past, it may be a sign that you're going through an existential crisis. That is if you do so constantly or start to feel sad about the direction or path you took in life.
For example, if you wish you'd taken a different turn in your career and imagine what could have been. Or you think about a former romantic partner that you consider the one who got away, even though you're with someone now. Both are unhealthy and may indicate an existential crisis. Moreover, it can correspond with or lead to depression.
Overwhelmed By Worry
Are you preoccupied with the meaning of life? Do you question all of your life choices? This level of worry is not healthy and it can create severe anxiety. It may also lead you to question future decisions if you don't believe you can be trusted to make the right choice. If you are overwhelmed by worry then you may be experiencing an existential crisis.
Naps – A New Pastime
If you are suddenly napping more than you have ever napped before, then you may be dealing with an existential crisis. If it's not a problem with napping, it may be that you simply check out of reality more often than before. If you frequently stare off into the distance or check out of conversations, then you may be dealing with something bigger.
If you feel glum no matter what positive thing happens around you, then it might be an existential crisis. You get a promotion – meh. Your friend is pregnant – meh. Your favorite musician released a new album for the first time in years – meh. You decided to treat yourself to takeout from your favorite restaurant – meh. It doesn't matter what is going on, you just can't boost your attitude above a meh.
There are certain periods of your life or situations that may trigger an existential crisis. They commonly occur following the diagnosis of a major illness, financial issues (such as bankruptcy), bereavement, too much responsibility, a landmark birthday, gender confirmation, dealing with sexuality, job loss, divorce, a newly empty nest, and even a loss of or change to your religion or faith.