Existential dread is when one starts to question the purpose and point of life itself.
It is 2 in the afternoon. You are staring at your computer, trying to complete that report. But, you are unable to. Negative thoughts are racing through your mind -- “What is the point of my life?” you think. “What is the point of anything when I am eventually going to die?” “What difference will any of this make? And we all are eventually going to die,” you think. This is existential dread talking. Although everyone goes through it at some point in his/her life, you don’t need anyone else to tell you how difficult it can be to deal with a sense of purposelessness and hopelessness.
To understand better, what leads to such anxiety about existence, how is it different from depression, and how to cope with it, Onlymyhealth spoke to Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Sr. Consultant- Psychiatry, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram. “Existentialism is a philosophical approach that deals with issues of human existence,” said Dr Kapoor. And “existential dread or anxiety stems from the feeling of confusion or purposelessness of existence itself,” she added. Thoughts such as ‘what’s the point of my life,’ ‘what’s the point of living if one has to eventually die,’ and ‘why go through the struggle of building a life which you can’t control,’ goes through the person’s mind, Dr Kapoor explained.
There could be several reasons behind such a feeling:
Existential dread and anxiety are sometimes used interchangeably. While we may all feel existential anxiety during traumatic or difficult circumstances, dread is a more intense form of anxiety that provokes escapist behaviour. On the other hand, depression is the feeling of sadness and loss of interest or motivation, whereas anxiety is more of activation of flight or fight response which leads to unpleasant feelings, uneasiness, and fear, the doctor explained.
Existential questions like meaning and purpose of life for an unfulfilled individual can trigger a number of issues, such as:
If you are going through such a thing, here is how you can deal with it:
Also, if your thoughts become too overwhelming and you find it difficult to deal with the negativity, then it is best to seek professional help.
(With inputs from Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Sr. Consultant- Psychiatry, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram)
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