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If you experience depression, you will want to understand what existential depression is. It may be a factor in, or source of your symptoms. Existential depression can occur when an individual confronts or contemplates issues of human existence. Irvin Yalom describes the four basic existential issues as: meaninglessness, freedom, death, and isolation.
The contemplation of these concepts is a minefield of paradox, u-turns, dead-ends, and roads that end at the beginning of another one. Our thinking mind is out-matched by the questions we are considering.
People who experience existential depression prior to middle age are usually those prone to contemplation or reflection on life’s “big questions.” Because they imagine how things might be many are idealists. Simultaneously, they realize how little the world matches its potential. Contemplatives also pick up on absurdity, hypocrisy, and the arbitrariness of the world.
It is impossible to deal with existential questions in a concrete manner. Goals and action steps will not provide answers although action is a perfect compliment to contemplation.
In trying to make sense of existence and live peacefully with the questions, we can get sucked further into them. The result is wondering what the point of living is if we are only an insignificant bit of humanity living in an unfair world where the only certainty is death. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it?
Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.
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