What Is Existential Depression?

Existential depression is a condition where a person experiences feelings of emptiness, purposelessness and a general sense of “being lost” in life. It occurs when a person is unable to find meaning or purpose or experiences a deep sense of disconnection from their surroundings. This type of depression often occurs during times of transition or major life changes or as a result of a major crisis or traumatic event.


There are many possible causes of existential depression. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Major life changes such as moving, starting a new job, or the death of a loved one
  • Feeling a lack of purpose or direction in life
  • Having an existential crisis or questioning the meaning of life
  • Feeling trapped in a life that is not fulfilling or satisfying
  • Suffering from a traumatic event
  • Struggling with addiction, such as drugs or alcohol

Existential depression can also be caused by a combination of these factors.


The symptoms of existential depression can vary from person to person, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Feelings of emptiness or purposelessness
  • A sense of disconnection from one’s surroundings
  • Difficulty finding pleasure in things that were once enjoyable
  • A lack of motivation or energy to do everyday tasks
  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Difficulty sleeping or eating
  • Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm, it is important to seek help immediately. Call your local emergency services or a crisis hotline for support.


The treatment for existential depression often involves a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Some of the most effective treatments include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – a type of therapy that helps people identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors
  • Psychotherapy – a type of therapy that helps people explore their feelings and emotions
  • Medication – antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed to help manage symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Lifestyle changes – making changes to your diet, exercise routine, and sleep habits can help improve mood and reduce anxiety
  • Mindfulness meditation – a practice that can help people become more aware of their thoughts and emotions and manage them more effectively

It is important to work with a qualified mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment for your specific needs.


While it may not be possible to prevent existential depression altogether, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it. These include:

  • Building strong social connections with friends and family
  • Engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment
  • Practicing self-care and stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, and yoga
  • Seeking help early if you begin to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety

By taking steps to care for your mental health and wellbeing, you can reduce your risk of developing existential depression and improve your overall quality of life.


Existential depression is a complex condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s life. However, by understanding the causes and symptoms of this condition, and by seeking help from a qualified mental health professional, it is possible to manage and overcome it. With care and support, those who experience existential depression can find a sense of meaning and purpose and lead fulfilling lives.


FAQs about What Is Existential Depression

1. What are the common symptoms of existential depression?

Some common symptoms of existential depression include an intense feeling of insignificance, loss of purpose, apathy, pessimism, isolation, and detachment from social activities. It can also lead to chronic physical symptoms, like fatigue, headaches, and digestive problems.

2. What causes existential depression?

Existential depression is caused by an individual’s perception of the meaninglessness of life, their purpose, or the lack of control over the events occuring in their lives. It can also occur after experiencing traumatic events like the death of a loved one, a significant change in life circumstances, and other external factors.

3. How can one cope with existential depression?

Seeking professional therapy, practicing mindfulness meditation, engaging in social activities, and talking with friends and family are some proven ways of dealing with existential depression. Working on self-improvement, adopting healthy habits, and exploring new interests can also help in overcoming the feelings of emptiness and lack of purpose associated with existential depression.


1. Park, C. L., & Malone, M. R. (2019). Existential distress and spirituality in palliative care: Theoretical analysis and evidence-based interventions. Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care, 13(1), 38-44. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/co-supportiveandpalliativecare/Fulltext/2019/03000/Existential_distress_and_spirituality_in_palliative.7.aspx

2. Yalom, I. D. (2019). Existential psychotherapy (rev. ed.). Basic Books. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=0vOGDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=existential+depression&ots=HwO6vM2W4q&sig=LH37h6k-OKeed_yB_6o8zHn_Pjw#v=onepage&q=existential%20depression&f=false

3. Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man’s search for meaning. Beacon Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Gx7Samu1zGsC&oi=fnd&pg=PR13&dq=existential+depression&ots=1Qewrj3UYH&sig=TOs78YRnxGgp50p8KtM9X7VfPzw#v=onepage&q=existential%20depression&f=false