Existential depression is a topic I would like to write about today, as it might be useful to some of you who might be feeling depressed and don’t know why. My darling husband has been struggling with this for quite awhile and it is currently affecting our holiday.I just wanted to shed some light on a topic that many people experience but isn’t talked about much.
Existential Depression is very common amongst highly gifted adults and is defined as:
” A depression that arises when an individual confronts certain basic issues of existence. Yalom (1980) describes four such issues (or “ultimate concerns”)–death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness.”
Gifted adults usually start to experience this in young adulthood and it includes feelings of:
- Lack of focus and direction
Existential depression is generally understood to be caused by personal, environment and professional mismatches: Typically
A gifted adult’s inability to find a place and/or relationships where “deeper issues” and “bigger problems” can be shared, explored and mastered. This includes the difficulty gifted young adults have in finding inspiring mentors and coaches with whom they can identify
These deeper issues and bigger problems can be:
Rarely described elsewhere but often expressed by our gifted adult patients are other causes of existential depression:
The meaninglessness of accomplishments and achievements
Precocious and impressive as they may be to others, success that occurs without serious challenge and effort can feel worthless
Resolving conflicts between the need for personal gain and the desire to be altruistic:
Feelings of pride, pleasure and the financial rewards that come from actual hard work can conflict with the need to help others and make meaningful social contributions
Conflicts and anxieties about becoming a leader:
Admiration and praise of parents, peers, teachers and even mentors can make a gifted adult feel “too powerful.” This is especially true of gifted young adults who may feel this unusual power is “too much” and has come “ too soon”
Working out fears about the use and misuse of the power and charisma that can often accompany giftedness is vital — unwarranted feelings of guilt can cause the passionate pursuit of a grand vision to feel empty and meaningless
Balancing time for private thought and investigation with the need for social contact with others is an important task
Finding a way to depend on others that does not seem false
Getting comfortable with the intuitive ( sometimes called “extra-cognitive”) aspects of giftedness.
Special abilities to see beyond the ordinary and the capacity for having immediate and spontaneous insights can make gifted adults feel detached, removed and strangely different from others.
For a detailed discussion of the “extra-cognitive” aspects of Giftedness please go to ( create link to the Psychodynamic Psychotherapy article p.117 )
The capacity for unusual insight may extend beyond the academic and artistic to the psychological: At times gifted individuals feel they can “see” beyond social facades and understand what “really” motivates other people. This capacity can begin to develop in childhood and become quite sophisticated in young adulthood but it can also make a gifted young adult feel guilty: possibilities for helping other people can get confused with possibilities for manipulating them. Resolving these conflicts is important so that gifted adults do not abandon their giftedness by concluding that it is too dangerous.
From the above source, you can see that there are specialist psychotherapists that deal with the difficulties gifted adults have, but I must admit that in regards to my husband finding support, it hasn’t been easy.
From my experience, encouraging him to do the things he loves the most, helps his overall mood.
Do you have any experience with someone who suffers with existential depression?
Or are you maybe someone yourself who struggles with it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts
Love Athina ♥
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