We all go through times when we feel like there isn’t much around us that makes sense, including our existence. Existential anxiety appears in periods of crisis.
“What is the point of all this that we are experiencing? Will every effort I make be of any use to me? Why do I feel so lonely and lost lately? Existential anxiety is accompanied by a series of complex and profound questions that philosophers like S øren Kierkegaard already raised in his day.
They define a set of feelings and discomfort about life in general terms that one does not really know how to deal with. Thus, we are not wrong if we say that this psychological reality is more and more frequent. In periods of global crisis, human beings question their position in the world, wondering about its meaning and significance.
It is a discontent combined with a critical vision of things in which a certain feeling of anguish is also integrated. Somehow, we are led into a period of reflection and also of internal conflict from which – and in the best of cases – make new decisions and change some perspectives.
However, it is clearly not a friendly or easy experience to handle.
What is the symptoms of existential anxiety?
Søren Kierkegaard said that it is usual, and even necessary, to allow ourselves to be trapped from time to time by existential anxiety. It is a way of becoming aware that we are mortal and thus charting new vital purposes.
The equation seems easy, but the practice is certainly complicated. Because in states of anxiety, if there is something difficult, it is to be able to think clearly and make decisions.
Thoughts become irrational, repetitive, and unhealthy. Likewise, the physical symptoms are battled between tachycardias, muscle aches, headaches, sleep disturbances, panic attacks … In this way, although philosophy has deepened this concept, psychology draws a more realistic vision when taking into account the point of clinical view.
The characteristics of existential anxiety are nourished by a state of temporary anguish of the human being. Research papers, such as those carried out at the Vienna Institute of Logotherapy, for example, point to something important. Behind this condition, there is fear, anguish, and a feeling of threat. The person stops feeling safe and doubts those social structures that were previously signed to them.
Thus, if these perceptions and psychological states are not adequately addressed, there is a risk of leading to depression. It is decisive, therefore, to know how this type of anxiety manifests itself.
- Feeling of overexertion and worthlessness
One of the characteristics of existential anxiety is physical and psychological exhaustion. The person thinks that he is investing time and effort in things that are not worth it . He is at the limit of his strength: what is the point of suffering so much for this work? Where does all this exhaustion and all the resources I have invested take me? Will everything I’m doing help me?
- Negative valence emotions such as anguish, restlessness, and regret
Something recurrent in these contexts of existential anxiety is feeling trapped by constant anguish. The person questions everything he has done and what surrounds him. He mistrusts the present and the future, and that mistrust makes the “ground” wobble under his feet, under what not long ago gave him meaning.
He regrets many things he has done and in turn perceives a constant state of unease. It is a mixture of nervousness and a sense of persistent threat.
- Loss of vital meanings
This type of anxiety is associated with a loss of the sense of authenticity. Nothing is what was originally thought. The perception that society is fallible is reinforced .
That vision, that feeling is lived with certain anger, disappointment, and a touch of rage. The person even feels bad about himself for having placed his trust in these social structures.
Few things can be more dangerous to psychological balance than the perception that life has lost its meaning. Perceiving that nothing is as one thought and that society has failed puts the person in a state of anxiety that can later build a depressive disorder.
- Sense of isolation
One of the characteristics of existential anxiety is the feeling that no one understands what one is going through. It is as if the reality and the rumor of the world were on the one hand and the mind itself on the other.
The feelings of loneliness and isolation are common, a reality that weighs down the desire for social interaction. In this way, a negative circle is formed that feeds itself.
- A mind that questions almost anything
The mind is a factory of disabling thoughts during states of anxiety. Thus, when going through those times of crisis and transitions, human beings often question a good part of the things that surround them. The critical gaze becomes voracious; everything misrepresents and calls into question.
So much so, that they even question their own beliefs, faith, and even many of the things (and people) that until not long ago were important. This causes, little by little, the feeling of mistrust to rise even more.
- Feeling of unreality or depersonalization
This is a very common phenomenon. Another characteristic of existential anxiety is the feeling of being separated from reality. It is like being on top of a mountain watching the movements of a world that one does not quite understand. The person feels that they are not part of that scenario, that what they perceive there does not seem to be entirely authentic.
- Panic attacks, another characteristic of existential anxiety
The continued feeling that nothing makes sense, that everything is beyond the control of the person, makes panic attacks appear sooner or later .
The anguish that accumulates day after the day ends up manifesting itself in those disabling and surprising episodes that tend to further reinforce the feeling of fear and insecurity.
To conclude, it is important to stress that these experiences are common in times of change. Above all, when we enter new life stages.
In these circumstances, being able to seek support is critical. Coping skills can allow us to emerge stronger from this situation, gaining resources to face the new stage with greater solvency.