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  1. #1

    Default Putting a label on it - Existential Depression

    Okay, so here's how I feel now and have felt consistently for the past decade....

    Existential depression is 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. Death is an inevitable occurrence. Freedom, in an existential sense, refers to the absence of external structure. That is, humans do not enter a world which is inherently structured. We must give the world a structure which we ourselves create. Isolation recognizes that no matter how close we become to another person, a gap always remains, and we are nonetheless alone. Meaninglessness stems from the first three. If we must die, if we construct our own world, and if each of us is ultimately alone, then what meaning does life have?

    I struggle to overcome this as basically I can find no meaning in life and therefore nothing to focus on and attempting to develop things like empathy and compassion just serve to prove to me how horrible humanity is. And yet I cannot continue on in this extreme state of boredom with life. Most advice I have received has been things like

    Get a hobby - if anyone was aware of just how many hobbies I have they would be shocked. I constantly find a subject that I know nothing about, assimilate as much information as I can, put it to practical use then resume state of chronic boredom. My last hobby was a year long permaculture project which I finalised basically because I moved and lost access to a place to garden. If a year of intense focus on gardening and ecology cant help then I really dont think another hobby will.

    Get out more - out where? Just how many walks in the park, shopping expeditions and visiting new and unknown places can one person handle. The big flaw in this argument is that existential depression isn't caused by spending too much time indoors. It's an unresolved tension with the vagaries of life, something which no amount of picnics in the woods will resolve.

    Meet new people - I meet new people everyday. My issue isn't a lack of access to people. I find people fundamentally uninteresting basically because the more I get to know someone the more clearly I can see the things I dislike in them. It's not very long before I find nothing to redeem someone whatsoever. It's no secret, I'm not a big fan of people.

    So if you have ever stalked the dark halls of meaninglessness as I have been doing, where did you find a door to exit? I actually thought I had come through this about 6yrs ago as my life started on an upswing and I found focus again. But my last relationship failure has seen me fall into the pit of hell once more and lose faith in people completely. I have absolutely no hope this time that there is anyone out there better than the last one, and if you'd ever met the last one you would understand how bleak a situation that feels. For as awful as things were, I've come to realisation that its probably a common experience and this is likely just how people are....aka, things will never be better than that, because thats just how things are.

    In short I am experiencing wholesale disappointment with life. But please, don't go and suggest medication. I'm not interested in hearing it. I cant see any positive aspect in being doped up to my eyeballs just so I don't have to feel the pain I currently feel. What I want, is to find a reason to live.

  2. #2


    I have this problem as well. "Existential Boredom", if you ever want a slightly more positive twist to the concept.

    There's only so much to marvel at. Maybe I try to put these traits into a positive twist with my interest in Buddhism...

    "There is no path in the sky; there is no true monk outside Sangha; mankind delights in worldliness, but the Buddhas are free from worldliness.

    There is no path in the sky; there is no true monk outside Sangha; naught survives in the phenomenal world, but the Buddhas are ever the same."

    Actually, really, my only true interest these days is this philosophical slants towards a weird distillation of morality.

  3. #3


    Yes, boredom is what it is. How I envy people who can be satsified with the trivia of bank accounts, investing and paying down a mortgage. If only those things filled up my hours and days and I too could be consumed with them to the point where boredom is an infrequent visitor. I like your avatar SuperUnknown, it expresses perfectly my sense of dissatisfaction and frustration with the state of affairs. It's funny how nihilism leads to buddhism. Maybe it's the only religion that acknowledges there is no meaning to suffering, no grand plan, no redemption or justice for the oppressed, only the absurdity and shittiness of life and that really our only response can be, to suffer and accept it for what it is.

    I once believed in the magnificence of the human spirit, that eternal desire to reach for something, to become something to acheive. But even that seems pointless now. Just another method of killing time. I'd like to believe there is a purpose and end to this also, the constant questioning, disappointment and more questioning. But unless I am unusually slow of mind and have failed to grasp the answer in a decade, maybe even this is without purpose and therefore meaningless also.

  4. #4



  5. #5
    Senior Member wildflower's Avatar
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    Jul 2011


    have you read kierkegaard's the sickness unto death. he is the master of existential despair. i admit i've only read a part of it when i borrowed it from a neighbor. personally, i think in order to find real meaning in life--and i do believe meaning is discovered rather than created by us--you have to deal with the stuff kierkegaard talks about. jmo.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Nara's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014


    Monks once called it acedia, it was a well documented phenomenon ...

    Indeed diversions won't remove it. I think this feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness comes when we haven't yet grieve the search for an outside truth/answer, and still are looking for substitutes to fulfill our hole.
    And I'm sorry there are no right methods to get out there, as it is an individual path. I only remember I had to go right through my depression to "reborn" or something like that (but careful, this can lead to suicide...).
    So perhaps you haven't sufficiently explored the dark paths of meaninglessness (yes I guess now you prefer the medication advice lol) and met your Minotaur.
    But when we truly become aware that we are the creative source, this temptation of boredom gradually fades away.

    "My soul is a gushing fountain"

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2014


    Quote Originally Posted by WhoCares View Post
    So if you have ever stalked the dark halls of meaninglessness as I have been doing, where did you find a door to exit?
    For me, it was realizing that I do not have the answers to existence; and, therefore, I cannot make any conclusions about anything on that matter. In fact, I view it as almost narcissistic for one to claim that they can make any 100%, guaranteed, grand claims on the nature of life, death, and the reality in which we live.

    Quote Originally Posted by WhoCares View Post
    Yes, boredom is what it is. How I envy people who can be satsified with the trivia of bank accounts, investing and paying down a mortgage.
    It just sounds like you have some kind of disdain for people who are able to ignore the big pressing questions which you find ultimately important, and in doing so disdain people who can live life and enjoy it for what it's worth.

    Quote Originally Posted by WhoCares View Post
    It's funny how nihilism leads to buddhism. Maybe it's the only religion that acknowledges there is no meaning to suffering, no grand plan, no redemption or justice for the oppressed, only the absurdity and shittiness of life and that really our only response can be, to suffer and accept it for what it is.
    Funny enough, I've been moving towards Buddhism in a consistent pace lately. That said, my interpretation of it is different from yours.

  8. #8


    Disdain? Or envy? I think it is closer to envy. My mind always wants answers to questions I cant find answers for, and so I feel continually restless and dissatisfied in life. Truly, I think if you are unconcerned about things for which this are no answers or the answers are pointless to your present existence anyway, then you are blessed. I do look at people who's primary occupation is to worry about their partner, wedding dress or how many kids they will have and think, it would be nice to live on that level. Unconcerned by the nature of existence, just consumed by the details of it. The disdain is for myself for being unsatsified with that which most people find happiness.

    I'm not sure how I view buddhism yet. It was the first religion I was interested in as a child, and actually the last one I've decided to study and only now that I've exhausted all other avenues. It speaks to me now becUse it offers me a way to quiet the restless mind without promising anything at the end if it except some self control. I dont know what I will find there and havent decided how I feel about it either.

    For now, I just want peace, as in a lack of internal struggle and the ability to focus.

  9. #9


    @Nara, so it appears to have happened at all stages in history. I wonder if this is just a side-effect of having an overly large brain (as a species I mean) that some will find their mind latches onto the nature of what is, instead of operating as a funtional co-ordination tool as it does mostly.

    Or iis it the product of not giving the mind enough to do? When I look back on the last decade it is the time in my life where I stepoed off the career ladder completely. Spent three years without a job at all, maybe that period of aimlessness was actually a big mistake because it gave me nothing to do except latch onto the idea that life is meaningless.

    And my current job is so simple, boring and unchallenging that I do not need to even think to do it. So my days are endless hours on autopilot with my mind just hanging there, left ot its own devices.

    The interesting thing is, when I play my instrument (the harp) Iam fully engaged in that activity. It consumes all my mental energy and I can do that for hours without boredom at all. I become fascinated by the intricacies of the movement of my hands and the exression of the sounds that I make. My fingers hurting is what usually puts an end to it.

    @wildflower, thanks for the reference. I'll see if I can get a copy.

  10. #10
    Freaking Ratchet Rail Tracer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010


    You bring meaning from meaningless. I think an existential depression can only be resolved by the person facing it. At some point, you'll either find that the meaning of life is 42 (I'm sorry! Don't hit me please!), you'll either not care about what the meaning is, or that looking for that meaning your whole life will swallow you whole.

    For me, I took the route of not caring as much about meaning because it was making me run in circles (I can literally live in my mind with that thing.) If/when that meaning in life comes, well that will be it. But, if I am just a stardust amongst millions of other stardust within the universe, than that will be it.

    Anyways, you don't have to take medication, but you can try changing the thought process a little. They call it Cognitive behavioral therapy. Even if you don't want to take medication, this can help you with those thoughts as it seems to be an effective way in controlling depression, anxiety, and a whole list of other moods even if you have none of those.

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