Existential depression occurs when a person questions the purpose of his or her life. It usually stems from having an existential crisis, in which he or she develops a new-found appreciation of mortality. Marriage, death, and break-ups are common causes of existential depression. Both children and adults alike are capable of developing existential depression, but the problem is more likely to occur in especially intelligent individuals. Therapy usually involves directing a patient’s attention to another worthy focus, like his or her friends, family, or other hobbies.
This kind of depression is prompted by the realization that a person supposedly has little meaning overall. A person might realize that he or she will not be alive for very long, nor will the world be significantly impacted in the long-term by his or her presence and passing. Someone suffering from existential depression might also marvel at how fragile life is and how easily and suddenly death comes.
Almost any experience, whether pleasurable or painful, can be a cause of this kind of depression. A person may begin to wonder whether his or her life had meaning before a pleasant experience, such as marriage or having kids. On the other hand, someone who has a negative experience, like a breakup or the death of a loved one, may wonder if his or her life still has meaning. In addition, sometimes reaching a certain age a person considers significant might trigger a crisis because of failed accomplishments and the prospect of being closer to death.
Existential depression is often seen in gifted children and adults of higher intelligence in general. Children who are deemed gifted are considered more susceptible to experiencing existential depression. Their higher than average intelligence allows them to view the world in ways their peers do not. One way of dealing with this is touch therapy, wherein a parent is instructed to hug or high-five the child more often to break through the sense of isolation.
There is no "best" approach to managing existential depression. Many methods involve distracting a patient with other things of importance, like family. Some people find relief in focusing on their physical appearance, wealth, or religion. Occasionally, therapy is not necessary; for example, it is normal for a teenager to go through an existential crisis, but he or she is usually quick to find meaning in friends, school, or hobbies. Still, it is safest to contact a mental health professional to evaluate the situation.