Existential Anxiety

Existential Anxiety

Unlike many anxiety disorders, people with existential anxiety aren’t preoccupied with minor fears. Existential anxiety is characterized by a concern with deeper things. Sufferers dwell on complex matters, wondering what their purpose on earth is, what happens after death, and other matters. Existential anxiety tends to focus on one or more of three categories: death, guilt, and meaninglessness.

Existential anxiety that is focused on death is quite common. We all go through periods when we wonder about death. What happens when we die? Is there something after? Do we remember life, reunite with loved ones, or reincarnate in a new body? Death causes existential anxiety for two main reasons.

For one thing, it’s out of our control. We have no way of knowing when it’s coming, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Things that we can’t control are scary. There is no way to prepare ourselves or our loved ones.

The second reason that death causes fear is that we have no way of knowing what happens when we die. Some believe that we come back in a new body, or are reincarnated. Others believe that after death we go to either heaven or hell, depending on our choices in life. Many think that nothing happens, which may be the most frightening of all.

We’re used to being able to plan for the future. When we’re going to a new place, starting a new job, or making other changes, we have some control. We can ask questions to find out what’s ahead of us. Death doesn’t offer us that luxury.

Moral issues are another common cause of existential anxiety. None of us are perfect, and we all know that on some level. At some point, everyone has been dishonest, or hurt someone’s feelings, or covered up a mistake we made. It is hard when you take a good look in the mirror and aren’t proud of what you see.

Existential anxiety due to moral failure is a result of the fact that we know where we’ve messed up. You know that you aren’t always honest about the reason you’re late to work. You know that you have said unkind things about your sister-in-law. You know that you didn’t put your best effort into some things. When life is good, when someone says nice things about us or gives us a gift, we feel unworthy.

Spiritual existential anxiety is focused on the meaning of life. Why are we here? Why am I here? Is there something I’m meant to be doing that I’ve failed to do? We worry that we have some purpose that we won’t fulfill. Sometimes we worry that we don’t have a purpose, that there’s no meaning to anything at all.

Other kinds of anxiety can be helped with specific treatments. Existential anxiety is more complicated. There isn’t a specific fear that can be confronted, triggers that we can manage. It’s hard to control the thoughts in your head sometimes.

Many find comfort through religion. People with strong religious beliefs may not have such a fear of death. They may believe that their sins and moral failings are forgiven. Their religious beliefs give them a purpose and provide meaning for life.

Existential anxiety is unique among anxiety disorders. Existential anxiety isn’t brought on by eternal forces. Your thoughts and worries about your future and your role on earth cause existential anxiety. Finding a way to accept the facts that death will come eventually, that there are some things out of your control, and that no one is perfect – all of these can help with this type of anxiety.