People and professionals often divide up depression into different types, such as “clinical” depression versus “non-clinical” depression, “biological” depression versus “situational” depression. The diagnostic manual professionals refer to, however, doesn’t make any distinctions about theorizing where or how your depression is caused, and neither does most research in this area. And yet, I believe such distinctions may serve a purpose if they help guide a person’s treatment choices.

So the other week I was heartened to read Liz Spikol’s entry about dealing with life events, work issues, and existential depression. Existential depression may be the result of a person’s attempt to deal with the realization that we are the masters of our own destiny and meaning in our own lives. To live a life of meaning, of purpose, of authenticity:

Personally, I’m beginning to wonder about some choices I’ve made. I can’t get into it all now, but I’m on the cusp of a big birthday, and it’s causing me to rethink who I am and what I should be doing in my personal life. Who do I want to be in the next decade? I lost 10 long years to my illness — I don’t even remember most of my twenties — and I feel like I’ve got to make every second count now. I want to live an authentic life, to be my true self. Who that person is, well, that’s the puzzle. It’s enough to send me back to bed.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Living a life of meaning and purpose is challenging — it challenges us to rethink every decision we ever made, and examine how we arrived at where we are today in our lives. More importantly, it challenges us to decide whether or not to make sometimes significant changes in our lives, to obtain the meaning in our lives that we seek.

When asked if there’s some drug that can help her with her existential depression, her doctor wisely replied, “No.” Depression brought about examining the meaning of our lives is best “treated” through introspection and psychotherapy with a professional who understands that sometimes the journey is the treatment.



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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Feb 2008
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2008). Coping with Existential Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from


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