There’s a saying in the drug counseling field:
Addicts are very spiritual people they’re just knocking on the wrong door.
It’s true that those who are drawn to drug use are looking for something more. They are looking for an experience of life that is more loving, more accepting, and more embracing of one another.
Existential depression is a psychological and perhaps spiritual experience in which death and the meaning of life weighs heavily upon an individual.
Although some individuals might experience this sort of depression after the loss of a loved one, when the questions of life and death become more evident, sometimes addicts, especially those with an open heart and deep intellect, can experience existential depression spontaneously.
Those who are intellectually gifted tend to have thoughts that take on the world’s challenges and feel the sense of powerlessness that comes with realizing there are events beyond their control.
For instance, when Tom was out with his friends one night, he looked across the street and saw a man in this 30’s punch another man, who fell to the ground and hit his head on the pavement. The sight of the violence and blood shook Joe deeply.
He couldn’t fathom the idea that a human being would strike harm upon a fellow human, despite knowing intellectually that human violence has been taking place since human existence.
Often, when people who are affected by such experiences and share them, they are frequently dismissed. This can lead to further feelings of isolation, powerlessness, and loneliness. , identified
Four Aspects to Depression
Death – the inevitable occurrence that all humans must face
Freedom – the absence of any sort of structure in the world, considering that society and individual human beings must create his or her own.
Isolation – no matter how close we get to another human being, a separation will always remain
Meaninglessness – the absence of meaning that is felt considering that we cannot fully unite with another human being, we are always inherently alone, and if, in the end, we will die.
Individuals who are empathic and who are spiritually-oriented tend to experience this on levels deeper than just an intellectual one. They feel the suffering in the human race as well as the great possibilities that are in store. For this reason, they might be idealistic and see all the ways the world could be better as well as the how humanity is falling short.
Experiencing this causes them to question the means by which society runs, the absurdity of certain human interactions, and the overwhelming amount of violence that exists on the planet.
Certainly, these heavy feelings might contribute to a need to escape from everything, which is how an addiction can slowly begin. Not understanding how to face the magnitude of life’s challenges and not having the tools to cope with such debilitating emotions can make turning to drinking and drug use easy to do.
Yet, it’s also common that those who have these deep feelings may want to create change. They want to find their role in the messiness of human existence. Like Tom, they want to find their way through the violence towards a meaningful existence.
To do this, recovering addicts might need to journal as a replacement for drinking or using drugs. There are other tools to use in order to work with the challenging existential feelings of despair. Other tools include participate in therapy so that feelings and ideas are heard and acknowledged, find hope among the tragedies in the world, and participate in groups that are creating social change.
Existential depression is not commonly spoken about in drug treatment. However, it’s certainly a form of depression that some therapists are familiar with. It’s no doubt an experience of life that can contribute to addiction and other forms of mental illness.
Also, this form of depression might not even be well known for those who experience it. Yet, when a therapist or drug counselor can name it and provide context for it, that alone can be healing.
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