Skip to content


    Exciting News for WebMD Members!

    We've been busy behind the scenes building new message boards for you. You'll have new and easier ways to find messages, connect with others, and share your stories.

    And, this will all be available on your smartphone or other mobile device!

    What Do You Need to Do?

    The message board you're used to will be closing in the coming weeks. While many of your boards will be making the move to our new home, your posts will not. Want to keep a discussion going? Save posts you want to continue (this includes your member profile story), so that you can re-post them in the new message boards.

    Keep an eye here and on your email inbox, we'll be back in touch soon to give you all the information you need!

    Yours in health,
    WebMD Message Boards Management

    Please take some time to click through these links to find out more about our community.

    What is a Trigger and When to Trigger a Post
    How and Why to Report a Post
    Visit our Crisis Assistance Link for resources. For immediate help, call 911 or get to the ER.

    Existential Depression - Valid & Very Real, But Incurable?
    mcw81 posted:

    I've struggled with severe depression for about 13 years, and I still do, worse than ever.

    Though I've suffered setbacks, I'm fortunate to have a warm home and loving family (parents), and I have no physical or "tangible" problems I can point to as a cause. I appreciate what I have. However, I can't shake the overbearing dread that the world seems so fundamentally primitive, unjust, absurd, and meaningless.

    Simple features of daily life can trigger difficult crying spells for me: whether watching a blind person crossing the street, or passing a homeless person in the cold, or a sick animal, or an act of injustice. Or, I'm either angry and hopelessly-numb because I feel like little more than a monkey in some unknown accidental terrarium. I worry that if God exists, yet allows so much senselessness and ignorance without some better explanation, perhaps I can't rely on Him, either. Most of all, I feel like I'm stuck in a prison world with a lifetime of responsibilities to satisfy, and I become physically claustrophobic in the world, unable to crawl out of my monkey-skin or flip an "off" switch to a world that often seems like an absurd prank.

    I am not a "hippy," nor am I a "whiner," nor do I think that despite the new-agey-ness of Existential Depression, the pain is any less. I've wanted to kill myself just as dead as anyone suffering other mental illnesses; I'm just as unhappy and prone to tears as someone far less fortunate in a third-world country. My experience feels absolutely valid.

    To date, I've been on an encyclopedia's worth of meds, and I've tried everything from practical and strategic therapy to transcendental meditation. I've sought remedy in the full range from hard science to radically philosophical, but NOTHING HELPS. The worst part is that any improvements to my career, life, girlfriends, homes, or positive developments in my future—seemingly none can have effect on fundamental problems I have with the world itself.

    Other traits make this depression unbearable. When great intelligence seems to be at the heart of your problems, you feel completely alone; it seems that despite kind efforts, no one can help me. And just like the man who spots the gremlin on the plane wing which no one else can see (in the classic "Twilight Zone" episode), I feel like I'm seeing a nightmarish reality no one else gets. This makes me feel crazy! And the weight of the seeming responsibility to heal yourself—when it seems no one else can—makes the struggle and the sadness far worse. Humanity has struggled with existential questions for centuries; you feel it's unlikely that you can expect to solve things yourself in any satisfactory way.

    Perhaps this depression "qualifies me" to become a great artist or something, but personal happiness seems mutually exclusive.

    Football, friends and beer, working my way up a career, fixing up the house, or taking the kids to Disneyland—none of what others enjoy seems AT ALL satisfactory and indeed ridiculous, and only reinforces my loneliness or envy for people who are content with seemingly primitive and simple pleasures.

    What can I do to stop feeling so sad, stop crying all the time, and accept my life without forfeiting a rebellious passion that seems so incredibly authentic? Thank you for any thoughts or advice.
    susiemargaret responded:
    hello, M --

    i'm so sorry i didn't see your post until today, and i hope you are still following this thread.

    first of all, let me say that no matter how you characterize your depression, it is real and valid if you feel it is real and valid. no one has a more "worthy" depression than anyone else; everyone's suffering deserves to be acknowledged and taken seriously. in other words, i believe you. and you are not alone in how you feel.

    i'm afraid i don't have any advice that is likely to make you feel better -- and it is clear that you feel terrible -- or to ameliorate your despair with the world. i would suggest trying at least one more antidepressant; our expert in this community, dr. schwartz, says that there are at least 20 available, and if you haven't tried all of them, there is still hope. in addition, new ones come out all the time, and it is possible that one of them might do the trick.

    life is harder than it needs to be, that's been clear to me for a long time. and i've never found it particularly comforting when someone says that i am better off than a lot of people. yes, i am, and so are you, but that doesn't reduce your frustration with your cosmic circumstances, so to speak. my only idea is that acknowledging that the world is in a sad state and then trying to set that aside might help.

    i don't agree that feeling better necessarily means that you will have to forfeit any of your "rebellious passion." in fact, i think that feeling better would support -- rather than undermine -- your "rebellious passion." you don't have to feel numb to exist happily. the trick is figuring out how.

    let me ask if you have considered ECT. it has been proven to help with depression, as has transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), altho that is generally recommended for only moderate depression and yours sounds more serious than that.

    other than these suggestions, i don't know what to say except to express my complete sympathy for you. i do hope you can find some relief. i send you caring thoughts and hope you will keep us posted on how you are doing.

    -- susie margaret
    what good is gold, or silver too, if your heart's not good and true -- hank williams, sr.
    popcornwithoutbutter responded:
    retilin in people over 50ish not only picks u up,
    it has been found to change your mood for several hours for the better!!! if your doctor
    hasn't written u a prescription, now's the time.
    I take 2 20mg tablets at the same time in the middle of the day, and within the hour my thoughts become more positive and I feel
    susiemargaret replied to popcornwithoutbutter's response:
    hello, all --

    P mentioned ritalin/methylphenidate. webMD info on this med is at Oral.aspx?drugid=9475&drugname=Ritalin Oral&source=2 .

    -- susie margaret
    what good is gold, or silver too, if your heart's not good and true -- hank williams, sr.
    kelkaym responded:
    All I can tell you right now is that I am in the same boat.
    "Help" for existential depression pretty much doesn't seem to exist, according to the internet, not that i've seen so far anyway.

    Also your description of it is very, very good. The gremlin on the wing and nightmarish reality that no one sees and all that.

    I've been getting worse and worse since I really realized what it is that is wrong with me. I was always haunted by some horrible feeling as my depression got worse, the feeling that this was "different" somehow than normal depression and I felt diseased, cursed, doomed, it was all very hopeless. But it was only a vague feeling.

    Now that I understand more concretely what this is, the feelings I had make sense to me. But i'm still not satisfied say that this is it. I *DO* wonder if there is help, if there is *something*, some WAY to make this... better.

    Anyway I struggle a lot with seeing the world around me. Even just standing in line somewhere and seeing people mindlessly go about their day, I feel dizzy and sick and lost and panicked.

    But I guess one tiny hope/comfort that i've held onto is that at times I appear to be one of "those" people too.
    You'll see me in line at the grocery store.
    Or walking through the park.

    On occasion at least, when i'm not basically disabled and hiding from the world in my bed. I sometimes switch off my brain or go in denial or something and spend days at a time with friends, at movies, doing whatever, laughing.

    Then I will wake up and be crippled for days and the thought of getting up and making a cup of tea makes me want to find the "off" button. Friends don't seem to understand. I tell them these things, I really do sometimes, but even still they don't seem to get it.

    "Want to go for ice cream?"
    I just told you I'm basically suicidal, icecream is meaningless to me. What are you doing.

    I'm still trying to figure it out.
    But some moments in life are beautiful. Or have been beautiful. Or I THOUGHT they were beautiful or something. I have a fondness for my "former life" that i'm not ready to let go of yet. I have to figure out a way to survive this.

    I hope I made you feel a little less alone,
    also sorry if my post was horribly depressing.

    I've only recently really "pegged" what is wrong with me.
    So I haven't had that much time researching and getting into it. If I ever discover anything super useful i'll try to return to this page and let you know.

    There are a few things i'm intrigued by and interested in looking into. I do have some vague hopes on things that I have to look into, so... I guess for now i'm going to have to check that out and get back to you!

    Sorry for long post okay bye!
    CElizabethT responded:

    All I can tell you is that you are not alone in feeling this way. I am now 37 and have lived with these same thoughts since I was 17. I can remember thinking, how can others cope with life while I am having such a hard time. It was strange how others could simply just go along with life, football, shopping, holidays, while all along I am thinking, can you guys not see what is going to happen? I figured no pill or no psychiatrist could talk me out of such truth of reality. It was actually those who didn't see the sadness of the world were the ones who were delusional. Now I am faced with my 14 yr. old daughter with these same thoughts. It will be a struggle, a journey that she will have to find in her self to feel comfort and peace. I do have to say I am a Christian, I say that in a real sense, not in a religious sense. I do believe, and that honestly is what has kept me going. I totally understand the Twilight Zone feeling. I feel your pain and your agony. YOU are not alone. Keep fighting and I will pray for you. May God be with you and bless you.
    Diello responded:
    I got catapulted into existential depression after a breakup with a guy who, on looking back, was more or less dying of it (yikes. Or yay, as the case may be, as detailed below). It's possible that I have a good "immune system" because I'd always been a very happy and optimistic person and pretty much had never experienced depression before that (onset age 31), so the things that have helped me may not do much for you, but nonetheless, I thought I'd share.

    First and foremost, one of the things that has helped me is to acknowledge/believe/not try to un-convince myself, that life on earth is probably some sort of purgatory, if not hell itself. I'm Jewish, not Catholic, so I'm just using those words for the general concept, not some specific religion's interpretation of them. It makes me relieved and glad to know that someday I get to die, although I also don't want to purposely kill myself, it would ruin my family's lives, plus *maybe* I have some role or purpose to play out. But accepting this (maybe it's just lowering my expectations, hah) has helped reduce the constantly gnawing feeling of "everything is so wrong and difficult". Yeah, because we're in hell, duh.

    A second thing is, I realized that if I'm living on/in a plane of existence of mundane material whatever, I may as well enjoy material pleasures as I can - do things that feel good. Not in a hedonistic or out-of-control kind of way. But if we're stuck in a material prison-world, so enjoy what you can of the material and purposely engage/interact with it in ways that suit you. I like to spend time outdoors, going swimming in lakes, hiking, etc. When I'm old I'll probably do a lot of gardening and have a bunch of pets. Basically, we're stuck here so meh, transcendence, shmanscendence.

    Finally, and not to get too astro-physical here, but on occasion I've mused that intelligence seems to be a "force" in the universe that impacts/builds/shapes reality, much like the other forces - gravity, electromagnetism, whatever the other ones are from physics 101. So if there is some kind of tension or equilibrium between "good and bad" that must be maintained, maybe us smarties do have some extra ethical "burden" that we're supposed to carry out, since we somehow got imbued with intelligence (for better or worse). The trade-off is that we're not likely to be stuck in material poverty and ignorance - which does, by all counts, suck (and in my opinion are intertwined) - since we're smart enough to figure our way out of it.

    So that's my thoughts. Hope they give you some fodder
    joeybennet responded:
    Hi M. I wish I saw your post years ago. I never understood for the last 5 years why I felt exactly as you have described. You are not alone. This is an illness and someday a better way to manage will be found. Until then, the only thing that has been shown to help with this is, believe or not, Tylenol. Google it. It acts as an analgesic on the same pain pathways that are both physical and emotional. Also, talk to your doctor to try a small dose will also at least make you more calm. The angst of existential depression is still there, but at least it becomes more bearable. Until a maintentance technique / medication is found.

    rohvannyn replied to Diello's response:
    Diello, if you are still out there six months later, thank you. I know this is an old discussion but some of it strikes a chord with me.

    Sometimes I get bogged down in the meaning of life, the meaning of existence, the "why am I here, anyway?" and all that. From "why me?" to "why not me?" and I realize that if I were someone else, I would simply wonder why I was them. I am what I am, and who I am, through a chain of choices and random chance that goes back many thousands, if not millions of years, and so are we all.

    So where does this leave us? In meaninglessness? Maybe... but it also leaves us with the question of what we want life to be. What does each of us want to do with the cards we are dealt? The inescapable conclusion I have come to is that life has the meaning we give it and nothing more. Is it about career? Maybe. Family? Maybe. Enlightenment? Maybe. Football? Maybe. Helping others? Maybe. Some of those purposes and meanings are more satisfying than others.

    I think there's value in taking time to think "what does life mean to me? And what would I like it to mean? What is my purpose, for myself?"

    We don't all have the same amount of resources, or abilities, or anything, and life isn't fair. But what we can all do, if we think of it, is choose what we want to do with what we have.

    That's what I think, anyway...
    mindkeratitis replied to kelkaym's response:
    Kelkaym, I'd want to reply now, but don't have the time.. I'm trying to figure you out too, xD. I'm rarely in a state where I'd be attached with "this", hope this will be good, tired at the moment..

    Anyway, I guess, seeing what you said, you may have a certain similar state of feeling, but you have an opposite of my problem, but in the same problematic topic.. And at other times, I'd want to be carefull to what I'd say...

    If you stopped, STOP, manipulate your brain so that mental paths leading to possible further are "blocked", as I'd say..

    If ANY change from now on happens, I'd ask you to step back and think, first times, it won't feel good and all, as the thing you identified, the first all around realisation and all, but afterwards it may be different, but anyway it's really long to say, and I'd want more personal discussions than on a forum..

    From a point of view that I've done, it's hard to say how possible you's could be changed (we havent talked "you" and "me", but I must say that there are things I won't mention though it could help.. Still, my "case" is HIGHLY related to the development and other active variables.. Which are simple, but those concepts shouldn't be reveiled until necessary or should be introduced calmly if asked for ..

    Anyway, I'd talk by mail. If you want anonymous talk, make a fake facebook, give me the name and you'll say your e-mail to me, then no one will know publicly your mail if you care about that... I speak french btw, so my vocabulary is meh, but, as I said, I merely had the "time" to write this, so I'll say it is a dumb little text I made, but you know... And whatever if you don't want man, it's just I think it'd be "fun", one time you send a thought I'd do the same and all and all...

    Love you, peace, merry possibilities. LOOOVE all of you guys, all of you (I'd say I actually want to facking shoot a facking pumpkin citrus carpet of potatos, but the octopus crashed.. No, I love you guys, but I feel facking bad right facking now, I can't, I don't care, I won't read my text back, but that might be a mistake, reply for structural incoherencies (though I only wrote it and havent read it back..) fudge, I'm late, bye, peace!

    LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY "SELF", respond please,you're the better-than-unicorns-type-of-seehorses kinda people that didn't mean nothing
    kingandduke responded:
    After years of going into and out of depression, there are few things that help me and one thing that helps me immensely. First, people of all levels of intelligence and education seem to all be vulnerable to its unwelcome grasp. When we are in that state we try to figure things out to no avail. We blame the world or we attribute it or the states of our lives. (In my case I think my brain is trying to protect me from all the whims and pain of my world, so, remarkably, it causes me to check out for a while. Most often, in my case, I am sure I am dying and can actually feel the pain in various parts of the body. I drive the doctors and whole medical field nuts, trying to figure what malady I have. No matter what they say I am certain they are all wrong, that only I know that I am seriously ill. It moves from my heart to my kidneys to my gall bladder to my nose! I am so sure that the various changing pains are real that no matter being told over and over that there is nothing wrong with me, I know in my mind I am doomed. This last time to the emergency room (four in all) I got a doctor who I guess knew just the right words. He looked me straight in the eyes and said "Bob, there is nothing wrong with you, although your mind is telling you otherwise." He went down the list. "Heart? Sound as can be," Liver? Couldn't be better. Gall bladder? No problem" He went on and on with all my complaints. "This is all in your mind and is not that unusual. We see it all the time. We don't know what triggers it but it probably is the mind's way of dealing with unfortunate things: loss of money (this was me, I had lost all my money), family and friend problems" ...right on again. So I finally got the message what I think was and is true. My mind was lying to me for my own good, and there was no way I could figure that out by myself. That's where I am this time, knowing I am not physically sick. So now I am trying to get myself back. I had been hijacked.
    Before this hit I had many scary things happen in my life, and I simply found a way not to deal with them. Whew! Right now I am doing small things to get myself back" : dusting a little bit, next day raking some leaves, just getting up and walking around my house. I think this will work. I hope it does. Little by little I am trying to re-claim my old life, which compared to the pain of depression, is far less painful.
    One more thing that helps me immensely. Read the following by Emerson:

    "It is not what we believe concerning the immortality of the soul or the like,
    but the universal impulse to believe, That is the material circumstance and is the principal fact in the history of the globe."
    The universal impulse to believe... over and over and over. It doesn't matter what we believe in, but all people in all time have that "Universal impulse to believe." We are willing. That is enough. We don't have to believe in anything...the fact is that we have that universal impulse to believe, that motivates all people. And it works! And those words pre-date Darwin, which is huge for me. Whether we pray to Allah or God or whomever, it doesn't matter. That universal IMPULSE to believe is a gift that gives us some solace and hope. I looked for that hope in all the major volumes... Camus, Sartre, Dostoyevski, Kafka, the Bible. None of them say anything about the impulse to believe. I'm in good faith. Not my fault. We don't have to drive ourselves nuts trying to figure God out. They are all God, and somehow, it works. Bob
    johnny131313 replied to kingandduke's response:
    I know exactly how you feel. I am the guy who walks into a room with 6 people trying to solve a problem that they are hopelessly stuck on. I look it over and in 5 seconds say, "This is what you're doing wrong. The answer is X"

    Unfortunately I get rarely get out of bed. The depression did make me a 'great artist,' like you mentioned. It does give you some sweet qualifications. Showing up to a job is not one of them though.

    I really get what you mean about, 'overbearing dread that the world seems so fundamentally primitive, unjust, absurd, and meaningless.'

    There are very smart people out there who are happy, like physicists and the like, but I don't think they have the vision we do. They may be smart, but they have built in blinders around their eyes. They really can only see things at face value. My neighbor is a programming genius. But there is no way I could ever make him understand this, he just can't see it.

    I feel like I'm waking up in The Holocaust every day. That's not making light of the real event, but my statement is no exaggeration. My getting out of bed and making to say a class, takes more effort than most people expend in an entire year at work. My day, every day, is harder than the hardest day, in a regular persons life.

    And your example of the gremlin on the wing is excellent. I am infuriated that people just walk around like everything is ok. It's like the surroundings I see are full of monsters from an alternate universe and people are just having cocktails and laughing.

    Another thing I don't get is how there is no credit given at all to people with mental illness. Cancer survivor, big whoop. I'm not impressed. Did you have crippling cancer for 30 years that no one gave you any sympathy for? There is no on leaving a lasagna on my doorstep, dropping off flowers, or offering to do my laundry and help clean my place.

    Yet somehow PTSD for soldiers is given some credit. Listen, I know it's rough. Those men see and do horrible things, but I've done 5 tours in Afghanistan in my own house. I don't need to see a charred baby in real life to suffer as badly as those guys. I'm just saying a little credit would be nice. I'm still alive after 25 years of this. It's unreal I'm not dead.

    I'll wrap this up. Thanks people. I just joined the Depression Forum I guess.

    rohvannyn replied to johnny131313's response:
    Welcome to the community, Johnny131313! You bring up an interesting and excellent point. People do seem much quicker to acknowledge the pain, suffering, and courage of those who have more visible or recognizable problems, like cancer or PTSD. Sometimes I think those who look outwardly healthy can suffer the most because no one wants to believe they have a problem.

    It does seem to me that it is harder to be happy, the more perceptive you are, if you must work and live around a lot of people. The more perceptive I have become in my life, the darker my outlook has become. I don't see that as a bad thing, because reality is not always happy or pleasant. I used to be quite happy often but it was because I had some serious filters, and when something poked through those filters and showed me reality it devastated me. Now I think I'm getting over that so I can be a little more steady-state, more realistic but hopefully more resiliant too.

    I wish the best for you.
    AtlasUnsung responded:
    You are not alone and you are not sick. This isn't an illness, you aren't sick. Existential depression like this can't be cured because it isn't a thing, it's just the words that represent an idea which people who don't suffer life can understand.
    Truth is, you're to smart for your own good. You saw the gremlin, and just because you are the only one seeing it doesn't mean it isn't real and will bring you all down.
    The world is just as crap as you see it, your only flaw is your inability to ignore it. It bothers you because it's the biggest and most interesting puzzle, and there is no solution.
    Your mind has began to turn in on itself, bouncing dozens of thoughts a second across the vast and complicated web of knowledge that is your mind, because you can't be wrong, if your equation is off by even a single digit, your understanding of everything is compromised, your opinions might not be justifiable. If you're wrong, then you have failed... ultimately and absolutely.

    Your compassion comes from your understanding of the value of all things, you know your lowly place in the universe, and it humbles you.
    And then comes the fear of power, or rather lack thereof, that hollow vacuum just between your chest and stomach you feeo when you see all the problems that need to be fixed and noone
    AtlasUnsung replied to AtlasUnsung's response:
    (Accidental break, you probably see the humor here thst will pass over most people's heads) fix them. You see so many solutions, workable solutions that could fix many of the world's problems, easy-to-do and painfully obvious solutions that is apparently lost on those with power.
    You want to fix it, but you can't, you're to busy figuring out everything out... alone.

    People like us can't function without purpose, without a puzzle to solve, without things to learn. In the end, your internal world grows in size and compexity, more logical, better and so much more relevant than the world beyond, and this world is naught but the concrete shoes holding your body just under the water.
    You can't commit suicide, because there is still more to learn, more to think, your work isn't complete yet, and if you die, you may not suffer, but then your entire life's work will be gone, the knowledge you amassed, the answers you found will all end with you. You are alone, and if you die the world will die with you.

    Reality is subjective, and you also fear that the end might only be theoretical. All that knowledge and individuality can't just vanish, right? Maybe it does, maybe you become a god in a realm of your own making, or perhaps what awaits is just another prison, a new life to suffer.

    Sorry for the slipstream, but if you read this far there's a chance that you have thought the same.
    If you want a solution, the best I can offer you is this: Give up.
    Give up trying to think it through, accept it. Accept it all, don't try to be happy, be content and at peace with your eyes firmly closed to the wrongs that plague mankind and her "civilized" cultures. Be blind and be small, who you are in the eyes of others matters little, you wouldn't feel better even if the world cherished the ground you walk on, because you feel the burden of the world on your shoulders.

    You know how to help, you want to help, but you can't. It's you against the world and thousands of years established societal orders.

    Don't despair, there's plenty of time for that when you have grown old and your body has failed you. Try to squeeze as much joy out of life now.
    Starve yourself from influence, stop watching tv, stop playing games, starve yourself from all but the creative art that comes easiest to you. Your mind is a beam of light, focus it.
    If you don't want to go crazy, keep track of your thoughts. Keep a journal, learn lucid dreaming, and if you haven't already, learn to play music. These are coping mechanisms that will keep your mind automatically occupied and satisfied. A slow but steady process of improvement wll ensue.

    I hope I helped someone.
    Love and sympaty,

    Helpful Tips

    iPhone app that helps me stay active
    I've been using the "Feel Good Tracker" iPhone app to track my activities and to rate how good the activity made me fell. I find that doing ... More
    Was this Helpful?
    4 of 10 found this helpful

    Related Drug Reviews

    • Drug Name User Reviews

    Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

    FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.