In psychology and psychotherapy, existential crises are inner conflicts characterized by the impression that life lacks meaning or by confusion about one’s personal identity. Existential crises are accompanied by anxiety and stress, often to such a degree that they disturb one’s normal functioning in everyday life and lead to depression. Their negative attitude towards life and meaning reflects various positions characteristic of the philosophical movement known as existentialism. Synonyms and closely related terms include existential dread, existential vacuum, existential neurosis, and alienation. The various aspects associated with existential crises are sometimes divided into emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. Emotional components refer to the feelings they provoke, such as emotional pain, despair, helplessness, guilt, anxiety, and loneliness. Cognitive components encompass the problem of meaninglessness, the loss of personal values, and reflections about one’s own mortality. Outwardly, existential crises often express themselves in addictions, anti-social and compulsive behavior.
Doctor in Brooklyn: Why are you depressed, Alvy?
Alvy’s Mom: Tell Dr. Flicker.
[Young Alvy sits, his head down – his mother answers for him]
Alvy’s Mom: It’s something he read.
Doctor in Brooklyn: Something he read, huh?
Alvy at 9: [his head still down] The universe is expanding.
Doctor in Brooklyn: The universe is expanding?
Alvy at 9: Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!
Alvy’s Mom: What is that your business?
[she turns back to the doctor]
Alvy’s Mom: He stopped doing his homework!
Alvy at 9: What’s the point?
Alvy’s Mom: What has the universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!
Doctor in Brooklyn: It won’t be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we’ve gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here!