As Sartre said, ‘’Existential crises are caused by man confrontation’s with freedom and responsibility’’.
Existential crises are confusing and high-anxiety times when a person is trying to resolve and find the answer to this question: Who am I? The existential crisis concept is derived from Erikson (1970), who referred to it as an identity crisis. It can happen at every single age. Existential crisis is a stage of development at which an individual questions the very foundation of his or her life; whether the life has any meaning, purpose or value. Demographers referred to the present youth as Generation, “Z” and further stated that they are the ones who experience loneliness, alienation, and stress most of the times. It has been found that youth are engulfed by the crisis of existentialism and the unpredictability of the future.
The modern youth is experiencing issues of underdeveloped self-concept, extreme casual attitude and trust versus mistrust dilemma. Carl Jung reported in his book Modern Man in search of a soul that about a third of his cases had suffered from no clinically define-able neurosis but from the senselessness and emptiness of their lives which he described as the general neurosis of his time.
During the sophomore crisis, young adults struggle due to their stress of dealing with various issues involving their educational institution (e.g., homework, grades, violence/ bullying, ragging), family (e.g., fear of losing parents, broken families, worry over health issues), peers (e.g., bullies, gangs, vicious teasing), the world (e.g., scarcity of safe air, food & water, global warming, crime, terrorism, nuclear war), and the future (e.g. college, jobs). In fact, the youth today are facing a traumatic societal, familial and cultural shift. Also, the identity issues they are most likely to struggle with are related to choosing a career path, forming successful relationships, and life in general.
The anxiety caused by the sophomore crisis can serve as an incentive to figure out what someone wants to do with his or her life, but it can also lead to panic attacks and withdrawal from life activities. It is important for the sophomore crisis to be resolved, so the young adult experiencing the crisis can feel more secure and less anxious about his or her future.
Dramatically and seemingly without warning, they become depressed, angry, and “lost.” Their life as they and their parents have come to know it grinds to a halt. They rebel against and at times abandon their prior styles of driven accomplishment, energetic involvement in multiple pursuits, and pride of achievement.
Their traditional values of a strong work ethic, academic excellence, predictability, pleasing the adults in their life, future orientation, and linear goal-seeking is abandoned, and they and their parents struggle to make sense of it all. If the crisis is not handled in an appropriate manner, then an individual becomes depressed.
Prior to this crisis, there are a number of common characteristics that are shared by this group. Many tended toward perfectionism and were very high achievers. But have intense fears and anxieties when they would not turn in top performance – and they would become severely self-critical and filled with self-loathing. They would fear being given poor grades (sometimes describing failure as achieving a “B”) and losing their “star status.”
Can existential crisis lead to serious health problems? Yes, it can lead to stress. If not treated, it will become anxiety, then ultimately turn into depression. Treatment involves initially establishing an open and non-judgmental rapport, helping the young adult understand what has happened to them, and assisting them in making sense of the dramatic turn of events in their relationship with themselves. Judicious use of medication to help them with overwhelming symptoms of anxiety and depression is not uncommon. As the therapy unfolds they begin to differentiate between values that they were taught and values that truly represent their core personality.