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Exploring Existential Depression

Exploring Existential Depression

 “Existential depression may be characterized by a unique sense of hopelessness in feeling that our lives may actually be meaningless.”

~ John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

It has been a solemn week in the gifted community after learning the news of Robin Williams’ passing. Without a definitive reason for this tragic loss, it was still a stark reminder of an issue – depression – on which many in the community have sought to shed light; but were often ignored. In an effort to raise awareness, gtchat followers chose to explore the reasons for existential depression, its effect on the gifted community and ways to deal with it.

Existential depression occurs when a person ends up questioning life, death or the meaning of life; and by doing so, lapses into depression. Characteristics of giftedness such as – idealism, intensity, sensitivity – predispose bright individuals to existential depression. Intensity paired with multipotentiality can equal frustration with existential limitations of time and  space. (Webb)

What are some sources of existential depression? Idealism that often leads to disillusionment can be one source. Bright children may develop metacognition before developing experiential tools to deal with emotional issues. As children with existential concerns grow up, they may find it hard to find others who share their concerns; they lack  interconnectedness. Perfectionism and one’s inability to live up to ideals can lead to existential depression. A full transcript may be found here.


Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:



Existential Depression in Gifted Children

An Examination of the Literature Base on the Suicidal Behaviors of Gifted Students (pdf)

Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals from SENG_Gifted

If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Need Psychotherapy?

Can You Hear the Flowers Sing? Issues for Gifted Adults

Coping through Awareness: A Transformational Tool for Coping with Being Highly Gifted

Self-Knowledge, Self-Esteem & the Gifted Adult by Stephanie Tolan

Through a Stronger Lens: The Days of Discontent

What is Existential Depression?

Change Your Story, Change Your Life by Stephanie Tolan

Robin Williams: Depression Alone Rarely Causes Suicide

Robin Williams’s Comedic Genius Was Not a Result of Mental Illness, but His Suicide Was by Scott Barry Kaufman

Robin Williams & Existential Depression by Dr. James T. Webb



Searching for Meaning Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment & Hope

Searching for Meaning cover

Living with Intensity

Parenting Gifted Kids: Tips for Raising Happy & Successful Children

Man’s Search for Meaning

The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want

Plato, Not Prozac! Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems

The Discovery of Being: Writings in Existential Psychology

Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration

“Mellow Out”, They Say. If I Only Could

Mellow Out Book Cover

The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength & Overcoming Life’s Hurdles

Exploring Existential Meaning: Optimizing Human Development Across the Life Span

Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness & Well-Being

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

Counseling the Gifted and Talented

Gifted Grownups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential

Existential Counselling & Psychotherapy in Practice

Original photo courtesy of Pixabay

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