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Volume 5, Pages 300-312
Research Article

Clinical Holistic Medicine: The Existential Crisis—Life Crisis, Stress, and Burnout

1Nordic School of Holistic Health and Quality of Life Research Center, Teglgårdstræde 4-8, DK-1452 Copenhagen K, Denmark
2Faculty of Social Science, Academic College of Judea and Samaria, Ariel, Israel
3National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Office of the Medical Director, Division for Mental Retardation, Ministry of Social Affairs, Jerusalem, Israel

Received 30 December 2004; Revised 23 March 2005; Accepted 24 March 2005

Copyright © 2005 Søren Ventegodt et al.


The triple and parallel loss of quality of life, health, and ability without an organic reason is what we normally recognize as a life crisis, stress, or a burnout. Not being in control is often a terrible and unexpected experience. Failure on the large existential scale is not a part of our expectations, but most people will experience it. The key to getting well again is to get resources and help, which most people experience with shame and guilt. Stress and burnout might seem to be temporary problems that are easily handled, but often the problems stay. It is very important for the physician to identify this pattern and help the patient to realize the difficulties and seriousness of the situation, thus helping the patient to assume responsibility and prevent existential disaster, suicide, or severe depression. As soon as the patient is an ally in fighting the dark side of life and works with him/herself, the first step has been reached. Existential pain is really a message to us indicating that we are about to grow and heal. In our view, existential problems are gifts that are painful to receive, but wise to accept. Existential problems require skill on the part of the holistic physician or therapist in order to help people return to life—to their self-esteem, self-confidence, and trust in others. In this paper, we describe how we have met the patients soul to soul and guided them through the old pains and losses in order to get back on the track to life.