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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 52 (2010) 10, 705 - 714


Loss of sense and meaning, a neglected topic in psychiatry

H.M. van Praag

Inherent in human existence is one’s need to give sense to one’s life. It is this need that drives life forward. In this paper the terms ‘giving sense’ and ‘giving meaning’ are used more or less interchangeably. A life acquires meaning when goals are set and attempts are made to achieve them. Giving meaning to one’s existence often involves engaging in altruistic activity. The need to give sense to one’s life can be felt to be ‘self generated’ or metaphysically inspired, in other words inspired by a supernatural authority. Sense-deficiency is a mental condition which is barely recognised in psychiatry and hardly ever treated. Thorough research is needed to find the causes and the appropriate treatment and, in particular, to discover to what extent the spiritual domain is able to perform therapeutic functions. A discussion of certain aspects of this domain should be given a definitive place in the curriculum of trainee psychiatrists.

keywords giving sense, giving meaning, religiosity, spirituality, religion, sensedeficiency, loss of sense