Exploring the phenomenological structure of existential anxiety as lived through transformative life experiences

Jonathan Davidov, Pninit Russo-Netzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The purpose of this study is to offer a systematic phenomenological approach to explore existential anxiety, typically defined as the experience of becoming aware of the universal concerns including death, meaninglessness, freedom and loneliness. It focuses on in-depth exploration of Transformative Life Experiences (TLE), events which often induce radical and profound reorganization of one’s life. Method: Data was collected through in-depth interviews with 150 adults who self-identified and accounted for a TLE in their lives. Data analysis was guided by a hermeneutic phenomenology paradigm that postulates that people account for their experience within the four lifeworld existentials of temporality, spatiality, corporality (embodiment), and relationality. Results: A heuristic model was developed as an attempt to bridge the gap between the theoretical notion of existential anxiety and how it is subjectively experienced by interviewees. Conclusions: Implications of the model for further research and practice are discussed, particularly the ability to identify a dominant universal concern, even when implicit, based on an exploration of one’s subjective account of TLE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-247
Number of pages16
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Existential anxiety
  • hermeneutic phenomenology
  • transformative life experiences
  • universal concerns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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