Experiences of Existential Problems and Psychiatric Nurses’ Ways of Addressing Them

Research on patients’ experiences of existential problems in psychiatric care is scarce. The aim of this study was to create a synthesis of published research about how psychiatric nurses address patients’ existential problems. Fourteen papers met the criteria for this review. Four were empirical papers focusing on patients in psychiatric care; eight had a theoretical approach, while two dealt with the subject of psychiatric nursing care. The results revealed that the patients’ existential problems were related to lack of self-confidence, self-reflection, social relationships and inability to make choices. In addition, they found it difficult to take an interest in other people and felt alienated from themselves and others. Self-reflection is important for strengthening the identity of patients suffering from existential problems. Psychiatric nurses can promote a stronger identity in their patients by raising questions with a focus on self-reflection; by being present; by inviting the patients into a dialogue and using different theories and models to achieve mental health. In conclusion, psychiatric nursing needs to focus to a greater extent on existential problems in order to encourage patients to discuss and deal with such concerns.

Keywords: existential problems, identity, psychiatric nursing, self-reflection