You probably have heard about the term “Identity Crisis” before and may even know what its meaning entails. But what are the symptoms and causes that manifest into an identity crisis in people? Why do most of the population feel like they have lost their identity and struggle through an existential crisis? What’s the science behind it? Let’s delve deep into the truth about identity crisis including, its definition, symptoms, causes, and treatments of an identity crisis.
What Is Identity Crisis?
In psychology, the term “Identity Crisis” refers to the psychological conflict where individuals question their life’s purpose and feel a sense of loss regarding their roles and duties towards others, primarily work, family, and society.
The term “Identity Crisis” was first derived by Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist and a psychoanalyst. Erickson acquainted the midlife crisis and teenage identity crisis ideas, believing that individuals’ personality develops when they find a solution to a life crisis and grow stronger. As they say, usually, it builds character.
In case if you ever found yourself questioning your life’s purpose and identity, chances are you’re experiencing an identity crisis. It often occurs because of significant life changes or factors like advancement from a particular stage or age.
Symptoms Of An Identity Crisis
An identity crisis is not a condition you can quickly diagnose. Hence, there are no typical symptoms you can notice as flu or cold. Instead, several signs signify someone may be going through an identity crisis:
- If you may be questioning who you are, your overall values to others, or you are in doubt of other aspects in life like age, relationships, or your career life.
- In case there are significant changes that have recently occurred in your life negatively affecting your sense-self.
- When you are questioning things in your life, such as your religion, beliefs, interest, values, or career path, the aspect has a crucial impact on how you view yourself.
- If you are searching for more meaning, passion, or the reason you live your life.
Asking these questions is expected, mainly because we all encounter various changes in our lives. However, when these changes start to affect your daily functioning or propel you to think negatively, there are high chances that you might be experiencing a crisis of identity.
Is Identity Crisis Something Serious?
In most cases, the sense of a lost identity causes a decline in your mental health. An act of viewing your ego or your life negatively is one marker that drives your vulnerability to depression.
In case you experience possible signs of depression, the best thing is to seek help. When your mind lingers with suicidal thoughts, consider visiting a psychiatrist immediately.
Some of the symptoms of depression are:
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness with a depressed mood.
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed doing.
- Irritability and body fatigue.
- A decrease in body weight and appetite.
- Insomnia and in case you have some issues with concentrating.
Causes Of An Identity Crisis
Although the thoughts of identity crisis most often happen at certain ages, i.e., in teenagers or during the adolescent stage of life. Identity crisis doesn’t occur in adolescence only; it can appear to individuals of any age or at any point in someone’s life.
Identity crisis or any other mental health issue can develop in your mind due to significant life stressors. Some of these stressors are inherently bad, while others are not.
However, they all cause a lot of stress, and this makes someone question who they are or what their value is to the community they are living in.
Some of the stressors in life include:
- Having a new couple.
- Separation or divorce.
- Changing your location.
- Experiencing some traumatic events happening in your life.
- Losing someone close to you.
- Losing a job.
- Health issues existing in your body
These factors, plus other stressors, can negatively impact your day-to-day life and how you view yourself in the long run.
Contributing factors such as social support, health issues, and your level of stress can positively influence the development of the midlife crisis.
Types Of Identity Crisis
When highlighting an identity crisis model, it is relevant to distinguish the 2 types of identity crises.
According to research, it has been concluded that there are two types of crisis, namely,
- motivation crisis,
- and the legitimation crisis.
What Is Motivation Crisis?
Identity deficit, commonly known as motivation crisis, occurs when an individual experiences a lack of instructing commitments, and the person struggles a lot to affirm their personal goals and values.
What Is The Legitimation Crisis?
Whereas in identity conflict, also known as a legitimation crisis, the person has a few commitments that prescribe clashing behavioral directive in some situations. It happens when the person has at least one obligation that may have been betrayed.
The main issue behind the identity crisis reviews a connection with this distinction. Any attempt made delineates the causes, subjective knowledge, behavioral interference, or determination models in each identity crisis type.
Identity Crisis In Teenagers
Most individuals believe that the adolescence period is invariably a time of lots of stress and tensions. These aspects are partially attributed to identity formation or what most call an identity crisis.
While it is normal for teenagers to feel lost with their identity in the growing stage, we can’t deny that, according to studies, 20% of teenagers are likely to experience depression before reaching adulthood.
However, research on identity crisis in adolescents does not support this notion. Many teenagers make it through the physical developmental stage with not many issues. Some of them encounter mild challenges that they can settle after additional support and effort.
A small minority group that encounters these substantial issues requires intensive and ongoing supports from the people around them.
Whatever the case is, it is normal for all teenagers in the adolescent stage to question themselves for their purpose in life and try to decide who they are. Most of them are left alone to decide on their self-governance, which is always autonomous during the transition stage to adulthood.
Parenting And Identity Crisis In Adolescence
Parenting has a significant impact on teenagers dealing with an identity crisis in the adolescence period. Individuals who feel neglected by their parents and guardians have more difficulty forging their lost identity. Whereas teenagers sharing a loving and accepting relationship with their parents, especially in adolescence, find it easier to deal with an identity crisis.
Studies show that children with narcissistic parents have a distorted image regarding their identity, which takes an adverse toll on their self-esteem in the long run.
Therefore, parents should create an environment of safety and openness for their teenage children, where adolescents can comfortably share their insights and feelings with them with no fear of judgment. Such a relationship fosters the types of engagements that firmly hold adolescents through their transition process.
What Is The Cure For Identity Crisis?
Here are some of the most right steps you can take to overcome an identity crisis.
1. Explore Yourself
Exploring your identity, especially during adolescence, is a natural phenomenon for those who have an identity crisis. It’s a crucial part of growing up and becoming an adult with healthy self-esteem.
If you have never explored your identity before, it is essential to take some time out and focus on looking at yourself.
- Question yourself about what you want in life and do not want anymore.
- Interview yourself and notice if you have answers to the questions over time.
- Evaluate the qualities that determine you as a person as of today.
- Think of what values have changed and what’s the reason behind them.
In case the solutions assist you in making relevant conclusions, adapt to the mode. Remember that it is impossible to have all the answers to your questions, and gradually, they can change over time.
2. Start to Realize You Are Not One Thing
Let’s say you have lost your job! Until now, you think that was your only identity and hence feel lost and clueless about who you are.
It is not uncommon to feel such thoughts, especially after a huge loss like a job or a special someone.
While you’re in the midst of such chaos, remember you’re not just ONE thing. You are several unique, beautiful, and interesting characteristics put together. Maybe you’re good at crafts; you might even be a good cook, an awesome player, or just a good storyteller.
There is no one else like you in this whole world, and you need to take pride in that.
Try to look inwards at who you are and love the person you’re becoming.
3. Recover From Your Loss and Put The Failure Behind
The next step should be to put your failures or the reasons that caused this crisis behind you. That was past, and you cannot afford the past actions to take hold of your present and future.
One should let the failures or the reasons go.
You can never bring two distinct timelines together. Hence, the next milestone is to recover from the loss you have encountered in your past and move on for a new beginning.
Open yourself to change and explore new opportunities
4. Create Your Way
The next step to preserving your individuality is to strengthen your personality. You should stand by your values and be determinant about this goal to fight the identity crisis. Rather than following others you should follow your passion. You should start doing what you love and seek success in it.
5. Find Inner Strength
One of the ways to find your inner strength and determination is to follow your spirituality. You can also indulge yourself in other entertaining actions like hiking, traveling, etc (of course if you are an adventurous soul).
However, sometimes spending some time alone in your own company can help you restore your individuality. Be yourself, be confident.
6. Find Good Support
Having good social support from your family or the society you live in can positively influence how you question your identity and help you cope with significant changes and stressors in life.
Some of the best places you can find support are:
- From family members, friends, and partners.
- The church or the community.
- A new club, a group where you can meet up and share your interests with others.
- Participating in mental health-related talk groups.
- Do not focus on internal and external judgments.
Our expectations and those from others can, in a massive way, affect how we feel. Never let society’s standards make conclusions on who you are and what you should like most.
You do not have to follow a particular group just because you are of a certain age or gender if you no longer believe in what they do.
Self-perception is essential for your overall well-being. Having to spend your money, time, and energy on judgmental thoughts will never get you anywhere. It takes time for people to understand any changes you make in your life, but being true to yourself makes you happy in the long run.
7. Find Your Interests
Our job and family occupy most of our lives, but your hobbies and interests are two elements that keep you busy in your free time.
If you have noticed, you must know that a person who spends their leisure time on hobbies is more likely to have better psychological and physical functioning. That is because hobbies have a considerable role in shaping one’s identity, and it can be the smallest of things like cooking, gardening, writing, etc.
If you don’t know how to deal with an identity crisis, sit down, and evaluate the following points.
- What do you do in your free time?
- Which hobbies do you spend your most time on and why?
- If you’re sitting idle, ask yourself what hobbies you’d like to develop.
- Ask yourself if you would be the same person six months down the line if you indulged in some good hobbies.
8. Spend Time In Nature
Some people believe that spending time in nature presents them with fulfillment and a sense of purpose. In fact, many professionals recommend wilderness therapy treatment to teenagers dealing with identity issues in adolescence.
According to studies, wilderness therapy treatment helps examine the issues, develop coping tools and strategies, and instill a more positive sense of self in an individual. The therapy costs $500 to $600 per day plus the extra enrollment fee in thousands.
9. Search For Efficient Ways To Cope With The Challenge
Accelerate into use what makes you happy and what gives your life a sense of purpose to live. It isn’t a must; you have a perfect job to deal with an identity crisis. If you aren’t implementing anything useful in life, you might feel like you are in trouble.
You can search for fulfillment by engaging yourself in activities such as carrying out voluntary services, taking up a new hobby to pass your leisure time, sharing your ideas with others, or getting involved in any other positive things outside of your employment.
A Word From AlignThoughts,
The sense of self-identity is very vital in everyone’s life. Having an identity crisis can indeed make you lose hope or even feel frustrated. But never lose hope; there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
Self-reflecting your life and core values can help you achieve a better sense of yourself. Remember, change is constant, and it’s an inevitable part of life. When you look back on your journey, you will notice that you have been changing all along. So try to embrace new things and the new you!
You can also try speaking to someone you trust about what you may be going through. Or seek professional help to work things out when you are in serious mental turmoil.
Key Takeaways On Identity Crisis
- Identity Crisis refers to the psychological conflict where individuals question their life’s purpose and feel a sense of loss regarding their roles and duties towards others.
- The term was first derived by a development psychologist and a psychoanalyst, Erik Erikson.
- He concluded that teenagers in their adolescence are likely to go through a phase of identity crisis to solve a life crisis.
- Since the identity crisis is more like a psychological conflict, there are not typical physical symptoms like flu or cold.
- However, one who’s going through identity issues is likely to incessantly question their life, purpose, their roles, and duties as a whole.
- And in most cases, the sense of a lost identity causes a decline in your mental health.
- According to research, there are two types of crisis: motivation crisis and legitimation crisis.
- Lastly, parenting has a significant impact on teenagers’ identity crisis, especially in their adolescence.
How do I know if someone I know has an identity crisis?
Here are some visible signs one is experiencing a lost identity:
- Feeling lost in life.
- Questioning their life’s purpose.
- Feeling hopelessness.
- Fearing the unknown.
- Feeling stuck in life.
What age identity issues occur?
Research confirms that 12- to 24-year-olds continually revealed that most 12- to 18-year-olds have lost identity. Not until age 21 and older had the majority of participants achieved stable identities in any life domain.
What can I do to treat an identity crisis?
- Explore yourself.
- Find out ways to deal with challenges.
- Get good support.
- Discover your interests.
- Spend time in nature.