You might be going through what is known as an identity crisis if you start doubting your values or purpose and starting to doubt yourself. Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, coined the term “identity crisis” and also came up with the concept of identity crisis in adolescence and midlife. He thought overcoming challenges in life helped people develop their personalities. You might start to doubt or question your identity or self-worth if you’re going through an identity crisis.
What is Identity?
Identity refers to those qualities, beliefs, and characteristics of a person or a group of people that make them unique and different from another person or group.
Types of Identity
There are multiple types of identity that can be broken down into the following:
- National identity
- Cultural or ethnical identity
- Professional identity
- Religious identity
- Gender identity
Causes of an identity crisis
Even though identity crisis is usually associated with happening at certain ages like in teens (during adolescence) or during midlife (as in “midlife crises”), it can happen at any age, to anybody, as well as, at any point in one’s life.
Recent studies have shown that factors like stress levels and some mental health issues can influence identity crises.
Most times identity crises, just like other mental health issues, can arise from major life stressors. Stressors are usually not inherently bad but can cause a lot of stress that can result in you questioning your identity and your value.
Examples of these stressors include:
- Getting married
- Moving to a new city, country, or apartment
- Getting into a new relationship
- Losing a family member or loved one
- Experiencing trauma from a recent event or situation
- Getting a new job
- Losing your job
- Discovery of new health issues
- Graduating from school
.These, and many others, can trigger a new way of perceiving yourself which can have a major impact on your life and identity.
Types of Identity Crisis
Some conditions are linked to identity crises that can also be considered subtypes of this condition. Some of these conditions are:
- Midlife crisis: This is believed to be an identity crisis that occurs in the middle of a person’s life.
- Quarterlife crisis: Just as the name implies, this is a form of identity crisis that occurs in a person’s 20s, usually at the stage when they begin their career or graduate from school.
- Professional Identity Crisis: This is when a person is unsure of their career.
- Gender Dysphoria: This is when a person begins to question the gender they were born with and this can also come with the desire to take on and live as another gender. They may also begin to experience something known as a sexual identity crisis.
- Adjustment Disorder: This subtype is caused by stress and is triggered by stressors like those that have been mentioned earlier on.
Symptoms of an identity crisis
Identity crisis is not a diagnosable condition. Due to this nature of it, there are no typical symptoms as with a usual illness or infection. However, some signs are noticeable in people who may be experiencing an identity crisis:
- Constantly questioning who you are regarding a certain area of your life such as relationships or career.
- Having personal conflicts because of the constant questioning of who you are or your overall value in society.
- Reduced sense of self and sadness due to big changes, like marriage, divorce, or parenthood, that have recently occurred in your life.
- Constantly questioning the values that play a major role in how you see yourself. Examples of these values include your interests, spirituality, or beliefs.
- You find yourself searching for more meaning in life, a reason to be alive, or things to be passionate about in your life.
- Depressive moods, feelings of worthlessness, and a sense of hopelessness.
- Sudden loss of interest in hobbies or things you used to enjoy
- Fatigue and easy irritability
- Sudden weight change or appetite loss
- Difficulty in concentration and insomnia
- Low energy levels and lack of motivation
- They become more irritable than usual
Reflecting on one’s life is completely normal because we experience changes throughout our lifetime. However, when your reflections begin to affect your daily functioning and how you think, you may be experiencing a crisis of identity.
Treatment for an identity crisis
Diagnosing is usually followed by treatment and they are some available treatment options :
- Inward Reflection and Exploration
Take time to look within yourself and ask questions to determine what you or do not like anymore, as well as, things you value or no longer value. Asking these questions will help you figure out things that might have changed about you with time. It is okay to not have the answers to all these questions as change is constant and a lot of things change about people with time. Some of the questions you can ask yourself for reflection include:
- What are the special qualities or characteristics that define you? How have these special qualities changed over the years?
- How have the major life changes you have experienced or you are experiencing in life changed you? Have these changes brought you satisfaction or contentment? Can you cope with these major changes?
- What are those things you value? What are your beliefs and values? Is anything currently opposing them?
- What are your interests, hobbies, or things you are passionate about? Are you participating in the things you like to do as usual? If you haven’t been, why not?
- What keeps you grounded? What are your coping mechanisms when you are struggling?
- What are the things important to your purpose or sense of identity in life?
- Is there anything you can do to improve your perception of yourself?
- What are those things that make you happy and give you a sense of purpose in life?
2. Find support and seek external help
Having a good social support system can be a helpful influence on how well you cope with life’s major changes, stressors, or questions that have to do with identity and self-perception. You can look for support from your friends, partners, and family members. You would be surprised by how much you have been able to achieve and how your person has improved others around you. Joining a community, a club that shares a similar interest, or a support group is also always helpful in dealing with mental issues like this. You can also consider joining a mental health group or attending individual therapy sessions. Staying active by participating in team activities and sports can also help. If you will find joy and fulfillment in taking up a new hobby, connecting with others, or other things outside of your usual, go for them.
Talking to a therapist will help you come to terms with how you are feeling and help you understand that no one and nothing can determine your identity, and self-esteem therapy online can be a valuable resource in this journey, assisting you in embracing this crisis and using it to your advantage to develop a sense of identity and purpose that you are comfortable with.
Learning to ignore internal and external judgment and not letting other people’s expectations define you can have a very positive effect on the way you feel entirely. Do not allow societal standards to dictate what you should do, like, or who you are. It is also important to know that people change and if at a certain age or stage in your life, you no longer believe in the things you used to, that is fine too. The most important thing is not allowing these major changes to affect your perception of yourself. Your self-perception is very important to your well-being and wasting your time and energy on judging yourself will only hurt you. Make changes if you need to, they will make you happier. People might find these changes strange but always remember that people’s perceptions of you do not make you less of who you are.