What Is an Identity Crisis?

Identity Crisis

What Is an Identity Crisis?

Erik H. Erikson coined the term identity crisis to describe the uncertainty, and even anxiety, that adolescents may feel as they recognize that they are no longer children and become puzzled and confused about their present and future roles in life.

Context and Importance of Identity Crisis

You may recall a time during the teenage years when you were confused about who you were, what you should be, and what the future might hold in store for you.

Forming an adult identity involves grappling with many important questions: What career path best suits me? What religious, moral, or political values can I call my own? Who am I as male or female and as a sexual being? How important are marriage and raising children to me? Just where do I fit in to society? These identity issues, often raised at a time when teenagers are also trying to cope with their rapidly changing body images and more demanding social and academic lives, can add significantly to one’s con-fusion about who he or she is (or can become).

The Process of Forging Identities

Researchers have developed elaborate interviews, questioning adolescents and young adults to determine if interviewees have experienced a crisis (grappled with identity issues) and whether or not interviewees have made commitments (i.e., resolved any issues raised) with respect to forging occupational, interpersonal, political, and religious identities.

the answers provided, the interviewee is classified into one of four identity statuses for each identity domain:

  1. Identity diffusion: Persons classified as “diffuse” have neither thought much about nor resolved identity questions and have failed to chart future life directions. Example: “I haven’t really thought much about religion and I’m not sure what to believe.”
  2. Foreclosure: Persons classified as “foreclosed” have committed to an identity, or identities, without experiencing the crisis of deciding if these commitments really suit them well. Example: “My parents are Lutherans and so I’m a Lutheran; it’s just how it is.”
  3. Moratorium: Persons in this status are currently experiencing an identity crisis and are asking questions about various life choices and seeking answers. Example: “I’m exploring my religious teachings, hoping to determine if I can live with them. I some of the answers provided by my Baptist upbringing, but I’m skeptical about so much. I’ve been looking into Unitarianism to see if it might help me overcome my doubts.”
  4. Identity achievement: Identity-achieved individuals have raised and resolved identity issues by making well-thought-out personal commitments to various life domains. Example: “After much soul-searching about my religion, and other religions too, I finally know what I believe and what I don’t and how my beliefs will affect the way I’ll live my life.”

Although Erikson assumed that the painful aspects of identity crises occur early in adolescence and are often resolved between the ages of 15 and 18, his age norms are overly optimistic.

Research with 12- to 24-year-olds consistently reveals that the vast majority of 12- to 18-year-olds are identity diffuse or foreclosed, and not until age 21 and older had the majority of participants reached the moratorium status (crisis) or achieved stable identities in any life domain. There is one intriguing sex difference.

Although today’s college women are just as concerned as men are about achieving an occupational identity, they attach greater importance than men do to aspects of identity that focus on sexuality, personal relationships, and how to balance career and family goals.

The process of identity achievement is often quite uneven. One study assessed the identity statuses of participants in four domains: occupational choice, gender-role attitudes, religious beliefs, and political ideologies.

Only 5% of participants were in the same identity status in all areas, with 95% being in two or even three statuses across the four domains.

So adolescents and young adults may have achieved a strong sense of identity in one area but still be searching in others.

How Painful Are Identity Crises?

It may be unfortunate that Erikson used the term crisis to describe a young person’s search for identity, because adolescents in the moratorium status do not appear all that stressed out.

In fact, these active identity seekers typically feel much better about themselves and their futures than do same-age peers still stuck in the diffusion or foreclosure statuses.

So the active search for identity is often more uplifting than deflating.

What is most painful or crisis- about identity seeking is a long-term failure to establish one.

Older adolescents and young adults still stuck in the diffusion status are often apathetic and sometimes even suicidal; alternatively, they may adopt a negative identity, drifting into antisocial or delinquent behaviors. These are the individuals who may experience a true identity crisis after all.

Parenting and Identity Crisis

Parenting clearly affects how adolescents experience and manage the identity crisis.

Individuals who feel alienated from parents often remain diffuse and experience serious adjustment problems, whereas those who feel close to controlling parents often simply foreclose on identities that parents suggest or dictate to them and that may prove unsatisfying.

Adolescents who forge healthy identities that suit them well typically have warm and accepting parents who encourage identity explorations and who permit their teens to take their own stands on issues and to become individuals in their own right.


  1. Archer, S. (1994). Interventions for adolescent identity development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  2. Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society (2nd ed.). New York: W. W. Norton.
  3. Kroger, J. (2007). Identity development: Adolescence through adulthood (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  4. Marcia, J. E., Waterman, A. S., Matteson, D., Archer, S., & Orlofsky, J. L. (1993). Ego identity: A handbook for psychosocial research. New York: Springer.

Источник: http://psychology.iresearchnet.com/social-psychology/self/identity-crisis/

Help! Who Am I? 7 Signs That You Suffer From an Identity Crisis

What Is an Identity Crisis?

Is an identity crisis normal in our age of social media? Sure, many of us end up creating a bit of a false identity with our and Instagram accounts,  exaggerating our good bits while glossing over the bad.

But what if our inability to be authentic is more than just an online issue? And means we struggle in every part of our life?

What IS identity, really?

Our identity is the way we define ourselves. This includes our values, our beliefs, and our personality.

It also encompasses the roles we play in our society and family. Our past memories, our hopes for the future, as well as our hobbies and interests.

What does a stable identity look ?

To have a solid identity we need to be able to see that we are the same person in our past as we are now, and as we will be in the future. We need to feel the same no matter what our environment.

It doesn’t mean that we act the same all the time. We might be moody, or act differently under stress, or depending on who we are around. We are not, for example, going to act the same around a romantic partner as we act around our parents or colleagues.

But even with these variances in our behaviour and moods, we feel we are the same person underneath.

And if I have identity issues?

A person without a sense of identity can instead feel a disconnect from who they have been, and/or no sense as to who they will become next.

They feel a different person sometimes from day to day. Some report looking in the mirror and finding it hard to believe it is them looking back.

An identity crisis is not related to your personality. You are not born with a uncertain personality. An identity crisis is thought to develop because the environments you grow up in don’t give you the support you need (see the section below, “Why do I have an identity crisis?”).

A study published in the International Journal of Development Research looked at how teenagers’ personality dimensions affected their identity, and they found that there was no link to having an identity crisis. [1]

And what does an identity crisis look ?

By: dusk-photography

If we lose our job or a loved one, if we have to move countries and leave our family behind, all these things can leave us so bereft we temporarily lose sight of ourselves. 

But a real identity crisis means we don’t develop a solid identity as an adolescent. We then struggle with adult life.

7 Signs That you Lack a Sense of Identity

Check for these seven factors that show you might not have a stable sense of self.

1. You change with your environment.

If you work at one job and everyone is studious and quiet, you will be studious and quiet. If your next job requires you to be chatty and upbeat, it will soon seem as if you were always the social type. It’s as if you are more formed by your environment than your own choices and personality.

2. Relationships mould you

ly the sort who feels bereft without a relationship, when you do get into one? You change your hobbies and appearance to match your partner.

You will convince yourself that what they is what you really , but you just didn’t know it, even if you have just gone from wearing black and listening to classical to wearing cowboy boots and listening to country.

And if your partner doesn’t things you’ll give them up, down to changing your friends sometimes. It’s easier to be what they want than admit to your identity crisis.

3. You often have radical shifts in your opinion.

This can include big things political and religious beliefs, or just your opinion on popular culture and things food and fashion.

You might even find you change your mind from day to day and never know what you’ll agree with next.

Whether you realise it or not, you will be changing your opinion to please others and find acceptance. Even if you are disagreeing with someone, on a certain level you ascertain they a challenge so present an opinion that allows for debate. 

4. You don’t being asked about yourself

It makes you uncomfortable when people ask too many questions about yourself. Perhaps you have developed good tactics for avoiding this, changing the subject, or turning questions around on to the other person, then just agreeing with them.

5. Your identity crisis means you get bored easily

At the heart of not having an identity is often a restlessness, as if you are afraid to settle down, incase you commit to the wrong thing that makes your life worse instead of better.

The truth is that as much as you want to know who you are, there is a fear of knowing, too.

6. Your relationships don’t run deep

If you aren’t sure who you are, you can have a fear that others will find out that you are actually nothing much, and then not you.

So there can be a lot of self-protection going on that prevents real connection with others, even if you tend to attract a lot of ‘friends’ and are often in a relationship. You will ly suffer a fear of intimacy.

You might also have troubles holding on to a relationship or social circle for too long, or find you hang around with people who control you and tell you what to do.

7. Deep down you don’t trust yourself

If you don’t know who you are, and you have surprised yourself in the past with your own quick decisions and sudden changes of opinion, you can feel that you can’t even trust yourself.

Why do I lack a sense of identity?

Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson coined the term ‘identity crisis’. He theorised the environment a child grew up in was crucial to forming their sense of self awareness and self.

He identified eight stages to psychosocial growth that all build on each other. Each offers us a positive outcome if we experience it properly. In the teenage years, we hit the level called  ‘Identity vs. Role Confusion’. This is where we learn to be true to ourselves.

But if we have not had the healthy environment required to learn the crucial lessons of the earlier levels of our childhood, it will be far less ly we succeed, and we end up entering our adulthood confused about who we are.

For example, from birth to one years old, is the ‘Basic Trust vs Basic Mistrust” stage. If our caretakers don’t give us a reason to develop trust, we grow up in a world we see as unreliable, we don’t have a stable base. 

By: Sarah

Borderline personality disorder and identity issues

As well as an unstable identity:

You might have what is called ‘borderline personality disorder‘ (BPD) or ‘emotionally unstable personality disorder‘. This leads to intense difficulties with relating, and can leave you lonely and convinced everyone is against you, even when they aren’t.

A study on 95 people with borderline personality disorder found that the main identity disturbance factors in those with BPD are role absorption (defining yourself in terms of a single role or cause), painful incoherence (you don’t feel ‘whole’), inconsistency (confusing thoughts, feelings, and behaviours) and lack of commitment. [2]

If this sounds you, it’s important to seek support. Read our article, ‘What Therapies Work for BPD?‘.

Are you in the midst of one long identity crisis? We connect you with some of London’s most highly regarded talk therapists. Or use our booking site to find UK-wide registered therapists and online counsellors you can chat to no matter where you live. 

Still have a question about having an identity crisis? Or want to share your experience of identity issues with other readers? Use the comment box below. *Note that we can not provide free counselling services over the comment box. *

Written by Andrea Blundell. The lead writer and editor of this site, Andrea Blundell is trained in person-centred therapy and group coaching. 


[1]International Journal of Development Research Vol. 3, Issue, 10, pp.126-129, October, 2013. [2]Identity Disturbance in Borderline Personality Disorder: An Empirical Investigation. Tess Wilkinson-Ryan and Drew Westen. American Journal of Psychiatry 2000 157:4, 528-541. [contact-form-7 404 "Не найдено"]

Источник: https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/who-am-i-identity-crisis.htm

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