Identity crisis: how does it influence mental health? This often gets attributed to those in their teens, divorced, or who lose a job. The concept of identity crisis seems to apply to everything that sounds like uncertainty and melancholy. But does it exist as a psychological problem? Different experts give us the keys to understand it.
The term identity comes from the evolutionary crises (those that mark each stage of life towards maturity), of which experts such as Erich Fromm, a social psychologist, said Laura Moran, the psychologist. The therapist defines it as a “street concept” and explains that, although they are not official, “these types of terms are used so that the patient can communicate vital crises such as, for example, the lack of knowledge of where their lives.”
In this article, you will learn the influence of the identity crisis on mental health. In this way, you can take all the precautions to avoid a disorder of this kind.
What is an identity crisis?
The identity or existential crises refer to a moment of change, which Morán indicates, “can be marked by the person himself or by an external circumstance.” These are situations that “produce uncertainty and anxiety, but also provide opportunities,” he adds.
Normally, they relate to transcendental moments in life, such as relationships, children, work, or health, says the clinical psychologist Jorge Barraca: “It is a rethinking of vital issues, although the crisis starts from a specific issue, as something negative such as an emotional separation or a health problem, or something positive such as a move from home, a trip or having a child. Identity is given by the framework in which the person is indifferent and is a global questioning of changes.”
It is not a disorder, but it can lead to one. The most characteristic thing they have is introspection. These are episodes in which you can lose contact with the outside by sinking into your thoughts and feelings that remind you of the past or feeling anxiety and unease when looking into the future.
There are feelings inherent to this type of crisis (such as melancholy, frustration, and disconnection from the world) that may remind you of depression but should not be confused by it. Depression leads to insufficient sleep, appetite, anhedonia (the inability to enjoy), difficulties in concentration, lack of energy that translates into muscle aches or headaches without organic correlation, and irritation.
It is much more extensive and affects the behavior of the person, who finds it difficult to cope with life after a bereavement or loss of job, avoiding things that hurt them and slipping down the depressive spiral.
The problem of identity crises, these experts explain, is not in the thoughts or feelings themselves, but in getting hooked on them and giving them too many laps: “It can become counterproductive,” says Barraca; and Morán adds that if it is not overcome, it can lead to depression, “when the situation lengthens, and there are no advances or answers.”
Despite this, experts clarify that identity crises are not a disorder. Eparquio Delgado, general health psychologist, popularizer, and author of Self-help books, warns that the term “does not define anything concrete and is an example of the pathologization of normality. Anything seems like a disorder, but an identity crisis does not exist as a diagnosis in reality. It is a vital circumstance.”
Symptoms of the identity crisis
The identity crisis causes a series of symptoms that make it possible to distinguish when it is this type of crisis and not an existential crisis. However, keep in mind that all symptoms can vary from one person to another, as can the intensity with which an identity crisis can be experienced.
Here are the symptoms:
- Feeling lost.
- A feeling of loneliness and emptiness.
- Decision-making problems, as there are no solid or defined criteria.
- Difficulty solving problems.
- Emotional instability.
- The feeling of not having the capacity or preparation for changes and new cycles
If you identify any of these symptoms in yourself, you should seek help immediately. And if you identify them in family or friends, recommend that they seek help from a psychologist.
Causes of the identity crisis
Before moving towards the causes of the identity crisis, it is relevant to note that a crisis does not last one or two days. It may even last for months and even years. The identity crisis can be more intense, or less, depending on the causes that originate it.
These are the causes and risk factors for this type of crisis:
– Unexpected changes
Changes such as a bereavement because of a significant and unexpected loss, a divorce, termination of employment, a forced move due to a job change, or other factors, among others, often trigger the identity crisis.
– The stage of adolescence
This stage is sensitive due to the continuous and profound physical, mental, and psychological changes suffered by being in an intermediate phase of being a child or an adult.
Therefore, it can cause an identity crisis since the individual must develop a new identity, and for this, they will rely on their peer groups.
– Lack of self-knowledge
If a person is not clear about their values and faces a situation in which they must make a momentous decision for their life, realizing that they do not know themselves, they enter a conflict that can trigger an identity crisis.
These are the three main causes of the identity crisis. If you are exposed to these causes, be alert to possible symptoms.
How to overcome an identity crisis?
If you find yourself facing an identity crisis, regardless of how old you are, this series of tips can be of great help to help you cope with this situation. Remember that overcoming an identity crisis is not an easy task and requires time, patience, and even effort. Some tips that we can give you:
1. See your identity crisis as an opportunity
Stop focusing solely on the negative side of the crisis you are going through and improve your perspective on it. Be aware that crises are also opportunities to evolve, develop, and grow. Crises help us know ourselves better and realize that we have more capacities than we think we have. They teach us to know new ways of acting and moving in life, among many other extremely positive things.
2. Work in self-discovery
To get ahead in the face of an identity crisis, it is essential that you do introspection exercises and gain more knowledge of yourself. You can continuously make reflections about your values in life, your beliefs, ideals, goals, etc. It could also help you a lot to get the help of a professional who can guide you to achieve it.
3. Mint confidence in yourself
Learn to accept yourself unconditionally, recognize your worth and your potential. Self-love and self-confidence are essential to face any situation that causes us discomfort.
4. Customized to ask yourself new goals or
If the situation that has generated the identity crisis has caused you to lose direction about what you want in life, it is time for you to start from there to reevaluate and change your personal goals. Do not be afraid if you have to set yourself new goals that had nothing to do with the ones you had planned initially. It is about finding those that give you more motivation and meaning to everything you do.
5. Accept the changes
The worst thing you can do is resist the new changes, as that will cause you to stagnate more and more. Know how to adapt to the changes presented to you and those you are having since it will allow you to continue developing and increasing your emotional well-being.
Now that you know the influence of the identity crisis on mental health, you can take the necessary measures to prevent and avoid them successfully.