Can Someone Really Have A Quarter-Life Crisis?

Creative Arts Therapy Source | New York and New Jersey_Creative Arts Therapy Source | New York and New Jersey

The short answer is yes. The more useful answer takes a little longer to articulate. Firstly, like its more popular cousin — midlife crisis — this syndrome is not about any exact time period. Individuals can go through soul-searching at any age. However, in general, this type of stress often falls into some broad categories.

For example, it’s been found that as many as 86 percent of millennials experience existential pressure before the age of 30. Indeed, while this is “supposed to be” a time of fun and experimenting, it involves no shortage of big decisions and major changes. Let’s take a closer look.

Common Elements of a Quarter-Life Crisis


  • Career planning: You may be in an unfulfilling job while you try to figure out what direction to take. You may always not feel ready to choose that direction.
  • Living situation: Are you living with your parents? Perhaps, you’re living alone for the first time in your life. Did you relocate for school or work and is that causing you to struggle?
  • Social life: Without unifying factors like school or your neighborhood, you may find it challenging to connect with new friends as an adult. 
  • Romantic life: Are you single? Do you look around and see peers settling down, starting famous, and buying homes? 

These are just a few samples. Each of us has our own unique situation. Then, of course, there are factors that are specific to this time and place. In our current age of pandemic-related transitions and economic woes, it seems more likely to face a quarter-life crisis. So many of our expectations have shifted before our very eyes. 

The Psychology of a Quarter-Life Crisis

There is a huge potential for guilt and shame here. Young people are expected to be light-hearted, healthy, and adventurous. What’s with the “crisis” at such a carefree age? This perspective is unrealistic and unfair. Challenges do not conform to a particular chronology. Believing they do makes young people feel extra bad about themselves. Again, they are “not supposed to be”:

  • Feeling stuck
  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Lacking motivation and a sense of purpose 

From there, it only takes a setback or two to lose more self-esteem, e.g. a break-up, losing a job, death of a loved one, etc. 

Signs of a Quarter-Life Crisis

  • You want to change but don’t know where or how to start
  • Your decision-making skills are not exactly on point
  • Social isolation
  • Using social media to compare yourself to others in your age range
  • Your romantic relationships seem to come and go
  • Increasing insecurity 

None of this is unusual or inherently problematic. However, it is necessary for you to accept what’s going on. From there, you can take some steps to address it.

Self-Help Steps to Take


1. Stop Using the Word “Crisis”

Life’s ups, downs, transitions, and challenges are not automatically a crisis. They are normal and quite often, they provide you with an opportunity for self-growth. 

2. Practice Self-Care

Remind yourself that a) you have the ability to create and stick to a routine and b) you’re worth the effort. Safeguard your sleeping, eating, and physical activity patterns. 

3. Carefully Define What Success Means to You Today

Success is an evolving concept. Don’t adhere to old definitions from past versions of you. Put in the work to decide what calls out to you now.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

If your closest friend came to you during their quarter-life crisis, how would you counsel them? You wouldn’t be judgmental or impatient, right? Well, be your own BFF and treat yourself with compassion. 

If the above information feels familiar, let’s talk soon. I’d love to connect with you for a free and confidential consultation. 

Creative Arts Therapy Source offers in-person therapy on Long Island. Online therapy is available across New York & New Jersey.