getting dressed every morning in clothes that you buy for work, to drive through traffic in a car that you’re still paying off, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes/car, and the house you leave empty all day so you can afford to live in it … feel meaningless?
If so, you might be experiencing a Quarter Life Crisis.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is an increasingly common problem. And it’s due to a mixture of societal pressure, early-onset existential crisis, and the desire to live a truly meaningful life.
There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re experiencing this.
In fact, you are arguable saner than the rest of people.
I mean, what’s more insane than following the “norm” that millions of people conform to and wind up feeling empty and miserable due to at the end of the day?
Thankfully, there is a reason why you’re experiencing a quarter life crisis: it’s an invitation to learn how to find yourself and walk your true path.
Table of contents
What is a Quarter Life Crisis?
A quarter life crisis is a period of confusion, anxiety, demotivation, and depression experienced by people between the ages of 18-30 (and in some cases even younger). In this liminal stage of life, where one is neither fully unattached (as in adolescence) nor fully established (as in later adulthood), there can be tremendous psychological and emotional pressure. Questions such as “What do I want to do with my life?” “What’s the meaning of life?” and “Who am I?” often come to the surface.
What makes the 18-30 age period so stressful is that we are told that our opportunities are endless, that we need to study, to work, to earn the best possible money, to raise the best possible family, and make the right decisions that will affect the rest of our lives.
For anyone, particularly highly sensitive people, this can be an intensely overwhelming period that can lead to feelings of isolation, shame and self-loathing, chronic anxiety, and low-level persistent depression.
Why Do We Experience the Quarter Life Crisis?
We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.– Fight Club
My spirit animal was a cat running across 4 lanes of traffic. That’s how I once felt facing the world.
We’ve often heard of people suffering Midlife Crisis‘, but most of us have heard very little about the Quarter Life Crisis. And no wonder – it’s a fairly new affliction affecting our modern generations.
We are the generation of hyper-stimulated, eternally distracted technology addicts after all.
But it’s not only that.
Unlike previous generations, we have an unprecedented amount of choices flooding us left, right, and center. Certainly, this can be immensely valuable, but it’s also a great source of stress. There are so many decisions we have to make that will shape our entire future. We’ve gone from a care-free childhood full of comfort and stimulation to a critical point in our lives where everything is solely our responsibility and fate to decide.
It’s no wonder then that experts describe having a Quarter-Life Crisis as a sense of panic and impending doom that your life (career, relationships, etc.) isn’t where you’d like it to be. And it’s no wonder that this experience is often the precursor to experiences such as the spiritual awakening process where we start searching for something more fulfilling.
19 Quarter Life Crisis Signs
The moment you finish college your diploma feels a little like a trophy and a lot like a receipt. It’s pretty unsurprising, then, that the need to give up every dream to pay off the large sums of debt usually induces a crisis.
Occurring between the ages of 18 to the late 20’s, people experiencing quarter life crisis’ can also find themselves hitting a rut even before college, when they have to pick their future field of employment, amongst a million other weighty life choices.
Perhaps one of the most troubling things about facing a quarter life crisis is that important decisions must be made too quickly, and societal expectations must be met constantly.
Your life feels like it’s going too fast and is filled with too much pressure. Suddenly you’re thrown out of school and into stress and problems without having received a chance to learn about yourself or discover what you really want from life. In essence, you’re stuck.
Experiencing a quarter life crisis can also make you feel immensely lonely among other people.
Summarized, here are some key signs you’re going through a quarter life crisis:
- You struggle with feeling empty
- The future feels overwhelming and bleak
- You start questioning what your life purpose is
- You struggle with loneliness and disconnection from others (i.e., social interactions usually bore or stress you out)
- You feel chronically bored and demotivated
- You can’t sleep properly (or alternatively over-sleep)
- You sometimes feel an inexplicable sense of impending doom
- When you look at other’s lives, you feel demoralized
- You’ve gone through a spiritual awakening that makes you feel totally lost
- Physical and mental fatigue constantly plagues you
- You’re terrified to make the wrong decisions
- Social media makes you feel anxious and depressed (aka. everyone seems to be doing better than you)
- Low self-worth and constant insecurity haunt you
- You struggle with addictive and escapist tendencies
- You’re worried that you might never have your sh*t together
- You hate your job, but need the money
- You have bouts of existential depression
- You feel trapped and like you struggle to move forward
- Often, you feel like crawling into a small, dark hole and hibernating
How many of the above quarter life crisis signs can you relate to? Don’t be shy to share your insights in the comments. You might help someone else in a similar place feel like they’re not alone!
Is There a Bright Side to the Quarter Life Crisis?
In short, YES. Let me explain.
The first symptoms of the quarter life crisis come in the form of insecurities about your life. You begin to wonder if you’ve done anything substantially important with your life so far and you tend to feel unworthy. While this might feel painful, it’s actually a powerful opportunity to figure out what is truly important to you.
Looking around, you might feel like everyone is moving forward and is making something important out of their lives except you. Suddenly your friends are getting married, finding good jobs, finishing degrees, or moving away. Change becomes your enemy as you try to cling to the past, but you eventually realize your attempts are futile. Life is leaving you behind.
Again, change is an opportunity for you to learn the power of letting go and stepping into your power.
Here are some other benefits of the quarter life crisis that I’ve personally experienced:
- you start to learn what is truly meaningful (and what isn’t worth the time/energy)
- you become a person of deeper substance (aka. you begin to grow and evolve, even if that’s at a painfully slow rate at first)
- you start asking the deep questions that lead to deep realizations (like “why was I born?” “what is my destiny?” “what do I want to contribute to this world?”)
- you embrace becoming a lone wolf and walking your own path (the other options are just too painful)
- your crisis can drive you to go soul searching and figuring out what is emotionally and spiritually important to you
- you realize that undergoing a quarter life crisis is a sign of sanity and intelligence (and you become more self-accepting)
- you start re-evaluating your desires and goals (aligning them with your needs), and therefore you become a more authentic person
So as you can see, it’s not all doom and gloom. Breakdown precedes breakthrough. Your crisis is actually an opportunity and doorway of immense self-discovery and self-growth. It’s a powerful vehicle of self-awareness.
Read: Self-Awareness: 11 Ways to Increase It in an Unconscious World »
3 Ways to Survive the Quarter Life Crisis
Here are some helpful tips:
1. Go soul searching
Begin exploring what brings you a sense of joy, excitement, and/or fulfillment. If you want to live a meaningful life and wake up each day with a sense of gratitude, you need to put in the work. One simple way to begin is with a daily practice of journaling about your thoughts, feelings, and discoveries. What insights have you had today? What feelings are bubbling up to the surface? What are your goals and dreams? Write ’em all down. Learn more about how to journal.
Read: Soul Searching: 7 Ways to Uncover Your True Path »
2. Take a break from social media
Let’s face it, 99% of the time for most of us, social media is a colossal waste of time and energy. It tends to reinforce patterns of low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression by promoting toxic comparison and a culture of fakeness. My advice? Take a break from it. Set a goal (there are many programs out there that can help) to be a technology minimalist for at least 30 days. You can start off small if that feels more comfortable, ditching social media for a couple of days and seeing what happens.
Most importantly, notice how you feel. Notice the impulse to scroll mindlessly, and notice what happens when you don’t. After a period of time, you will likely feel refreshed, more optimistic, more motivated, and more self-accepting of where you are in life right now.
3. Explore who you are as a person
Self-knowledge is a powerful path that can liberate you from the clutches of the quarter life crisis. Once you know your strengths, weaknesses, desires, and what your personality is like, you’re equipped with insight that can drive you forward on the right path.
There are many ways of gaining more self-knowledge. Probably one of the most fun ways is via personality tests that open a doorway into your mind. We’ve created a bunch of free and illuminating quizzes which you can find on our free tests page.
Quarter Life Crisis Test
Need more help discovering whether you might be going through a quarter life crisis or not? I’ve created a free test you can take below:
What did you get? Feel free to share below in the comments!
Personally, I can tell you from experience that facing a Quarter Life Crisis doesn’t last forever.
With time, patience, and experience it slowly fades away, and depending on what you do with it, it can be a powerful doorway to deeper understanding and purpose. On the other hand, facing a quarter life crisis can also cripple your life if you end up following the crowd, comparing yourself to other people, and living up to your peer’s and parent’s expectations.
In short: be a free spirit. Dare to walk your own path. This is YOUR life after all.
I want to hear from you now. What has your experience been like with the quarter life crisis. What have you learned so far? Feel free to share below!
Finally, please share this article with someone if you think it might benefit them. You never know what kind of positive impact you might have with this simple gesture!
I have all 19 symptoms. It’s sh*t. And I’m 41.
I am 30 and feel as if I am going through my second quater life-crisis. First I went through a crisis when I was 25 and it led me to travel and go through different experiences that helped me heal my personality and soul. Then I went searching for love in partnership and it didnt work out. And now I am 31 and going through a crisis again. This is far from my first crisis though. I had one when I was 18 and that one led me to understand my family dynamic. So I am in my third crisis now. You might think that makes it eaiser, it doesnt honestly. The pressure has increased yet my ability to absorb has also increased. I work 9 – 5 office job and feel so incredible stuck and trapped. Alot of my friends are married, is starting to have kids, are finding fulfilling relationships and here I am and all my journeying led to feeling more alone than ever. Still I continue to practice love and feeling my feelings and sensations. However I am incredible tired. I simply want to lay down and rest for a long time. I feel I cant… Read more »
I am certainly going through this crisis. I am 18 years old, and I will have to start my first university year. I guess the crisis got triggered when I met a sever psychological crisis two years ago. I putted myself in harsh expectations, (I chose studying Math sciences, the hardest choice known). And I deluded myself by thinking that I am a genius, and I will get all admiration I needed because being an ordinary person with ordinary achievements is unworthy. (The stupidest belief I had). I started being a workaholic for the first time of my life, until I broke down suddenly into a stream of endless thoughts accompanied with intense dread, the world at that moment seemed to strangle me (the only metaphor to explain the experience), I felt like I couldn’t continue living anymore, because life became a hell, for five minutes. The cause behind that anxiety crisis I felt was that I subconsciously believed that to get anything I want, I should work for it without rest. I did that, so I expected perfection, yet perfection didn’t come, so I concluded: “The problem is not about my dedication, the problem is that I am fondamentally… Read more »
Yes, this is totally relatable for me too. After some very painful and confusing losses this year I am now actually questioning my own past, path and character. I am starting to see the darkest parts of myself that cause dysfunction, pain and problems for others and myself. Friends especially. I feel that right now I am being given a choice to face the truth about my past, present and how I behave and function in this world. and it feels scary since there are things about me that are very dark and hard to accept. One of them being that I have habits if being manipulative without even being aware of it and always wanting something from others. In one sentence. I really don;t know how to truly love others as much as I thought. I feel like my life is a lie unto others and myself. Something feels off. I worry about having some personality defect or disorder and not sure about it. Or some kind of character disturbance. it is so hard to tell given that I am clouded and traumatized and out of touch these days. And the big defense mechanism to avoid wanting to go… Read more »
I’m 25 years old and completely stuck in my life right now. Since I was 18, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I was diagnosed with autism when I was a child and grew up trying to catch up with neurotypicals, trying to please them and be “as good as them”. Till now, I’ve lived my doing this I thought I should have done instead of what I wanted to have done. I’m still tempted to do things I think I should do but don’t really want to do. I recently discovered that I have ADHD symptoms and have not been diagnosed yet. Finding out these symptoms have changed my life though as I’m finally starting to understand myself and how I work best. It’s still a struggle as I’ve lived with low-self esteem since childhood but having this understanding will help me slowly take control of my life and do what I want to do.
This article definitely helped me understand what I am going through. I’m turning 21 this week and I feel like I haven’t done anything with my life yet or better yet don’t know what to do with my life yet. Lol it’s weird because I know I’m really young but at the same time I feel so Freaked out. I hope as you’ve mentioned in your article it comes to an end fastFreaked out. I hope as you’ve mentioned in your article it comes to an end fast. I didn’t really know I was going through quarter life crisis but Apparently I am lol.
I love your site, but you are still yet young. I feel this way at 55 years of age, but perhaps it is because I denied who I knew I was and I am now just coming into my true awakening….the one I denied so many years ago. These are still powerful words and I know….this too will pass.
Thank you for this article. I wish I could have read it a few years ago, when I was in my late twenties and neck deep in this. I had no idea what I’d do after I finished my PhD as I was working a monotonous, underpaid job, and I knew I wouldn’t do much better after I got the degree. I finally quit my job, gave up on my PhD program as it was going nowhere, and was working odd jobs for a whole year (cue the financial troubles). It was a pretty dark period in my life, however, I’m pretty sure now that I needed this transition in order to get to a better place eventually. As stated in the article, quarter-life crisis doesn’t last forever. I’m 32 now, and doing better than ever. No, my life isn’t a perpetual state of bliss, but I finally found a job I actually like, and I restarted some of my hobbies such as drawing and writing stories. Also, I quit social media altogether – no Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter, nothing. Best decision of the year. So, if you’re currently experiencing this, I feel you. It’s a bad place to… Read more »
Thank You Mateo for another wonderful and insightful article. If I ever had the privelege to meet both your good self and Luna, I would love to give you both a huge hug ( hopefully it will be a covid free world ! ). To say Thank You for the intelligence, sensitivity, kindness and love that all your articles contain. You articles have helped me immensely over the years and I am sure I speak for many thousands ( maybe millions ? ) of people you have helped. As regards this article on the quarter life crisis, may I share with your younger readers that I suffered from 17 of the 19 signs of same. When I was younger – many moons ago. I didn’t suffer from the physical and mental side of things as I have always been very strong in those areas and am so grateful for this. But DID suffer terribly with the emotional and spiritual side of things. But to all you young people reading this – Mateo is correct: things DO get easier and clearer as you age. I used to be where you might be now. Read Mateo and Luna’s articles, be true to… Read more »