Live Better

Are you having a quarter life crisis?

Don't panic – we all go through it. Here's how to deal when you're feeling stuck.

Feeling anxious about everything that’s happening in your twenties? You’re definitely not alone. A growing trend among young adults is the quarter-life crisis, which is like a midlife crisis but without hair plugs and convertibles.

What is a quarter-life crisis?

A quarter life crisis looks different for everyone, but is generally defined by feeling lost, scared, lonely or confused in your twenties or thirties. You might feel like you’re stuck in a job, relationship, location or identity. You might begin to question whether you’re actually living the life you felt you were working towards in your teens and early twenties. This is often accompanied by feelings of depression, anxiety or stress.

What causes a quarter-life crisis?

Researchers are not quite sure why it’s so much more common these days, but it could have something to do with the unprecedented range of career options available to young people these days. We have more choice, but less security; there are more possibilities, but fewer set paths to follow. Flexibility, it seems, can come at an emotional cost.

So far there’s been very little real research about the causes and impacts of quarter-life crises. One of the most notable studies was conducted in 2013 by researchers from the University of Greenwich. Through a series of interviews with 50 people who had experienced the symptoms associated with a quarter-life crisis, the research team were able to divide their subjects’ experiences into five rough stages.

The five stages of a quarter life crisis

Stage One: Feeling trapped. You might feel stuck in a job, or a city, or a career that you’ve realised you don’t actually like, or that isn’t as fulfilling as you thought it would be.

Stage Two: Empowerment. A growing sense that change is possible, typified by a sense that you can change your life.

Stage Three: Upheaval. You take action and quit your job, break up with your partner, or maybe take some time out to re-evaluate what’s important to you.

Stage Four: Rebuilding. You embark on creating a new life, learning the required skills, and finding your true purpose or passion.

Stage Five: Development. Now that you’ve committed to a life more aligned with your passions and values, your feelings of entrapment and dread should start to disappear.

How to survive a quarter life crisis

Rule number one: DON’T PANIC! You’re not alone. Feeling like you’re having a meltdown at this age is pretty normal – in fact, about 80% of young people experience similar feelings. On average, the research found that a quarter-life crisis will last around two years, occurring at an average age of about 30 years old.

Remember that this is what your twenties and thirties are for. You’ve got the chance to figure out what you find rewarding and meaningful before you’re stuck with too many responsibilities, and that’s not an opportunity many generations have had before. It’s okay to not have it all figured out by now.

It’s hard to see when you’re going through it, but these feelings will pass. Try not to be discouraged; the research also found that the vast majority of people who’ve been through a quarter-life crisis found it to be an ultimately positive experience.

If you’re feeling distressed, support is available for anyone by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; or BeyondBlue 1300 22 4636.

Give yourself a safety net with Medibank Healthy Start Extras, from only $11 a fortnight. Talk to a psychologist or use natural therapies to calm a busy mind. Find out more.

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