Dealing with the Quarter Life Crisis

What happens after graduation day? Many students come out of college with thousands of dollars in college loan debt. With the pressure to find a job in a recovering economy, before the loan bills start accumulating, some may struggle to secure employment that is related to their degree. Others may settle for positions they are overqualified for in order to get by financially. The portion of students who do begin an entry level position in their intended career path may soon discover that it is not a good fit for them. This may cause some to feel anxious, ashamed, or hopeless about their lives and future due to the pressures of new expectations and responsibilities. In order to prevent a downwards cycle, it is important to recognize the signs of a quarter life crisis. Urban Balance therapist, Alyssa Yeo, has the answers to questions you may have about the quarter life crisis and how to overcome it.

What is a quarter life crisis?

The term “quarter life crisis” refers to a new phase of life that occurs in the interval period between college and the “real” world. During this transitional stage, individuals are struggling to cope with anxieties about their adult life, which often leads to feelings of depression, helplessness, low self-esteem, worthlessness, and other overwhelming emotions.

What commonly triggers a quarter life crisis?

The twenties are portrayed as an independent, self-sufficient, and exciting good time in life, but for many individuals this is not the case. The unpredictability of the future and onset of new responsibilities and opportunities causes many overwhelming and conflicting emotions that can deeply impact an individual’s ability to maintain emotional stability.

Delayed marriage trends and higher education also increase this phase of life for many individuals. It’s becoming more common for people to explore different career options, pursue hobbies or interests, and continue their education rather than settle into one career and start a family.

What are signs that a person is dealing with a quarter life crisis?

Symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, as well as mood swings and fear, are common signs someone in their twenties or early-thirties could be experiencing a quarter-life crisis. In fact, psychologists have found that the high stress associated with the transition to adulthood contributes to a higher rate of all forms of disorder in the twenty-something age group, including addiction, anxiety, depression, and many other kinds of problems (Robbins & Wilner, 2001).

Are some people more prone to experiencing a quarter life crisis than others?

There isn’t any research to show that some people are more prone to experiencing a quarter life crisis, however, certain factors can put individuals at an increased risk for mental health issues. This includes genes (family history), biology (brain injury, structural brain changes), environment (early childhood experiences, trauma, stress), and lifestyle (substance use/abuse).

How can someone overcome a quarter life crisis?

The first step is admitting to the issues, and then finding a space to talk about them. Many individuals are unwilling to admit to their unhappiness and the majority of young adults suffer silently. Their reality does not match society’s portrayal of what it means to be in your twenties, so they may internalize their issues and feel inadequate or embarrassed.

This can cause a dangerous downward cycle, and while the symptoms of this cycle are dependent on the individual’s struggles, in general it goes as such: individuals are unhappy (i.e. anxious or depressed), they don’t talk about it, because they don’t discuss their problems they don’t learn that these issues are common, this causes them to think something is wrong with them, which in turn, spirals into self-doubt and more feelings of unhappiness (Robbins & Wilner, 2001).

The best way to break this negative cycle is to share your experiences with others and seek out resources that can provide you with insight and support on the topic (here is a link to one of my favorite books for women specifically, but there are many other books and resources that exist). Individual therapy and peer support groups are also beneficial for those struggling to cope with this phase of life.


Robbins, A., & Wilner, A. (2001). Quarterlife crisis: The unique challenges of life in your twenties. New York: Penguin.

On July 30th, our current electronic health system will transition to a new and advanced system to better serve you: Athena. Prior to the transition date, you will be sent a registration link to create a new patient account in Athena. If you have any immediate questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your therapist, or call our office to speak to a staff member.