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How to Recognize and Cope With an Identity Crisis
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania.
10'000 Hours / Getty Images
Frequently Asked Questions
While everyone questions themself from time to time, you may be having an identity crisis if you are going through a big change or stressful time and internal questions regarding your sense of self begin to interfere with your daily life. You might also notice that you feel more irritable, unmotivated, or empty. Depending on the severity of your feelings and symptoms, there are several ways to deal with an identity crisis including professional treatment and social support.
The concept originates in the work of developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, who believed that the formation of identity was one of the most important conflicts that people face.
According to Erikson, an identity crisis is a time of intensive analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself . Erikson noted that developing a sense of identity is important during the teenage years, though the formation and growth of identity is not confined to adolescence. Instead, identity shifts and changes throughout life as people confront new challenges and tackle different experiences. Thus, an identity crisis can occur at any age.
Symptoms of an Identity Crisis
A person going through an identity crisis may be preoccupied with certain questions:
- What am I passionate about?
- What are my spiritual beliefs ?
- What are my values?
- What is my role in society or purpose in life?
- Who am I? (This question may be in general or in regard to relationships, age, or career.)
It is important to be aware that having negative feelings about yourself or your life can be an indicator of a vulnerability for depression. If you are also experiencing depression symptoms such as low mood, loss of interest, fatigue, and irritability, you should talk to a healthcare provider.
How Identity Develops
Erikson believed that identity was formed by experimenting with different behaviors and roles, as well as through social interactions. Researcher James Marcia expanded upon Erikson's theory by suggesting that the balance between identity and confusion lies in making a commitment to an identity.
Marcia developed an interview method to measure identity. It looks at three different areas of functioning: occupational role, beliefs and values, and sexuality . He also identified four different identity statuses that people move through as they develop their identity:
- Foreclosure is when a person has made a commitment without attempting identity exploration.
- Achievement occurs when an individual has gone through an exploration of different identities and made a commitment to one.
- Diffusion occurs when there is neither an identity crisis nor commitment. Those with a status of identity diffusion tend to feel out of place in the world and don't pursue a sense of identity.
- Moratorium is the status of a person who is actively involved in exploring different identities but has not made a commitment.
Marcia argued that identity crises help people move from one status to another; however, people don't necessarily experience each of the statuses above.
Causes of an Identity Crisis
In Erikson's stages of psychosocial development , the emergence of an identity crisis occurs during the teenage years in which people struggle with feelings of identity versus role confusion .
In today's rapidly changing world, identity crises may be more common than in Erikson's day. Such crises often occur in response to a sudden change in a person's life. This may include personal life changes or broader societal events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
People tend to experience an identity crisis at various points in life, particularly at points of great change, including:
- Beginning a new relationship
- Ending a marriage or partnership
- Experiencing a traumatic event
- Having a child
- Learning about a health condition
- Losing a loved one
- Losing or starting a job
- Moving to a new place
Research also suggests that there are a number of factors that can influence whether a person experiences what is often referred to as a midlife crisis . Such factors include health issues, stress , and social support.
Having a mental health condition such as depression, bipolar disorder , and borderline personality disorder may also increase the likelihood of experiencing an identity crisis.
Diagnosing Identity Issues
It is important to note that an identity crisis is not an actual psychological diagnosis. However, identity is a key criterion for diagnosing personality disorders , and it is possible to be diagnosed with an identity issue or disorder.
For example, dissociative identity disorder is when someone has two or more distinct identities or personalities. It is diagnosed if, in addition to these distinct identities, the person also has ongoing memory gaps and their symptoms cause distress in some areas of life.
An identity disturbance , which is a criterion for borderline personality disorder , occurs when there is "uncertainty about several issues relating to identity." This can include having uncertainty about one's self-image, gender identity, values, and long-term goals.
Treatment for an Identity Crisis
If an identity crisis is creating significant distress and interfering with your ability to function normally, a doctor or mental health professional can help. Talk to them about how you're feeling and the changes or stress you're experiencing in your life.
Depending on the severity of your identity issues and the effects they are creating, there are several treatment options.
Therapy can be helpful for addressing some of the underlying issues that might be contributing to your identity crisis. One approach known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works to address the negative thoughts and behaviors that may cause issues with your view of yourself.
Some studies have found group therapy to be helpful for treating identity crises, especially in adolescents. One such study reported positive results after engaging in group narrative therapy , which focuses on helping people find their voice through the stories they tell themselves.
Another noted similar findings after group-based reality therapy , which reinforces the power of making good choices.
If your symptoms are accompanied by anxiety or depression, your doctor may also suggest or prescribe medications ( anti-anxiety or antidepressant medicines) to help with those conditions.
Coping With an Identity Crisis
In many cases, there are steps you can take to help work through an identity crisis on your own. Some things that may be helpful as you confront questions about your identity include:
- Acknowledge and accept your feelings . Seek to identify and understand the feelings you have about your identity, then acknowledge and accept them. Tell yourself that it is okay to feel the way you do, extending the same grace to yourself as you would a friend.
- Explore your beliefs and interests . When you are questioning your sense of self, it can be helpful to look inward and think about the things you are passionate about. What are you interested in? Are there things that you no longer like? Asking questions and exploring new hobbies and interests can be a helpful way to get to know yourself better.
- Consider your goals . Spend some time thinking about your goals in life. What do you want to accomplish? What types of things bring you the most joy and happiness ? An identity crisis might be a sign that some need is not currently being fulfilled, so finding ways to satisfy that need can bring a greater sense of fulfillment to your life.
- Get support . Having friends and family to lean on can help. Strong social support is an important part of mental well-being and can also be a way to gain the feedback and encouragement you need to feel comfortable with your identity. Friends, family members, social clubs, religious groups, team sports groups, and support groups can all be great places to find the support that you need.
There’s good reason to overcome an identity crisis. Researchers have found that those who have made a strong commitment to an identity tend to be happier and healthier than those who have not.
Exploring different aspects of yourself in the different areas of life, including your role at work, within the family, and in romantic relationships, can help strengthen your personal identity. Consider looking within to figure out the qualities and characteristics that define you and make you feel grounded and happy, as well as your values, interests, passions, and hobbies.
Identity is another word for your "subjective self." It is who you are regardless of the changes you might go through in life—such as losing or gaining weight, or changing jobs—and is defined by your unique characteristics (physical, psychological, and interpersonal), your affiliations in this world, and your social roles.
Identity involves the experiences, relationships, beliefs, values, and memories that make up a person's subjective sense of self. This helps create a continuous self-image that remains fairly constant even as new aspects of the self are developed or strengthened over time.
If you are going through a challenging time (or a big change) and are questioning who you are—your values, passions, beliefs, or sexual identity—or how you fit into the world, you may be experiencing an identity crisis. Feeling empty, irritable, having decreased motivation, and social withdrawal are additional signs of an identity crisis.
Working with a mental health professional who is caring and supportive can be a powerful tool for overcoming an identity crisis. If you have depression or anxiety in addition to identity concerns, a doctor or therapist might also recommend medication or other forms of treatment to help with these symptoms.
When someone you love is having any type of mental health crisis, listening supportively and without judgment can help. If they seem highly distressed or the identity crisis is negatively impacting their lives, suggest that they talk to a doctor or mental health counselor. Individual or group therapy may help and medications might also be suggested to help reduce co-occurring issues such as depression and anxiety .
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Sułkowski Ł, Szostak M. Identity crisis of artists during the Covid-19 pandemic and shift towards entrepreneurship . Entrep Bus Econ Rev . 2021;3:87-102.
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Karimian N, Askari M, Karimi Y, Zarei E. The effectiveness of group narrative therapy on reducing identity crisis and mental health improvement of Divandarre students . Hormozgan Med J . 2014;18:403-410.
Behmanesh Z, Kheramine S, Ramazani KH. The effectiveness of group training based on choice theory on identity crisis and mental health of high school male students in second grade in Dogonbadan . Yasuj Univ Med Sci . 2020;25(5):642-56.
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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
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Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America
- John Sides , Michael Tesler , and Lynn Vavreck
A gripping, in-depth account of the 2016 presidential election that explains Donald Trump’s historic victory
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Donald Trump’s election victory stunned the world. How did he pull it off? Was it his appeal to alienated voters in the battleground states? Was it Hillary Clinton and the scandals associated with her long career in politics? Were key factors already in place before the nominees were even chosen? Identity Crisis provides a gripping account of the campaign that appeared to break all the political rules—but in fact didn’t. Identity Crisis takes readers from the bruising primaries to an election night whose outcome defied the predictions of the pollsters and pundits. The book shows how fundamental characteristics of the nation and its politics—the state of the economy, the Obama presidency, and the demographics of the political parties—combined with the candidates’ personalities and rhetoric to produce one of the most unexpected presidencies in history. Early on, the fundamental characteristics predicted an extremely close election. And even though Trump’s many controversies helped Clinton maintain a comfortable lead for most of the campaign, the prediction of a close election became reality when Americans cast their votes. Identity Crisis reveals how Trump’s victory was foreshadowed by changes in the Democratic and Republican coalitions that were driven by people’s racial and ethnic identities. The campaign then reinforced and exacerbated those cleavages as it focused on issues related to race, immigration, and religion. The result was an epic battle not just for the White House but about what America is and should be.
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the 2019 Richard E. Neustadt Award, Presidents and Executive Politics Section of the American Political Science Association
- "The Most Ominous Book I Read in 2018" (Carlos Lozado, Washington Post)
- One of Vox's 9 Thinkers Who Made Sense of 2018's Chaos
"There is little if any support in voting data for the notion that ‘economic anxiety’ drove people to vote for Trump. As documented in Identity Crisis , an important new book analyzing the 2016 election, what distinguished Trump voters wasn’t financial hardship but ‘attitudes related to race and ethnicity.’"—Paul Krugman, New York Times
"I think it is, without doubt, the most important, most illuminating book written on the 2016 election. And in doing that I think it’s one of the most important books for understanding American politics today. . . . There are so many findings in the book that if you really absorb them they can rock your understanding of politics."—Ezra Klein, Vox
"A vital new work on the political culture of the Trump era."—Carlos Lozada, Washington Post
"One of the most influential books on the 2016 election."—Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times
"The importance of the backlash around race and immigration inside the GOP is a central theme of a timely, careful and data-rich new book on the 2016 election by political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler and Lynn Vavreck. In Identity Crisis , they argue that Trump understood what was happening inside the party in a way his rivals did not."—E.J. Dionne, Washington Post
"Other academics may also be skeptical of Cyberwar . A forthcoming book on the 2016 campaign, Identity Crisis , by the political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck, argues that Russian interference was not a major factor in the Presidential election, and that the hacked e-mails ‘did not clearly affect’ perceptions of Clinton. Instead, they write, Trump’s exploitation of divisive race, gender, religious, and ethnicity issues accounted for his win."—Jane Mayer, New Yorker
"Under their microscope, the white ‘economic anxiety’ excuse for voting Trump morphs into something completely different, identified by the authors as ‘racialized economics,’ which they define as ‘the belief that undeserving groups are getting ahead while your group is left behind.’"—Charles Jaco, St. Louis American
"With the luxury of hindsight and analytical acumen, political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck have produced an exceptionally well-researched and insightful postmortem that soberly isolates the election’s core significance: a polarizing debate over American identity spurred by immigration and demographic change. The result, Identity Crisis , is a definitive, statistically informed account of the 2016 presidential election."—Justin Gest, American Prospect
"This book is going to remain the definitive explanation of what motivated and differentiated voters from one another in both primary campaigns and the general election in 2016."—Ian Reifowitz, Daily Kos
"[The authors] counter some popular assumptions about the surprising outcome of the 2016 presidential election, which pitted two ‘historically unpopular presidential candidates’ against each other. . . . The authors cite three main reasons for Trump's victory: ‘fractured ranks’ within the Republican Party that impeded party leaders from coalescing behind any candidate; outsized media coverage of Trump that made him appear to be the front-runner even when coverage focused on scandals; and ‘racialized economics,’ in which racial attitudes ‘shaped the way voters understood economic outcomes.’ . . . A cogent, well-documented analysis of the 2016 election."— Kirkus
" Identity Crisis , a 2018 book by leading political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck, is the best guide to understanding why these demographic divisions are so stark and getting starker. The book is framed as a postmortem of the 2016 presidential election, but is in fact a sweeping account of the big picture in American politics over the past several decades."—Zack Beauchamp, Vox
"The definitive account of the 2016 election."—Alex Shephard, New Republic
"The most thorough social science analysis of the 2016 election."—Ilya Somin, Reason
"This is the best, most dispassionate analysis of 2016 that I have seen."—George Hawley, Law & Liberty
" Identity Crisis offers a strong and somewhat counter-intuitive thesis about the 2016 presidential election."— Survival
"After having spent years attempting to understand political and security dynamics in other countries beset by division, I, like many other Americans, am struggling to understand what’s happening in my own country. Identity Crisis provides a data-driven key for decoding the 2016 election, whose outcome was influenced more heavily than recent ones by racial and ethnic identity. The implications, although informative, are not comforting."—Stephen Tankel, War on the Rocks
“Lucid, engaging, and ruthlessly rational, Identity Crisis is the guide we needed to what really happened in 2016, an election we still haven’t come to terms with. After all the speculation and partisan blame, the authors’ search for the real answers isn’t just interesting—it’s necessary. Identity Crisis is about more than an election: it’s about the state of America at a moment of political breakdown.”—Molly Ball, national political correspondent, Time
“Sides, Tesler, and Vavreck offer context and a sense of proportion at a time of rapid change, misinformation, and uncertainty, helping us to untangle familiar patterns from what is genuinely new. Thoughtful, patient, and timely, Identity Crisis is an antidote to the hot takes of our political era.”—John F. Dickerson, author of Whistlestop and On Her Trail
“Donald Trump’s victory stunned most political observers and set off a debate that’s still raging about its causes and meaning. John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck supply a vital missing element: the data undergirding their penetrating and accessible analysis of the most shocking presidential outcome in modern history. Identity Crisis is the Rosetta stone for understanding what really happened in the 2016 election.”—Joshua Green, author of Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency
“ Identity Crisis presents the most thorough, nuanced, and astute analysis of the 2016 presidential election I have seen. It makes a powerful case that identity politics rather than economic distress was the driving force behind Trump’s victory, and in doing so offers deep insight into the current state of American politics. A must-read for anyone trying to understand how we got to this singular moment.”—Gary C. Jacobson, coauthor of The Logic of American Politics
“Sides, Tesler, and Vavreck provide the most thorough, in-depth, and exhaustive explanation for the 2016 presidential election yet written. Carefully examining a panoply of potential factors influencing both the primaries and the general election, they sort the wheat from the chaff, examining both the myths and reality of Donald Trump’s ultimate rise.”—Diana C. Mutz, author of In-Your-Face Politics: The Consequences of Uncivil Media
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- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .
Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.
You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:
- Start with a question
- Write your initial answer
- Develop your answer
- Refine your thesis statement
Table of contents
What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.
A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.
The best thesis statements are:
- Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
- Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
- Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.
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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.
You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?
For example, you might ask:
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .
Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.
In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.
In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.
The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:
- Why you hold this position
- What they’ll learn from your essay
- The key points of your argument or narrative
The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.
These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.
Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:
- In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
- In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :
- Ask a question about your topic .
- Write your initial answer.
- Develop your answer by including reasons.
- Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.
The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .
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My Jewish cultural identity is wrapped up in food. But some events are so momentous they blunt the appetite
As the crisis in Gaza and Israel unfolds, we hunger for grand statements and moral clarity. But all I really feel is despair
A bout 35 years ago I came up with a line which encouraged me to think I might be able to hack it as a writer. The line was: “I am a Jew by food; I worship at my mother’s fridge.” It wasn’t exactly Shakespeare, but it was tight and funny and most of all, it was true. As an atheist with no time for ritual or observance, who nevertheless was committed to his cultural Jewish identity, it did the job. Or at least it did the job until hate sprung eternal, for there is nothing better calculated to make you feel Jewish than overt antisemitism.
It came at me courtesy of a section of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. Of course, it was countered with claims that antisemitism allegations were merely a smear by wealthy Jews to stop a leftwing leader gaining power, itself an antisemitic conspiracy theory. Which should be funny, but isn’t. And now we have the horrors of events in Israel and Gaza, inflicted upon civilians on both sides, bringing more unmitigated hate including against the Jewish community.
I now write mostly about food and restaurants. It should therefore be useful that in recent months I have been crossing culinary borders. For a forthcoming book I have been taught how to make a glorious kibbeh by a Lebanese woman called Amoul. I have been taught how to make fesenjan, the famed chicken, walnut and pomegranate stew, by an Iranian man called Mohsen. We are all desperate to believe that through the commonality of food rituals we can come together.
But some events are so momentous they blunt the appetite. Twee homilies about breaking bread just don’t cut it. I want instead to reach for Tim Minchin’s brilliant Peace Anthem for Palestine : “We don’t eat pigs. You don’t eat pigs. It seems it’s been that way for ever. So if you don’t eat pigs, and we don’t eat pigs, why not, not eat pigs together?” Like the very best comedy it works because it’s built on sturdy foundations of truth. But that’s not up to the job either, not least because I do eat pigs.
The fact that I understand the history makes no difference. Although I’ve never called myself a Zionist, I recognise how the wretched darkness of the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews led the world, via the UN, to agree to Israel’s foundation. I know its creation resulted in so many Palestinians being forced from their lands, and to decades of ill-treatment and discrimination by increasingly rightwing Israeli governments who do not represent the values of so many of their people. None of that excuses the murder by Hamas last month of an estimated 1,200 innocent Israeli citizens, so many of whom disagreed with Israeli government policy (not that it matters). It does not excuse the taking of hostages. And the murder of those estimated 1,200 Israeli citizens does not excuse the murderous collective punishment meted out on civilians in Gaza by the Israel Defence Forces.
For the most part I have been struck dumb. I agreed eagerly to sign a letter from British Jews and Muslims condemning all acts of violence and calling for tolerance, but it was abandoned because they couldn’t get enough signatories from one side. I won’t say which. It doesn’t help. We instinctively hunger for grand statements that take the right position. We crave moral certainty. But what do you say when all you really feel is despair? Right now, I desperately want to be allowed to define myself solely as a Jew by food who worshipped at his late mother’s fridge. My fear is that a world in chaos won’t let me.
This article was amended on 17 November 2023. An earlier version gave an Israeli death toll of 1,400. However, official figures were revised to around 1,200 by the country’s foreign ministry on 11 November, after the piece, written for Observer Food Monthly, had gone to print. The majority of the reported estimate were civilians, but the number includes some IDF casualties.
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- Israel-Hamas war