Identity crisis (psychology)

From ArticleWorld

An identity crisis is the feeling of confusion and despair caused by the lack of knowing who we are and where we fit in in the scheme of things. The term was coined by Erik Erikson (1902 – 1994), a psychologist who was instrumental in forming the theory of social development. Central to this theory is ego psychology, where Erikson proposed the idea that the ego is a separate part of personality which forms identity.

Eight stages

Erikson maintained that a person goes through eight stages of development, each of which challenges in some way and each challenge should be met before the person can successfully go on to the next stage. If there is a problem in one stage, it may affect the next or it may develop into problematic behaviour in adulthood.

The stages begin in infancy with the challenge of trust versus mistrust and end in ‘old adult’ with the crisis of integrity versus despair. An adolescent struggles with ego-identity versus role-confusion and it is in this stage that the identity crisis first occurs, but it is not the only time for as the world changes, we must change our place in it. According to Erikson, an identity crisis occurs when a person “loses a sense of personal sameness and historical continuity”.


There are seven areas where a resolution to an identity crisis may be found. These include a time perspective, where immediate gratification and long term goals should be differentiated, sexual identity, which is feeling comfortable with the role of being male or female, ideological convictions upon which to base values and self-certainty which is the consistency of a self-image..