11 signs a woman is going through a quarter-life crisis, according to psychology

People say your 20s and early 30s are supposed to be fun and carefree. 

But let’s be real:

It doesn’t always work out that way.

In reality, it’s also a time when a lot of young adults start to feel really anxious about their lives.

They end up feeling stuck or really stressed out worrying about their future and questioning everything from their job to their relationships.

Experts call this tough phase the “quarter-life crisis”. 

And it turns out it’s not uncommon especially for women aged mid-to-late 20s into the mid-30s to experience it..

So how do you know if you or a woman you know is going through this phase?

Psychologists have given us some pointers, and we will uncover these through the below list of signs that a woman is going through a quarter-life crisis.

Let’s get onto it!

1) She gets impulsive with her decision-making

Has she drastically changed her hairstyle? 

Did she book a spontaneous trip without her usual thoughtful planning?

Or did she just buy an expensive designer bag “just because”?

Psychologist and mental health counselor Dr. Jaclyn Gulota and her team note that impulsive behavior can be used as a coping mechanism for any underlying feelings of confusion or dissatisfaction for someone undergoing a quarter-life crisis.

Look at it this way:

When a woman reaches quarter-life, she might start fearing that her life is becoming too predictable, so she would try to inject some excitement or change by making unusually rash decisions.

So if you or another woman you know suddenly does something out of character, take that as a warning sign that something might be up – like a quarter-life crisis, maybe?

2) She talks about big life changes

While her impulsivity is all about making spontaneous splurges, her restlessness involves a deeper, longer-lasting itch for big life changes.

If she starts talking about changing careers or moving to a completely different state, it could be a sign that she’s going through a quarter-life crisis.

Dr Gulota’s team say that this kind of restlessness shows a woman’s need for personal growth and change that goes deeper than just switching up the routine. 

It’s more than just being bored. 

She probably has reached the point where she realized her current situation isn’t what she wants anymore, and it’s no longer making her happy.

She wants to feel genuinely excited about her life again so she tries an extreme change to see if that gives her the happiness that she has somehow lost along the way.

3) She gets paralyzed when it comes to long-term commitments

When you’re dealing with a woman currently undergoing a quarter-life crisis, don’t expect her to make any sort of long-term commitment, whether it’s about her professional or personal life.


If she’s not sure about where she is at in her life right now, do you really think she’s going to make a decision that may lock her into something final or a path she’s not fully convinced she wants to follow?

As Dr. Gulotta’s team explains, this fear of commitment is a common sign they see in their clients who are having quarter-life crisis. 

The key is to understand her reluctance as part of her growth and to not take it personally. 

Look at it from her perspective:

For someone who is currently questioning her identity or what she truly wants from life, saying yes to something that requires long-term commitment will feel nearly impossible. 

4) She’s always second-guessing her choices

Like commitment paralysis, a woman undergoing a quarter-life crisis can also feel paralyzed when faced with making decisions, no matter how big or small this may be.

Again, we go back to Dr. Gulotta’s input, which suggests that young adults who are experiencing quarter-life crises are fearful. 

They suddenly become very afraid of failure, which is almost always the cause for them excessively worrying about making the “wrong” choice.

Think about it:

Today’s society puts a lot of pressure on young adults to make quick decisions. 

Thing is, this pressure often backfires – it makes the person freeze up and afraid to move in any direction, instead of moving forward.

5) She withdraws from social interactions

Dr. Gulotta and her team warn that withdrawing and isolating are common defenses in a quarter-life crisis. 

Apparently, when a woman chooses to stay away from social interactions, it’s her way of protecting herself from the judgments she thinks she will get. 

She might also stay away because she doesn’t want to face the reality of her own unhappiness. 

To be fair, it’s a different sting to see others happy with their current lives while you’re struggling to find joy on your own.

And it could hurt even more:

Especially when you see your friends and colleagues moving on with their lives, while you’re still stuck figuring out what you want for your own.

And this leads me to our next sign on this list:

6) She frequently compares her life with her peers

pic2590 11 signs a woman is going through a quarter-life crisis, according to psychology

If you notice a woman (or if you’re that woman) feeling like everyone is doing better than her, that’s a big sign of some sort of crisis. And if she falls under the right age bracket, it could well be a quarter-life crisis.

Again, a warning from Dr Gulotta’s crew:

It’s dangerous to constantly compare yourself with others

While they say this is what usually happens in a quarter-life crisis, they encourage setting personal goals instead. 

They say that it’s best to focus on yourself and measure your success by your own values, rather than against the standards of others.

7) She may resort to substance abuse

Dr. Nicole Cross-Hilman, a licensed psychologist, emphasizes that an increased reliance on alcohol, tobacco, or other substances can be a sign that a young woman is undergoing a quarter-life crisis.

It could start as a way to relax and forget about the pressure of figuring out careers, relationships, or life in general but then the substance use gets more frequent. 

And when this happens, it often points to bigger issues.

It may mean that she might be overwhelmed by all the life changes and the expectations that come with her being somewhere in her 20s or 30s. 

The substances may give her a break from all this frustration and stress, but what she doesn’t realize is it’s only a risky band-aid solution:

It can lead to more problems instead of solving the ones she already has.

8) She frequently experiences symptoms of anxiety and depression

Dr. Cross-Hillman also says that anxiety and depression are the most common issues that she sees in women in their 20s, often triggered by the various changes in their personal and professional lives. 

It could be brought on by factors like stress at work and relationship dynamics. 

And it also doesn’t help that they have all these questions about their personal identity and life in general that they’re struggling to answer. 

If anything, the high rates of anxiety disorders among women highlight how societal and personal expectations can take a mental toll and add to the challenges of a quarter-life crisis.

9) She persistently feels that something is missing 

Do you have a vague feeling that something is missing but you can’t pinpoint exactly what it is? 

It’s like having an itch you can’t scratch. 

What makes it even more frustrating is because you can’t clearly define what it is, it’s extremely hard to try to address it.

It’s this void that often leads a woman to question her happiness and the path that she’s on. 

This often leads to her jumping from one thought to another, trying one experience to another, changing one thing to another – all in the hopes of filling that gap that she can’t exactly figure out.

Experts note that this could be a sign of a quarter life crisis, and one that often pushes a woman to re-evaluate her life’s priorities. 

10) She displays sudden lack in motivation

If you feel like a woman’s drive to do things that used to excite or interest her has suddenly dipped, that’s a big red sign pointing to a quarter-life crisis, according to expert therapists.

This drop in motivation may have been caused by a disillusionment with her current lifestyle. Or it could also be her realizing that her earlier goals are now irrelevant or unattainable.

It isn’t laziness. 

It’s more about feeling disconnected from her past ambitions, which now feel pointless or no longer aligned with her evolving self.

The scary thing with this if it doesn’t become recognized and addressed is it can lead to her being stagnant or forever dissatisfied – a cycle that can only cause the feelings of being lost and directionless to linger.

11) She feels overwhelmed by to-do lists and her time “running out”

Woman or not, when we transition into adulthood, we all get hit with the hard reality that we have multiple responsibilities.

Add the societal expectations into the mix and this can be extremely overwhelming. 

Plus, whether we’d like to admit it or not, more often, there are more expectations placed on women. 

I could still hear the words thrown at me during my quarter life years:

“When will you get married?”

“When will you get pregnant?”

“How will you have time for kids with that career?”

“Have you bought a house yet?”

And it also doesn’t help that some of your peers have already accomplished all of these plus more. 

It’s as if you’re constantly running out of time and you still have a lot of boxes to tick.

Because of this, Dr. Gulota and her team suggest that if you or any woman you know is currently going through this, the best thing to do is this:

Practice breaking down milestones and focus on realistic and achievable goals

This, they say, is the only way to tone down the feelings of being overwhelmed that comes with a quarter-life crisis.

This too shall pass

Feeling overwhelmed is part of a quarter-life crisis, whether it’s yours or someone else’s.

If it’s your journey, just take it as life pushing you to level up. It’s not easy, but the tough times are what help you change for the better.

If it’s someone close to you who’s in the midst of it, help her take a break. If she’s overwhelmed, a little distraction or relaxation can go a long way.

It’s about giving her (or you) space to breathe and regain her (or your) energy.

And if all else fails, hang on to John Lennon’s words:

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” 

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Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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