SOLEIL LEVANT FOUNDATION SUPPORT GROUPS
January 28 2023
Series: Identity and Mental Health
Title: Identity Crisis
Presenter: Tawanda Murepa
Bio: Founder, Young People Mental Health Trust
Table of Contents
What is identity?
Identity: can mean different things to different people. It might be about who you hang out with, what music you listen to, where you live or what ethnicity you are. Simply put – your identity is who you are. However, sometimes you can feel confused about your identity and this can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness. It is important to know you are not alone. Take your time to figure out what is right for you and stick with it.
Why does it matter?
Having an identity can give you a sense of belonging, which is important to your well being and confidence. You might make friends with others who have similar interests to you. This will make you both more optimistic and also more open to people from different backgrounds.
What Is An Identity Crisis?
In general, identity has the central quality of personal sameness and continuity; when you wake up in the morning or when things in life change (as they always do), you will not likely think of yourself as a drastically different person. However, some people do wake up one day and discover that they are having what is called an identity crisis. They no longer feel that they are living how they want; something is just not right.
An identity crisis could be caused by a traumatic or life-changing event such as:
1). The birth of a child
2). The failure or loss of a relationship
3). Having a spiritual epiphany
4). Discovering knowledge
5).Changing a career
Our sense of identity helps us move on from the past, into the present, and onto the future with a sense of stability and confidence. It causes us to respond to the world in particular ways. Losing that could be as traumatic as the event that caused it.
Signs You May Be Experiencing An Identity Crisis
Having an identity crisis isn’t a diagnosable condition, so there aren’t typical “symptoms,” as with a cold or flu. However, there are common signs you may be experiencing an identity crisis:
1). You’re questioning who you are — overall or regarding a specific life aspect such as relationships, age, or career.
2). You’re experiencing great personal conflict due to questioning who you are or your role in society.
3). Significant changes have recently occurred that has affected your sense of self, such as divorce.
4). You’re questioning things such as your values, spirituality, beliefs, interests, or career path that significantly impact how you see yourself.
5). You’re searching for more meaning, reason, or passion in your life.
The Connection To Mental Health
Any type of crisis can result in a decline in your mental health. When you find yourself struggling with identity issues, you may also experience depression, anxiety, insecurity, and more. Viewing yourself or your life negatively has been shown to lead to vulnerability and depression.
Can Identity crisis cause mental health disorder?
While an identity crisis can cause mental health to decline, mental health disorders can also lead to an identity crisis. For example, mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD), and schizophrenia can make identity a tricky thing to keep a hold of. These disorders can naturally muddy one’s identity. Bipolar disorder, for example, is characterized by sudden and intense changes in behaviour and mood. This characterization can cause friends and family to become confused and unsure of what to expect next. They might become sceptical and uncertain of the dynamics of your relationship with them.
The extreme swings from mania to depression can be so unsettling that you, too, wonder if anything you do represents who you really are. The fluctuations in mood experienced with bipolar can be frustrating and disheartening as you question what you’ll end up doing next. One of BPD symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the standard for diagnosing mental health disorders, is identity disturbance, or a markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self. People with BPD often report that they have no idea who they are or what they believe in. Sometimes they report that they simply feel non-existent. Others even say that they are almost like a chameleon in terms of identity; they change who they are depending on their circumstances and what they think others want.
What Is Cultural Identity?
That satisfying sense of belonging and participation you feel when you are among a particular group you identify with is cultural identity. More extensively, belonging to a particular group based on culture, gender, age, and religion. It is maintained by language, traditions, and statutory norms.
The Link Between Cultural Identity and Mental Health
The link between cultural identity and mental health is dependent on how well a person is allowed to express themselves and their culture.
This can be seen in two ways:
This represents the coexistence of different cultural groups operating together under one harmonious disposition. In this type of society, none of these cultures are being oppressed or prejudiced, and there is liberty for any of these cultures to express themselves however they feel.
On the other hand, monoculturalism refers to the repression of a particular cultural group by a culture perceived to the majority. In this type of society, the repressed group is coerced – directly or indirectly – into dropping their traditions and taking up the majority group’s culture. In a society where other cultures or ethnic groups are not allowed freedom, the minorities suffer.
How It Affects Mental Health
1). Freedom Of Expression
When you are amongst a group of people you identify with, freedom of expression comes easy. You are not ashamed to be true to yourself, because you are sure that every other person would feel the same. When you are allowed to express yourself freely without any form of discrimination, it positively affects your mental health.
Identifying with a particular group is like a shield; it protects you from outside judgement and lets you feel safe. You are sure these people like you, and because of that, you are confident. This takes mental health up another notch.
3). Self Esteem
The knowledge that you belong and conform to a particular section of society is thrilling, instilling a deep feeling of ease and confidence. You don’t stick out like a sore thumb, and it makes you feel great about yourself – another positive strike to mental health.