Identity Development Challenges | Symptoms & Treatment Options — Zencare

Identity Development

"Identity development" refers to the process of defining your own beliefs, lifestyle, and sense of self. Our modern notion of this concept is based largely on the work of psychologist Erik Erikson, who theorized that identity formation is the key developmental task of adolescence.

Identity can change and develop at any point during one's life; for many of us, our ideas of who we are and what we believe evolve constantly over the years.

Identity development can be exciting and fulfilling, but it can also be a source of stress or pain. It’s not easy to question who we are and what we believe, especially when our answers might go against social, cultural, or family norms.

When worry over identity becomes especially urgent or persistent, it can lead to mental health symptoms and interfere with day-to-day life.  


Virtually everyone faces challenges related to identity development, particularly in adolescence and young adulthood. That said, the shapes these challenges take can vary enormously, and it’s hard to know exactly how prevalent different forms of these challenges are.

Additionally, some studies show that concepts of identity may be becoming increasingly complex as technology makes all of our personal lives more public and transparent.

For example, the Pew Research Center found that a group of experts was split on the question of whether increased digital transparency leads to positive or negative impacts on personal identity.

Symptoms associated with issues around identity development vary, but some common examples are as follows:

Again, identity development involves a wide range of factors, but a few areas in which people commonly experience challenges include:

If you’re experiencing the kinds of challenges described here, you might explore some of these options:

What to look for in a therapist for identity development

Some common approaches include:

Know what questions you need to ask potential therapists

These questions may prove helpful when interviewing potential therapists:

Prioritize personal fit

While personality fit is a nuanced factor, it is critical to your success in therapy. Multiple studies have revealed the importance of this factor, often referred to as “therapeutic alliance.”

On your initial phone call with the therapist, ask yourself:

Additionally, consider these factors:

Consider cost, location, and scheduling

Therapy will only work if it works for you. Before making an appointment, ask yourself honestly:

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.