There has been a rise in the idea of a quarter-life crisis: it typically occurs between the ages of 17 to 30 in which someone begins to panic about their life and starts questioning their choices due to fear of becoming an adult.

The early 20s really are full of confusion and choices and this is why I feel that the choice paradox plays such an important role in the stress caused by this crisis.

Throughout history we have been given more options and choices of decisions we can make that were not available many years ago. Women before only had the option of staying home and raising a family. Men often worked blue collar jobs unless they were of high socioeconomic class they had the options of going to universities and becoming working professionals.

Years and social rights movements promoting equality have given us choices; women can now become engineers and doctors which used to be (and still is although it is changing) male only careers. Men are now staying home and raising families. Individuals of any socioeconomic background can now attend universities and become working professionals unlike many of their ancestors.

This all sounds wonderful. So what is the problem?

Too many choices. Think about it this way: You go into a supermarket to buy a product for the first time so we will use peanut butter as an example (sorry, to anyone with allergies). You never bought peanut butter before. You don’t know which brands are good, which stay fresh longer or even which is the best bang for your buck. You enter the aisle where it is located and there are 5 rows of peanut butter with over 30 different options. How do you go about making a decision? Deciding causes you stress and sometimes you may regret the choice you make if you don’t make comparisons or research. If there was only two kinds of peanut butter, your choice would have been much easier and much less stressful.

The period from high school graduation on is very stressful in the same way. Choosing to go to college or immediately join the work force is one option. What major to choose is another. Actually, about 70% of college students change their majors in college at least once and many change them much more often from this chunk of people. Before college graduation, you have to decide whether or not you want to continue furthering your education or joining the workforce. What if you end up falling in love and starting a family? This affects you life decisions too. Becoming an adult is a stressful period now that things have changed.

This all leaves a ton of young adults feeling lost and confused. So keep in mind that this crisis can be very real to many. The more choices people have, the more likely they may enter a similar crisis.