Major Life Transitions

Updated: July 23, 2022

We experience many transitions throughout our lives, some are expected and predictable, whereas others can be sudden and shocking, making us feel a loss of control, even impacting our mental health and wellbeing.  But there are ways to navigate the process of change.

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What Are Life Transitions?

Transitions are periods of change in life that we must all go through.  Life throws all kinds of curveballs when it comes to changes and sometimes these can seem overwhelming, especially if they occur unexpectedly, or if we get a few all at once.  But life transitions might also be viewed as opportunities for re-evaluation and growth.


This does not eliminate the difficulties we feel as we attempt to adjust and manage the change.  Indeed, a relationship break up might be fertile soil for development and growth and offer time to re-examine oneself.  But, this is often completely unapparent while we experience the harsh and desolate landscape of rejection, abandonment, loneliness, and sadness.  So how might one work with transitions?


What Are The Symptoms?

Adjustment Disorder

Some people experience what is known as ‘adjustment disorder’.  This is normally within three months of the major stressor, which disrupts normal life functioning because individuals are unable to cope with the change as they normally would.


Because of the low mood or depression that can occur, people often experience a lack of motivation, and difficulty enjoying activities they normally would.

Mental Health Difficulties

Adjustment disorder is often accompanied by anxiety, or low mood, and people can feel overwhelmed by stress, and panicked.

More Changes

Because of the major life transition, and the difficulty coping with the change, people can experience further changes, for example, in their daily routine, their eating habits, and sleep.


Adjustment disorder, or the inability to adjust and cope with a major life change can lead some people to partake in dangerous and reckless behaviour.


Due to the impact on mood, and feelings of vulnerability, people often do not feel like socialising with family and friends, and may therefore withdraw from them, further impacting low mood.


The initial life stressor itself can lead to depression, along with the changes that occur when someone is finding it difficult to adjust and accept the change, sometimes leading some to question whether there is any point in being alive.

Causes Of Major Life Transition

Leaving Home

Traditionally, this change implies transition because often people leave home when they’re either going away to study, work, or because they’ve moved in with a partner, or married.  This indicates ‘growing up’ and saying goodbye to childhood, and the family home, and taking on new roles and responsibilities.

Starting College Or Work

This transition is a major one because school life is a very containing in many ways.  It’s a very unique time, and its uniqueness can perhaps only be appreciated in retrospect.  Indeed, this time is almost like a practice run for the life ahead.  When young people start college or work, the world begins to treat them differently.  They are no longer afforded as many allowances, and gradually they are expected to fully mature and be accountable.

A New Relationship Or Marriage

This can impact us in various ways.  We become involved with another person in a personal and (emotionally and/or physically) intimate way.  A relationship usually also means changes in how we live because we have to consider another person, and our feelings can become dependent on our partner and how well the relationship is going.


When a partner cheats, they break trust, something that is not easy to rebuild.  The one who has been betrayed not only has to reconcile the cheating itself, but also their sense of self-worth and esteem.  And if they decide to stay in the relationship, they are naturally feeling less secure.

Separation Or Divorce

The end of a relationship is a difficult time even if the relationship was not a good one.  Sometimes there are material challenges as well, for example, the need to reassess finances and budgeting.  Also, adjusting becomes more complicated if children are involved, or if parting is acrimonious.

The Arrival Of A Baby

A child is all consuming and when one arrives it can bring incredible joy, but also an incredible need for adjustment.  Life is never the same again because we must consider the child in all we do.  For women, the arrival of a baby can also impact mood due to hormonal fluctuations which regulate mood.  There is also a change in the dynamics of the household.  Many changes.

Being A Parent

This transition is impactful because we take on a role that means we are responsible for another person(s), and we have to consider them, and care for them.  This means that at times we will experience conflict and difficulty in our relationships.  So being a parent, whether you child is a baby, young child, or adolescent, often brings many challenges.

Empty Nesting

When you’re used to having the kids at home, their presence is missed.  The house feels empty, and you’re not having to do as much for them.  Just as parenthood creates a change in roles, so too does the absence of children.

Job Loss, Retirement, or Career Change

When a person loses their job or retires, they may experience difficulties for various reasons.  For example, financial readjustment, or because their work is so intertwined with their identity and sense of who they are.  A change in career can also be challenging for similar reasons, or because it is new.

Financial Gain Or Loss

Coming into money, or losing it are changes that impact life and how we live in very different ways.  Some people may not know what to do with money they are not used to having.  Others may struggle when they have to do without.  How we gain or lose money also affects how we feel about it.  For example, inheriting money, or losing it due to a bad investment.  Money can affect relationships and opportunities, so significant changes in this area can be challenging.


As people get older, they often say they don’t feel their age.  People become mentally stuck and as the years take them further away from how old they feel, they find it harder to reconcile this with reality – bringing about midlife crisis for some.  Ageing can also cause other issues, such as regrets about missed opportunities.  Others may experience problems with health, and loss.

Serious Illness Or Disability

If we, or someone we love become unwell or disabled in some way, we experience multiple changes.  This can be with health, body, sense of self, or finances.  This can make us feel vulnerable, helpless, angry, sad, anxious, and more.  It can also impact relationships and how others see and treat us.  There are many changes to contend with.

Death Of A Loved One

Losing a loved one can bring shock, denial, anger, depression, and difficulties accepting that they are gone.  We must adjust emotionally, psychologically, and mentally, but also perhaps in practical ways if the person was very present in our life.

Questioning Sexual Or Gender Identity

Sexual orientation and gender identity are intrinsic to our sense of self as suggested by the term.  Although some societies have changed to become more accepting of normative-divergent ways of being.  People still, unfortunately, face discrimination and are often shamed.  This can mean they struggle internally with these aspects of the self, and may feel resistant to them.

Questioning Faith, Spirituality & Why We Are Here

Faith or spiritual belief can help individuals understand their place in the world.  For those who begin to question their faith or spirituality, there is often less certainty about the whys of life and this can cause existential conflict and crisis.

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

At Phinity we have experience of working with a whole host of life issues and experiences.  We will work with you to address stress, anxiety, or depression, and help you restore your ability to cope with whatever the change is, that has led you to feel overwhelmed.

We can work in a strategy focused way if this is what will work best for you, by exploring strategies together and helping you to implement them.  This may involve exploration and a more structured approach, for example cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Because major life changes can cause stress and overwhelm, they can impact daily life functioning, and lead to sleeping problems, issues with food, and substances, like alcohol.  We can address these, helping you to rebuild your routine and give you structure, something we all need for optimal health.

We can help you discover and access your inner and outer resources, and learn ways that you can prepare and manage changes when they arise.

With almost all life transitions, something is being lost, and it is perfectly natural to feel sad and grieve for the loss.  We will work with you to explore any fears you may have about loss and uncertainty, so you can welcome your new reality with courage and strength.

Because we are objective, and outside of your usual support system (if you have one), we can help you overcome your fear and any self-doubt, without judgement.

Causes Of Major Life TransitionHow Phinity Therapy Can Help


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