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Postponed Life Syndrome: What It Is and What It Can Lead to

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Postponed Life Syndrome: What It Is and What It Can Lead to

There is nothing wrong with making plans for life. “When my son finishes university, I’ll go on a vacation abroad,” “I’ll lose weight, then I’ll definitely use the services of a stylist,” “I’ll hit a jackpot at and make all my dreams come true”. But often it’s all just plans and the desire to put life on hold for “later. How do you recognize deferred living syndrome and what are its dangers?

What Is Deferred-life Syndrome

Syndrome, in Greek, is literally “running together.” A syndrome is a set of interrelated symptoms, united by a common mechanism of development, which are steadily observed together. And a symptom is some sign of our condition.


The term has taken root in professional writings and publications and has served to further research in the field. For example, researchers have investigated the behavior of people who are paying a mortgage, serving in the military under contract, or working as middle managers.

Deferred Life Syndrome Symptoms

As a result of their study, scientists have identified the following symptoms:

  • Treating the present as a preparatory stage, as if it were a draft of life, for at least 10 years.
  • The presence of an event or turning point after which a fulfilling life should begin.
  • Lack of a clear vision of such a future.
  • The notion that some activity is necessary to realize such a future, but there are limitations that are considered natural and objective.
  • Refusal to take simple actions and decisions that could improve life in the present.


Such people work hard, but don’t seem satisfied with their lives. “When my son finishes college, I’ll buy a house out of town,” “I’ll save up then I’ll buy a car.” Where and what kind of house do I need? What brand of car should it be? You may encounter the impossibility of getting a specific answer. The event after which life should change (“my son will finish college,” “I’ll save a million”) happens, but life doesn’t change because there are other circumstances – and again you have to work, study, or endure and not change your job.

How It Differs From Procrastination

The term “procrastination” may come to mind here, from the Latin root for tomorrow, tomorrow is putting off important things for later. This condition is familiar to many from a period of working remotely under covid constraints: “I’ll watch a couple of episodes and sit down to write codes,” “A few more articles, and then that’s it for the diploma.” In such situations we face annoyance and laziness, but we still do what is necessary.


With some similarities, deferred-life syndrome differs from procrastination and from moments of life choices in its incomplete awareness: it’s as if one really wants to, but doesn’t do it. One cannot say that such behavior is completely unconscious, in conversations one can hear explanations that sound like excuses: “Can I support the house alone,” “Right now it is more important not to go on vacation, but to tutor the child,” “I don’t have enough money anyway. As if these were all the voices of different parts of one person. And this inner conflict is not realized: one part wants to and can, and the other puts a ban on real actions.

What the Deferred Life Syndrome Can Lead to

What you have in mind is “then, when…” work out if you don’t have the experience of living life here and now? The lack of such experience can lead to a lack of understanding of your emotions, desires and needs, reduce your ability to adapt in a changing environment, and lead to existential distress – loss of meaning in life.


According to Erik Erikson’s theory of development, the personality goes through several stages, with the last stage being the integration of life experience and passing it on to other generations. The feeling of not living one’s life the way one would like is called hopelessness as opposed to wholeness.

Causes of Deferred Living Syndrome

The most common causes are as follows:

  • The person isn’t ready to take responsibility for his life.
  • It’s difficult for him or her to make life choices.
  • There is a conflict of own needs with the prescribed parental attitudes accepted in childhood without the possibility of a critical attitude.
  • The person makes excessive demands of himself or herself.

How Therapy Works with Deferred Life Syndrome

However, the causes of internal conflict remain in the field of hypotheses until the person consults a psychotherapist. It can be a long and ineffective task to understand on one’s own what is going on and to change life for the better.


People come to the specialist with complaints of apathy, lack of energy, lack of understanding of themselves, excessive irritability, lack of self-confidence, problems with expressing emotions, problems with sleep and eating. This can be, for example, the result of prolonged internal conflict with deferred-life syndrome.


Personal and group therapy is an accessible and effective way to become more aware, and to restore the integrity of the personality and overcome the syndrome of postponed life. Through work with a specialist, you can learn to better understand yourself and gain confidence.

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