Are You Avoiding Adulting? 10 Ways to Know if You Have Peter Pan Syndrome

It’s a cold, hard world out there. After the time we spend crawling out of the treacherous pit of puberty, we rise up only have the harsh world of adulthood – work, taxes, debt, property, dating, etc. – walk up to us and slap us in the face.

Many of us accept the challenge of adulthood and do the best we can to get by with as much of our sanity intact as possible. That my friends, is growing up.

Some of us, however, regress. The stresses of adult life are too overwhelming, and so we prevent ourselves from growing up. Some of us decide that 16 – playing video games mom’s basement while you eat a hot pocket and make “your mom” jokes through your Bluetooth speaker – is the age we’ll stay. Does this sound familiar?

This refusal to mature has many names, but psychologist Dan Kiley has popularized “Peter Pan Syndrome”, as a common colloquial (non-clinical) term for the socially immature adult. Do you have Peter Pan syndrome, or the fear of growing up?

Here are 10 ways to know if you might be a little immature for your age.


  1. You Can’t Handle Conflict

Of course, conflict isn’t ideal for anyone. No one likes having to argue, but sometimes talking things out is all you can do to make up and move on. Do you have a hard time arguing without fighting dirty? Immature people tend to try to annoy or upset people during arguments by saying things to purposely upset them, or bring up topics that are irrelevant to the conversation. If your focus during an argument is getting the other person as pissed off as possible and not resolving the issue, you might have peter pan syndrome.

Immature people also tend to have child-like fits; they may throw things, or resort to name-calling. They also aren’t likely to own up to their mistakes when they’re wrong – they’d rather make themselves the victim in the situation.


  1. You Dress Like a Child

Listen, it’s completely fine to dress the way you want to. Live your life – Freedom of expression, and all that. Some people have a favorite way to dress, and they adapt it as they age! But if your favorite clothes are clothes that you bought 10 years ago while you were in high school, you might want to consider a wardrobe update. Don’t have any clothes that are appropriate for work or formal events? That’s strike two.


  1. Your Priorities are Out of Order

It’s important to make time for fun in your life. All work and no play make for a dull you, after all. But if you’re glued to your game console or your Netflix account and your bills are piling up, you might have a bit of a problem.

If you’re letting your dishes take over your kitchen counter and you’re overdue on your rent but you’ve hit your 4th season of “The Office” in one day’s sitting, you might need a bit of a wakeup – or grow up – call.


  1. Your Humor is Immature

We all make dumb jokes with our close friends every once in a while. A good dirty joke can be hilarious… at the right time and place. A problem arises, however, when you begin to try crude humor out in inappropriate situations. Instead of telling yourself that “everyone needs to chill out”, it might be better to take a step back and wonder why your very descriptive poop story made everyone so uncomfortable.


  1. Your Diet Isn’t the Best

Is it much less energy consuming to order fast food for dinner? Totally. Is it totally horrible for your body to order fast food every day instead of just making food yourself? Yes. You might be newly moved out and living on your own, but just because you can eat whatever you want doesn’t mean that you should.

If you’d rather drink soda instead of water or haven’t seen a fresh vegetable in forever, now might be the time for you to brush off that food pyramid you were (hopefully) given in elementary school and invest some time and money in learning how to cook!


  1. You’re Unreliable

Do people not trust you to get things done? Are you always canceling plans because they don’t interest you – even if those plans are important to a friend or a loved one? Do you procrastinate on tasks that have been asked of you because you didn’t “feel like doing them”? Your unreliability is definitely a sign of peter pan syndrome. This kind of unreliability is common in people who are not yet mature enough to empathize with the feelings and goals of others.


  1. You’re Afraid of Commitment

Opposed to settling down? Too intimidated by engagement, or moving out together or even the words “I love you”? Copping out on stuff like this is just another way of avoiding adult responsibility – only this time it’s the responsibility of loving commitment to a significant other.

People with peter pan syndrome often regress to simpler times, when feelings were less complicated and the only people they had to love were their parents. The vulnerability that comes with committing one’s self fully to a new person can be intimidating for anyone, but it especially scares the emotionally immature, aka those with peter pan syndrome.


  1. You’re Not Good With Money

If you never have your wallet on you and are always asking your friends to cover you when you go out, you may have a case of peter pan syndrome. Other money-tells include ignoring all those past-due letters from your credit card company and spending grocery cash on the hottest new video game.

Immature people tend not to be future-oriented; rather than save up and live debt free, these people tend to live life with a “spend now, worry later” attitude. It’s all good and well until you realize that a good credit score actually matters.

  1. You Distract Others From Their Goals

Every party needs a crowd. Those with peter pan syndrome don’t want to be alone, oh no. They’ll want you to join in on the fun! Have work tomorrow morning? Leave it to a person with peter pan syndrome to try to make you another drink even though you definitely said you didn’t want to get drunk.

Immature people often cannot place other people’s priorities above their own. Are you always convincing people to blow off more important tasks so they can play hooky with you? This might be a sign that you still have some growing up to do.


  1. Your Friends Call Neverland Home Too

Do these points fit the description of most of your friends? If the answer is yes, now might be a good time to question if these points also describe you as well. We are often a reflection of the people we keep around us. So, surrounding yourself with ambitious, responsible people – and not a gang of lost boys – might help you learn a few things about living maturely.

No one’s asking you to dump all of your friends in the trash… you could lead by example and show them how real adulting is done!


Did the majority of these points sound anything like you? If so, don’t worry. Adulthood can definitely be overwhelming, but it’s not something you have to go through alone. Everyone around you is trying just like you are, to figure things out.

Being a kid was definitely fun. But being an adult has it’s own perks and freedoms too! Embrace the hard parts – the independent living, the bills, the job hunting, etc. If you do, you’ll be able to reap the rewards: the freedom, the confidence, the financial stability, and good health… the list goes on. Good luck!


Is there anything that should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments section below. Thank you for supporting Psych2Go!



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  1. This definitely sounds like me but since I’ve been experiencing depression and panic disorder (anxiety disorder with panic attacks) for about three years already I’ve become too scared of adulting. Too scared to go job-hunting, in case I end up with a job that leaves me feeling socially anxious. I’m overweight, still live with my parents and am totally dependent on them at the age of 32. How do I break out of this cycle and become independent, an adult?

  2. I got a 4 out of 10. A few bits to correct that I hope to conquer this year. And I’m getting a lot better already.


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