A midlife crisis is a period in a person’s life, typically sometime between ages 40 to 60, when they evaluate the choices they have made during their lives and experience anxiety resulting from thoughts about their mortality.
Feeling confronted by end-of-life concerns, regret over missed opportunities, questioning self-doubt, and contemplating the way forward are all aspects of this crisis. Apathy can further complicate matters, as losing interest in life can cause self-destructive behavior. As apathy grows, so does the question of whether a midlife crisis can be resolved.
The ability to deal with one’s midlife crisis depends on how the person affected handles themselves, their fears, doubts, and the overall situation during the crisis. It is also essential to consider the triggers that set off the crisis, such as employment issues, the loss of a loved one, encountering someone with a different worldview, relationship problems, jealousy, deep dissatisfaction with life, health concerns, or legal matters.
The list of potential triggers is open-ended, and multiple factors can contribute to a crisis simultaneously. Some individuals may find themselves in a situation where they are facing a combination of all the above triggers.
People who possess a positive outlook on life tend not to experience midlife crises. They embrace new experiences, accept the physical changes associated with aging—such as sagging skin, weight gain, gray hair, loss of muscle tone, and wrinkles—and navigate through life with intuition, self-awareness, and straightforward behavior.
On the other hand, those who do not possess these traits and tend to be more pessimistic are susceptible to self-blame, disappointment, boredom, impulsive behavior, and sexual longing during middle age. Happier individuals do not face these midlife crisis problems.
Signs of a Midlife Crisis
The signs of a midlife crisis vary great from person to person and between genders. That said, there are some fairly common symptoms you can look out for, including:
- Impulsive behavior (such as making large purchases)
- Deep sadness
- Feelings of regret
- Changes in interest in sex
- Lack of fulfillment or purpose in life
These should not be confused with depression which is a mood disorder that interferes with one’s daily functioning for extended periods of time.
How to Cope
There are several ways to deal with a midlife crisis in a healthy manner.
If hormonal shifts associated with aging past 40 contribute to the problem, bio-identical hormone therapy or synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be viable solutions.
HRT often has pronounced effects that require adjustment or getting accustomed to the prescription. On the other hand, bio-identical hormone therapy, which involves applying creams to the inner thigh or upper arm, inserting pellets under the skin, using melt-in-the-mouth pellets, or taking capsules, is a gentler option that is easily absorbed by the body. However, it may be necessary for some individuals to work with their physician to fine-tune their treatment. Either form of therapy can address sexual dysfunction issues and promote mental relaxation.
Opening Up to Friends
Another aspect of resolving a midlife crisis is to confront troublesome issues instead of compensating for them through extramarital affairs, excessive spending, social isolation, or abrupt lifestyle changes. By focusing on unfulfilled desires and considering potential lifestyle adjustments that may be fulfilling, individuals can gain valuable insights for making productive changes.
Seeking support from friends, colleagues, relatives, and relevant reading materials can assist individuals in better understanding their midlife crisis issues and identifying possible solutions.
Aging invariably makes one look and feel differently. Physical activities that were once easy may become more challenging while foods you used to love may now cause indigestion. These changes, which in part are related to lifestyle and fitness habits, can make the aging process feel more pronounced.
Taking better care of yourself through improved eating habits, exercise, meditation, reducing stress, and getting more sleep can make you look and feel more youthful and slow-down the effects of aging. They can also improve your mood and help you regain your sense of purpose.
Engaging in psychotherapy sessions can also be beneficial. A trusted therapist can help you work through the issues and gain perspective, while also uncovering any underlying problems that have not been addressed but are also contributing to the sadness and stress.
Reaching middle-age is a natural part of life, and difficult as it may be, we need to accept it and learn to cherish the wisdom that comes with it. This requires changing perspectives and finding your purpose, which maybe not be as much fun as buying a sports car, but is much more emotionally healthy in the long-term.
- Costa, P. T., Herbst, J., McCrae, R. R., & Siegler, I. C. (2000). Personality at Midlife: Stability, Intrinsic Maturation, and Response to Life Events. Assessment, 7(4), 365–378. https://doi.org/10.1177/107319110000700405
- Herbst, J. H., McCrae, R. R., Costa, P. T., Feaganes, J. R., & Siegler, I. C. (2000). Self-Perceptions of Stability and Change in Personality at Midlife: The UNC Alumni Heart Study. Assessment, 7(4), 379–388. https://doi.org/10.1177/107319110000700406
- Jaques E. (1965). Death and the mid-life crisis. The International journal of psycho-analysis, 46(4), 502–514.
- Infurna, F. J., Gerstorf, D., & Lachman, M. E. (2020). Midlife in the 2020s: Opportunities and challenges. The American psychologist, 75(4), 470–485. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000591