Midlife Crisis 

midlife crisis

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

A midlife crisis is a period in middle adulthood marked by dissatisfaction and a longing for substantial life changes. It can adversely impact mental health, triggering psychological issues like depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders.

What Is Midlife Crisis?

Midlife crisis is a psychological phenomenon 1 Infurna, F. J., Gerstorf, D., & Lachman, M. E. (2020). Midlife in the 2020s: Opportunities and challenges. The American psychologist75(4), 470–485. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000591 that is characterized as a period of self-examination, reappraisal, dissatisfaction, and anxiety experienced by middle-aged people (40-60 years of age). However, this stage may also occur before or after that age bracket. It has a great impact on one’s mental health—resulting in emotional distress and changes in behavior, values, and life’s trajectories.

The global recognition of midlife crisis varies depending on the culture and prevalence rates. Nonetheless, studies affirm that men, more likely than women 2 Lachman, M. E., Teshale, S., & Agrigoroaei, S. (2015). Midlife as a Pivotal Period in the Life Course: Balancing Growth and Decline at the Crossroads of Youth and Old Age. International journal of behavioral development39(1), 20–31. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025414533223 , experience midlife crisis and its mental health implications. A midlife crisis is viewed in a negative light, but its aftermath is usually associated with fulfilling personal growth and reassessed life priorities.

Read More About Anxiety Here

Myths vs Facts about midlife crisis
Myths vs Facts about midlife crisis

Symptoms Of Midlife Crisis

Studies 3 Kiesow, H., Uddin, L. Q., Bernhardt, B. C., Kable, J., & Bzdok, D. (2021). Dissecting the midlife crisis: disentangling social, personality and demographic determinants in social brain anatomy. Communications biology4(1), 728. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02206-x attribute the common symptoms of midlife crisis to the following:

  • Having existential reflection and observable wanderings. This includes questioning one’s identity and purpose in life.
  • Dissatisfaction about love, career, and personal accomplishments and relationships.
  • Anxiety and stress about the future, death rate, and unfulfilled dreams.
  • Impulsivity in making major life changes without looking back or thinking twice.
  • Display of risky behavior like indulging in extramarital affairs, spending spree, drastic career transitions, etc.
  • Trying new tastes, challenges, or interests in life.
  • Attempting to do things associated with young people.
  • Experiencing strained relationships and other personal issues.
  • Undergoing physical changes in appearance, attire, or how someone keeps fit.

Read More About Stress Here

Signs of midlife crisis in men vs women
Signs of midlife crisis in men vs women

Midlife Crisis In Films

Midlife crisis has been heavily explored in films and TV shows 4 Wong, L. P., Awang, H., & Jani, R. (2012). Midlife crisis perceptions, experiences, help-seeking, and needs among multi-ethnic malaysian women. Women & health52(8), 804–819. https://doi.org/10.1080/03630242.2012.729557 , but its depiction has been limited to sexual frustration and extramarital affairs. The 1999 film “American Rose” follows a suburban father with a midlife crisis who becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best friend. “Unfaithful” (2002) shows Diane Lane’s character, a housewife, indulge in an affair with a much-younger book dealer. Similarly, in the 2022 mini-series “Obsession,” Richard Armitage plays a doctor who has an affair with his son’s fiancee.

A more nuanced portrayal of midlife crisis rests in the 2003 cult classic “Lost In Translation”. The film explores a beautiful friendship between a fading movie star and a college graduate in Tokyo. Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film “Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” intricately explores midlife crisis in Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton.

What Causes Midlife Crisis?

Studies 5 Mayer, S. E., Surachman, A., Prather, A. A., Puterman, E., Delucchi, K. L., Irwin, M. R., Danese, A., Almeida, D. M., & Epel, E. S. (2021). The long shadow of childhood trauma for depression in midlife: examining daily psychological stress processes as a persistent risk pathway. Psychological medicine52(16), 1–10. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291721000921 in “what causes midlife crisis?” attribute its development to several factors like:

  • Increased realization of mortality and search for the meaning of life.
  • Frustration due to unmet aspirations or expectations.
  • Age-related identity crisis
  • Societal expectations, cultural norms and age-related stereotypes.
  • Hormonal changes, particularly menopause or andropause.
  • Life transitions (such as middle age, empty nest, or career change) that cause excessive self-reflection.
  • Psychological factors like unresolved trauma and mental health issues.
  • External influences like media depictions, peer pressure, and societal standards on self-perception.

Midlife Crisis Psychology And Mental Health

The midlife crisis psychology can impact mental health in various ways 6 Nakanishi, M., Yamasaki, S., Nishida, A., & Richards, M. (2019). Midlife Psychological Well-Being and its Impact on Cognitive Functioning Later in Life: An Observational Study Using a Female British Birth Cohort. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD72(3), 835–843. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-190590 , often triggering:

  • A constant, nearly obsessive preoccupation with the meaning and purpose of life and one’s identity
  • Death obsessions, meaning preoccupation with one’s death and thoughts of mortality
  • Increased stress, anxiety, social withdrawal, and depression
  • Sleep and eating disorders
  • Body image issues
  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • Personality, behavioral, and cognitive disorders
  • Increased risk of mental health issues like substance addiction, late age schizophrenia, hoarding disorder, etc.

Read More About Schizophrenia Here

Common mental health disorders linked to midlife crisis
Common mental health disorders linked to midlife crisis

Tips To Overcome Midlife Crisis

Consider the following tips to overcome the symptoms of midlife crisis:

  1. Reflect on your personal goals, values, and ambitions.
  2. Recognize successes and celebrate your accomplishments.
  3. Accept that change is part of life’s orderliness 7 Thams, F., & Brassen, S. (2023). The need to change: Is there a critical role of midlife adaptation in mental health later in life?. eLife12, e82390. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.82390 and it makes one a better person.
  4. Come up with achievable personal and professional development goals to deal with midlife crisis.
  5. Communicate your feelings to close friends or relatives to get the help you need
  6. Take interest in hobbies that are pleasant and bring completeness.
  7. Use mindfulness or meditation to gain emotional stability and clarity in thoughts.
  8. Avail therapy or professional counseling to get some emotional support and perspective.

Read More About Mindfulness Here

Helping Someone With A Midlife Crisis

Helping someone navigate a midlife crisis psychology involves empathy, compassion, and active listening without judgment. Try suggesting self-help strategies 8 Min, S. H., Yang, Q., Min, S. W., Ledbetter, L., Docherty, S. L., Im, E. O., & Rushton, S. (2022). Are there differences in symptoms experienced by midlife climacteric women with and without metabolic syndrome? A scoping review. Women’s health (London, England)18, 17455057221083817. https://doi.org/10.1177/17455057221083817 to manage the symptoms of midlife crisis. In extreme cases, professional assistance like therapy can be recommended to enable individuals navigate these difficult times.

Read More About Empathy Here

How to help someone experiencing a midlife crisis
How to help someone experiencing a midlife crisis

Takeaway

Navigating the intricate landscape of a midlife crisis psychology demands a compassionate comprehension of this pivotal phase in adult development. Recognizing the nuanced emotions of inadequacy and the yearning for profound self-discovery underscores the significance of offering empathetic support during this transformative journey. By acknowledging and addressing these sentiments, individuals traversing the midlife crisis terrain can find solace and encouragement to explore meaningful life changes.

At A Glance

  1. A midlife crisis is a period in middle adulthood marked by dissatisfaction and a longing for substantial life changes.
  2. Midlife psychology is more prevalent in men than women.
  3. Midlife crisis symptoms can be attributed to factors like aging, death obsessions, hormonal changes, life transitions, untreated trauma, etc.
  4. Midlife crisis impacts mental health, triggering anxiety, depression, substance use, etc.
  5. Tips to overcome a midlife crisis involve psychological help, social support, and self-help strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can You Overcome A Midlife Crisis? 

Overcoming a midlife crisis is possible through self-reflection, support, and making positive life changes.

2. What Happens After A Midlife Crisis? 

After a midlife crisis, individuals often experience personal growth, reassess priorities, and may embark on a more fulfilling life path.

3. Is Midlife Crisis A Mental Breakdown? 

While a midlife crisis shares some characteristics with a mental breakdown, it is not necessarily a mental health disorder but rather a period of intense self-reflection and reassessment.

4. Can A Midlife Crisis Happen Early? 

Yes, a midlife crisis can occur early in life, challenging conventional perceptions, and may manifest as an early exploration of identity and purpose.

References:

  • 1
    Infurna, F. J., Gerstorf, D., & Lachman, M. E. (2020). Midlife in the 2020s: Opportunities and challenges. The American psychologist75(4), 470–485. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000591
  • 2
    Lachman, M. E., Teshale, S., & Agrigoroaei, S. (2015). Midlife as a Pivotal Period in the Life Course: Balancing Growth and Decline at the Crossroads of Youth and Old Age. International journal of behavioral development39(1), 20–31. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025414533223
  • 3
    Kiesow, H., Uddin, L. Q., Bernhardt, B. C., Kable, J., & Bzdok, D. (2021). Dissecting the midlife crisis: disentangling social, personality and demographic determinants in social brain anatomy. Communications biology4(1), 728. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02206-x
  • 4
    Wong, L. P., Awang, H., & Jani, R. (2012). Midlife crisis perceptions, experiences, help-seeking, and needs among multi-ethnic malaysian women. Women & health52(8), 804–819. https://doi.org/10.1080/03630242.2012.729557
  • 5
    Mayer, S. E., Surachman, A., Prather, A. A., Puterman, E., Delucchi, K. L., Irwin, M. R., Danese, A., Almeida, D. M., & Epel, E. S. (2021). The long shadow of childhood trauma for depression in midlife: examining daily psychological stress processes as a persistent risk pathway. Psychological medicine52(16), 1–10. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291721000921
  • 6
    Nakanishi, M., Yamasaki, S., Nishida, A., & Richards, M. (2019). Midlife Psychological Well-Being and its Impact on Cognitive Functioning Later in Life: An Observational Study Using a Female British Birth Cohort. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD72(3), 835–843. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-190590
  • 7
    Thams, F., & Brassen, S. (2023). The need to change: Is there a critical role of midlife adaptation in mental health later in life?. eLife12, e82390. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.82390
  • 8
    Min, S. H., Yang, Q., Min, S. W., Ledbetter, L., Docherty, S. L., Im, E. O., & Rushton, S. (2022). Are there differences in symptoms experienced by midlife climacteric women with and without metabolic syndrome? A scoping review. Women’s health (London, England)18, 17455057221083817. https://doi.org/10.1177/17455057221083817
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