Middle Age Crisis
The Modern Middle Age Crisis
A middle age crisis, also known as a midlife crisis, is a very real experience for many people. The issue that makes this transition in life so difficult for some and not for others is not fully understood. Generally researchers and mental health professionals agree that it is a combination of factors including fear of aging, personality type, past anxiety or depression issues, dissatisfaction with some aspect of your personal and professional life as well as thoughts of pending death and decline in functioning in many areas of life that contribute to the issue.
Whilst historically the term has been used to indicate the ages of 40-60, it has now been linked with changes in behaviour at a much earlier age. Today if men tend to experience a midlife crisis, it is at an average age of 43, while women reporting a midlife crisis are slightly older at 44 on average. This change in age, many have speculated, is because younger people are achieving success at much earlier ages. No longer are you required to work for 30 years with a company to achieve an executive position and, in fact, you may actually achieve your highest professional status in your early to mid-thirties. This may leave people feeling that they have nothing to achieve in life, giving that sense of desire to recapture lost youth and possibilities.
A middle age crisis is often triggered by a dramatic change in the world. These changes may be natural and inevitable but when they actually occur they strike a chord in the mind that leads to a dramatic change in behaviour. Typical triggers for a midlife crisis for both men and women include:
- The "empty nest syndrome" where children leave home for school or work
- Menopause for women or andropause for men
- Dissatisfaction with a career but feeling it is too late to change
- Loss of a job and having to start rebuilding
- Unfulfilled life dreams and desires combined with reaching a key milestone age (40, 45, 50, etc.)
- Death of parents
- Unhappiness in a personal relationship or dissatisfaction with a partner or spouse
- Changes in the body that signal aging such as hair loss, weight gain, change in body shape, loss of muscle tone, etc.
The more triggers, or stressors, that a person experiences the more likely the person is to experience a midlife crisis.
The more significant the stressors the more pronounced the midlife crisis will be. For some people symptoms can include significant behaviour changes such as:
- Major cosmetic surgery to achieve a youthful appearance
- The desire to obtain significant items associated with youth and success (sports cars, designer clothing, expensive jewellery, memberships to exclusive fitness clubs, tattoos, body piercing, motorcycles, etc.)
- Feelings of sadness, loss or hopelessness
- Withdrawing from others
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs
- Ending current relationships and attempts to connect with more youthful partners
- Excessive attention to changes in the body and constantly needing attention and positive comments
- Withdrawal from social situations
Learning coping skills and making effective lifestyle changes that allow the individual to feel good about themselves as they age is critical in dealing with all aspects of a middle age crisis. The earlier these behavioural and thought changes are addressed the less damage that is done to relationships, professional status and to the family as a whole.