Around the age of 45 years old, many people begin to exhibit meaningful changes in their behavior. They may buy expensive items, adopt a new fashion style, leave their job impulsively, or question their relationship with their partner. All of these things that are associated with a mid-life crisis have a deeper meaning.
Facing the fear of aging, accepting the responsibility of significant personal losses, or examining their achievements up until this point are examples of the psychological work that happens in this vital stage. For that reason, even though some people experience this crisis before 40 and others after 50, it’s worth knowing what this stage consists of more specifically.
What is a Mid-life Crisis?
A mid-life crisis isn’t a clinical term in itself nor is it a recognized disorder in any diagnosis manual. However, it does describe a series of changes that people deal with when they reach middle age. These can be on a mental, emotional, and behavioral level.
We can define it as a feeling of anguish, restlessness, or emotional confusion that inspires lifestyle changes. Occasionally, these are progressive. Other times, these changes are drastic and showy, which can even be harmful to the person.
How does it manifest?
A mid-life crisis doesn’t manifest itself in the same way with the same intensity for everyone. However, some signs can warn us if someone is dealing with this internal transition.
First of all, it can cause physiological changes, like changes to sleeping patterns and appetite, or psychosomatic pain. It’s also very common for the person to experience mood changes, making them more irritable, sad, or withdrawn.
The person having the crisis may choose to abandon some of their responsibilities and seek fun, and change or begin to misbehave. Abandoning their job impulsively, asking for a divorce, having an extramarital affair, or buying something really expensive are the most obvious signs. Also, some people decide to change their appearance, their social circle, or their lifestyle.
Why do mid-life crises happen?
Mid-life crises happen when a person reaches middle-aged, but it’s similar to many of the transitions we experience as humans. For example, moving from childhood to adolescence.
Specifically, this is a life stage change that confronts us with many aspects on a psychological level:
- When we notice that we’re in the middle of a vital cycle, we may experience fear of aging or fear of dying.
- We begin to reconsider our life path and analyze our achievements and defeats. Therefore, we may feel unsatisfied, frustrated, or regretful about how events of the past have developed.
- At this point, we may question our priorities and objectives. It’s also possible that we feel the need to change them.
- According to research, middle-age coincides with the lowest moment of human happiness (which begins to decline in youth and resurfaces towards old age). For that reason, feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and being unsatisfied are more common.
- Beyond the internal reflections and analysis that arise from the important moment that the person goes through, external events also play a key role. Towards 45-50 years old, many profound transformations can happen, like children leaving home, illness or death of parents, or reaching menopause for women.
How can you get over a midlife crisis?
First of all, not everyone will experience a mid-life crisis. Of course, it may also not be a problem for everyone.
You can see this moment of transformation as an opportunity for reflection, growth, and change. Analyzing your priorities, setting new goals, or changing certain aspects of your day-to-day that no longer fulfill you is totally natural and beneficial.
However, if you’re experiencing this crisis as a stressful, scary, or confusing time, you must deal with these emotions. Learning about them and expressing them is key. This is how you can reach a positive stage and not prolong the discomfort.
When should you seek professional help in a mid-life crisis?
A mid-life crisis for some people may cause harm if they don’t manage it well. In these cases, professional help is essential.
If feelings of sadness, blame, or apathy are intense, you should seek help. Similarly, if your impulsive behavior negatively impacts your personal, work, or social life, you’ll need support from others.
To summarize, how you deal with this possible crisis will determine whether the change is positive or negative. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and poorly adapted behaviors. But it can also inspire you to be better, to set new goals (that in the past you’ve ignored), and reinvent yourself.
Every crisis is an opportunity.