Many of us are familiar with the term “mid-life crisis.” Even if you have never experienced it yourself, the concept is often portrayed in movies, advertisements, cartoons, books, and other forms of entertainment. But what exactly is a mid-life crisis? And if you are currently experiencing it, what can you do about it?
What is a mid-life crisis?
A mid-life crisis is often described as a phase among middle aged people that is characterized by anxiety, loss of confidence, depression, or disappointment. As the name indicates, it usually affects individuals who are 40-60 years old. Some researchers believe that people who are going through a mid-life crisis may be having trouble coming to terms with their mortality and the fact that most of their life is already over. This struggle may lead to drastic life adjustments as affected individuals may abandon some of their responsibilities in an effort to have fun, feel young again, or reach higher goals.
In popular culture, people who are going through a mid-life crisis may be shown dating individuals who are much younger than them, doing risky activities such as skydiving, or driving fancy sports cars. These try to live life to the fullest because they may feel as if they do not have much time life. While a typical adult may try to work within a budget when buying or renting a car, a person going through a mid-life crisis may browse the internet for the latest luxury car rental Dubai price. If cash isn’t an issue, he or she may fly to Dubai just to get a supercar for rent.
While the idea of a mid-life crisis is popular, it is important to remember that it is not a diagnosable condition. In fact, there are mental health experts who question whether the phenomenon actually exists. In one nationwide survey in the United States, 74% of responders claimed that they have never had a mid-life crisis. Of those who had experienced it, 25% say their mid-life crisis was caused by a major event in their life (such as divorce or the death of a loved one) rather than age.
A number of studies also show that people in other countries around the world do not typically experience mid-life crises. This has led some experts to believe that the concept of a mid-life crisis is nothing more than a social construct. Nevertheless, the data does indicate that people in wealthy, developed countries like the United States may experience some form of mental or emotional distress during their middle aged years. For example, American women aged 40-59 years have the highest rate of depression than any other group in the country and people aged 45-54 are more likely to commit suicide than any other age group.
Signs of a mid-life crisis
Although it is not an official diagnosis, there are signs that may indicate a middle-aged person is going through a mid-life crisis. These signs include:
- mood swings
- feeling that life is going away and you don’t have time to do something important
- a feeling of loneliness
- loss of vitality
- thoughts about the meaning of life
- thoughts about how one’s life was lived
- thoughts that what one has now will remain unchanged
- pessimistic views of the future
How to survive a midlife crisis
If someone you love is going through a mid-life crisis, there are several things you can do to offer support. Showing support may include listening to your loved one’s concerns without passing judgment, showing sincere concern, reaffirming your love, and encouraging your loved one to seek professional help if it is needed.
It is important to remember that some of the behavioral changes often associated with a mid-life crisis may be symptoms of diagnosable mental and medical conditions. For example, a person who starts to behave in an unusual manner may have a mental health issue like depression or a physical issue such as dementia. Talk to a doctor if someone you love is exhibiting strange or unusual behavior that impairs his ability to function day to day. Your doctor can check if there is a medical reason for the behavior. If your loved one has no physical issues, your doctor may refer your loved one to a mental health professional.
A licensed therapist can help your loved one to lower his defenses and explore the underlying reasons for any negative thoughts and emotions he has. Your loved one can also learn how to face and address these issues in a healthy way. Many people have experienced a mid-life crisis and gone on to live a happy, fulfilling life. The key is learning about the issue, taking advantage of your social support system, and seeking professional help if necessary.