Stuck In The Middle

You’re in your forties and you’ve been feeling blue, lately. Are you experiencing a midlife crisis? Here’s where you can find out.

You’ve heard jokes people going through a midlife crisis and you’re probably guilty of using this term to stereotype the behaviour of others but is it truly a phase in life or could it be a symptom of an underlying medical condition like depression?

Midlife crises, or middle-age transition, is a period of emotional turmoil, which is characterised by a period of unstable emotional and mental health as one faces challenges in life. There is currently no scientific evidence to prove that midlife transition is a universal experience. However, on-going research is constantly being conducted to learn more about this life experience, which many claim to experience.

The middling feeling

The term ‘midlife transition’ was introduced in the 1970s by a Canadian psychoanalyst and organisational psychologist, Elliot Jacques. Jacques referred this term to a phase of critical human development, which people usually experience from their forties to sixties. In a study conducted by Jacques, which involved composers and artists, abrupt changes in creative style or decline in productivity were found. Generally, this pattern was prominent among those who were around the age of 35.

WebMd explains that the midlife crisis was never a formal medical diagnostic category. However, since Jacques’s discovery, medical experts have been made aware of this midlife phase. In a study conducted in the United States, 26% of adults aged 25 to 75 reported experiencing a midlife crisis.

Some sources say that a midlife crisis can strike at any stage of your life (including in your twenties) but this term was coined because most people tend to experience symptoms from their mid-thirties and right through to their sixties. Research conducted by the University of Warwick found that one’s life satisfaction tends to reach a low point in the mid-forties.

Why midlife?

A midlife crisis is believed to occur because it is a time of life that involves responsibility, transformation and challenges. You may feel stressed due to the demands of your career, you’ve a family to care for and support and truly begin to understand that you will not live forever. Hence, it is believed midlife crises are linked to the occurrence of important and life-changing events. For example, the death of a parent, when your youngest child graduates from college and leaves home or when you and your partner don’t have sex as often as early in your relationship due to career demands or health issues. During times like these, you may feel a burst of emotions, as you start to ponder and re-evaluate your life.

When this happens, questions such as “Have I achieved my goals in life?” or “Am I providing enough for my family?” may come to mind. Both men and women can experience a midlife transition or crisis but the signs and symptoms differ for every individual.

Some of the signs that tell you that you may be experiencing a midlife crisis include:

  • A growing sense of regret over unattained goals.
  • A desire for unusual or expensive items and making impulsive purchases.
  • Increased awareness about your appearance compared to before.
  • Placing unusual amounts of stress on your children to excel in a variety of fields.
  • Feeling inspired to enroll in college to complete a course or feeling tired of your job.
  • Starting to take your health more seriously than before.
  • Feeling bored with your lifestyle.
  • Feeling irritable and prone to sudden bursts of anger without  reason.

Overcoming it

Not everyone will experience a midlife crisis. However, if you’re experiencing emotional challenges during your midlife, here are some tips that can help you overcome them.

1.Look on the bright side

This may sound like a cliché but there’s no doubt that having an optimistic mindset and looking  on the brighter side of life will help you get through obstacles. Staying optimistic will also help you to see the many opportunities you may not notice if you allow negative emotions to rule your life.

2.Get another opinion

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can also affect the decisions you make. Before jumping the gun, speak to someone you can trust for advice. Especially if it involves a big decision or a major change in your life, it is best to consult a friend or a family member.

3.Turn off technology

Switch off your mobile phone during weekends and if possible, after working hours. Technology can be a distraction and a barrier when it comes to spending time with those you love. It may be hard but you will not regret it. Giving your full attention during family time will help you remember that there are people who care about you and it’s a great way to boost your mood when feeling down.

Is it depression?

The transition through your midlife is not an easy path and even though it is not always the case, it certainly can lead to depression. Here are some of the key symptoms associated with depression:

  • Sudden loss of interest in activities which were previously enjoyed.
  • Change in sleeping patterns.
  • Thoughts or attempts of suicide.
  • Constantly feeling down and hopeless.

Seeking professional help, such as from a psychologist, is a great way to help with depression during a midlife crisis. If you know of someone, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, you should seek help immediately.

While midlife feels like it will never end, you should keep in mind things will get better. Research conducted by Jeffrey Arnett from Clark University found that your forties, fifties and sixties are often times of re-evaluation and assessment. It was also discovered that while this period may come with anxiety, you will eventually gain a sense of renewal and hope.

If you’re having a midlife transition, it is important that you address the areas you’re concerned about. Doing so will help you to work through your issues, so your crisis can turn into a learning experience that will help you improve your life.

 

References

  1. Grace, J. (2010, September 29). Surviving a midlife crisis. In The Guardian. Retrieved March 11, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/sep/29/10-point-guide-to-beating-that-midlife-crisis
  2. How to get out of a midlife crisis (n.d.). In WebMD. Retrieved March 11, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/men/features/mens-midlife-crisis?page=2
  3. Tergesen, A. (2014, October 12). The myth of the midlife crisis. In The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 11, 2015, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-myth-of-the-midlife-crisis-1413147918
  4. Midlife crisis: Transition or depression? (2009, November 11). In WebMD. Retrieved March 11, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/midlife-crisis-opportunity?page=3

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