Many people experience a midlife crisis, and men are no exception. A midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self-confidence that occurs in a middle-aged person, typically between 45 and 64 years old. It’s fueled by events that bring to light a person’s age, inevitable mortality, and perhaps a lack of notable accomplishments in adult life. This can cause depression, anxiety, and the desire to make significant life changes. The term “midlife crisis” was coined by Canadian psychoanalyst and social scientist, Elliott Jaques, in 1957.
It is important to note that recent studies have shown that most middle-aged people don’t actually experience a midlife crisis. Researchers believe that personality type and a history of psychological issues predispose some people to the traditional midlife crisis. However, common day-to-day stressors can pile up, causing middle-aged adults to believe they are having a crisis. Midlife crises in men may sometimes be just midlife stressors.
There are several signs of a midlife crisis in men. These include mood swings, depression and anxiety, sleeplessness or oversleeping, an obsession with appearances, increased consumption of drugs or alcohol, feeling stuck in a rut, thoughts of death or dying, impulsive decision-making, having an affair, replacing old friends with younger friends, assigning blame to others, and extreme boredom.
There are three stages of a midlife crisis – the trigger, the crisis, and the resolution. During the trigger, any incident in a person’s life that brings them to the realization that nothing in their life is like how it used to be is what the trigger for a midlife crisis is like. This can be bereavement, the fear of death, losing a job, or being faced with a medical illness.
The crisis is the period where a person tries to understand just how much their life has changed. They try and reevaluate all their relationships, goals, skills, and achievements. It is normal to come into conflict with how their life is and feel hopeless, lost, and helpless. After the crisis, the resolution stage begins, where a person begins to adjust to the new reality and learn to accept the new them. It is the outcome of all their efforts in the crisis stage and depends solely on how they handled the challenges middle age threw their way.
Men’s midlife crisis is often portrayed as the need to buy sports cars, have an affair, pick up an interest in DIY home projects, and many other sorts of stereotypical things. However, there is actually a lot more a midlife crisis does for the lives of men that is often not talked about. Some of the major issues that arise in the lives of men are marital relationships suffering, lack of work or stagnation at work causing irritability, issues with their libido, feelings of worthlessness, and losing track of health.
A midlife crisis can sometimes come across as depression. Telling the two apart is important because the two are treated differently. Although no one can ascertain whether midlife crisis causes depression or vice versa, we must acknowledge that the two can coexist. Suicide rates during middle age are very high, especially in men. They tend to face many severe changes in their 40s that they did not see coming. General stigma in society against male mental health may lead them to not talk about problems. In most cases, a healthcare professional can diagnose depression and prescribe treatment and medication for it. Yet, there is no medical treatment for a midlife crisis.
One of the main reasons why people do not understand and relate to a midlife crisis is that they think of happiness as something that comes and goes. They do not see it as a curve that naturally progresses throughout the life of a person. Many describe happiness to be a U-shaped curve, starting in the early years where happiness is high, then dipping down in middle age, and rising again in old age. Understanding this happiness curve can help people handle the transition to middle age, and not take it too hard if they do experience a midlife crisis.
In conclusion, a midlife crisis is a real thing experienced by many men. However, not everyone goes through it, and it can sometimes be just a midlife stressor. Signs of a midlife crisis are mood swings, depression, sleeplessness, obsessions with appearances, thoughts of death, and impulsive decision-making. There are three stages of a midlife crisis – the trigger, the crisis, and the resolution. Men’s midlife crisis can cause major issues in their lives such as marital relationships suffering, lack of work, issues with their libido, feelings of worthlessness, and losing track of health. It is important to tell the difference between a midlife crisis and depression through the help of medical professionals. Understanding the happiness curve can also help handle the transition to middle age.