You could think of a “midlife crisis” and picture a middle-aged man who makes hasty decisions like buying a sports car, divorcing his wife, and starting to date someone much younger.
Perhaps in this imagined scenario, he decides to give up his job in order to devote more time to golf.
The midlife crisis has become an established part of mainstream entertainment, depicted in countless films, TV shows, and other media.
Although some men do experience a midlife crisis like the one described above, most men’s dissatisfaction during this time period looks very different. For some people, the process of aging can bring about unexpected and profound shifts. Many people, however, show much more subtle symptoms of a midlife crisis.
We’ve defined “midlife crisis” and connected the popular understanding of the term to actual mental health diagnoses in the following sections.
We’ve also included indicators of discontent and poor mental health that are prevalent among men in their forties, fifties, and sixties, along with suggestions for how to move forward and feel better.
What Is a Midlife Crisis?
A midlife crisis occurs when a person reaches a point in their life when they experience new or intensifying emotional discomfort as a result of their waning youth.
The idea, along with the belief that people’s best years are behind them by the time they hit 35, emerged in the 1960s.
The subsequent eras were all ones of decline as a result.
A person’s midlife crisis may be precipitated by the realization that their performance and general quality of life have declined.
The duration of this condition may vary from a few weeks to several months to even years.
Research has shown that people tend to be unhappy and dissatisfied with life around the time they reach midlife.
Also, researchers in the field of psychology have uncovered a “U-shaped” development of happiness across a person’s lifespan.
The happiest times of life are during childhood, young adulthood, and old age. Midlife depression is a common phenomenon, but it does not affect all people.
Individuals, families, and medical and mental health professionals should all take a close look at how they respond to men experiencing midlife crises. People are more able to respond and find solutions to problems when they recognize and accept the impact of the midlife crisis.
Causes and Symptoms of Men’s Midlife Crisis
Changes in outlook, habits, and ways of life may occur all at once during a midlife crisis. It could also be a gradual shift away from the current norm. Both the man and the circumstances must be taken into account.
Below are some of the signs of a midlife crisis in men:
Drop in Life Satisfaction
It’s not always easy to pick up on a shift in a person’s level of happiness, but there are some telltale signs that he might be unhappy, especially if he’s a man: more frequent complaining or dwelling on past mistakes. A man may start saying things like “life sucks” when he is feeling down about his current situation.
For some men, this discontent can lead to self-blame or placing the blame on others for their failures. In contrast, if they accept full responsibility, they may experience emotions such as guilt, sadness, and disappointment.
The mood of a man experiencing a midlife crisis is likely to change. Some people will start feeling down and miserable. As their motivation and happiness levels decrease, they may start to overeat, sleep more, and give up on their ambitions.
Enhanced Mood Swings
Other men going through a midlife crisis also report sudden changes in moods. They may be completely distant and miserable one day, and then excitedly organizing a celebration with their loved ones the next.
During their midlife crisis, many men act impulsively and without much thought.
In their desperation to find a solution, they experiment with a variety of unhealthy coping mechanisms.
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Without telling their loved ones, they might start drinking, using drugs, spending money, gambling, or planning pricey vacations.
Abandoning an Initiative or Project
For men going through a midlife crisis, the end of their potential for new achievements can feel like a death sentence. If they decide that achieving their goals is too challenging or not worthwhile, they may stop trying to do so.
Frustration & Irritability with Work, Family, or Self
Anger, irritation, and frustration are common symptoms of a midlife crisis, especially for men, who are more likely than women to channel their grief into rage.
They could try to harm the place they work, their loved ones, or even themselves.
When a man is going through a difficult time, he may pull away from friends and family. It’s possible they’re too ashamed to change because they blame themselves for their unhappiness.
Isolating the people around them is one way for men to deal with their emotions of frustration, sadness, and disappointment, especially if they are the ones they hold responsible for their missed opportunities and current lack of satisfaction.
Differences in Depression and Midlife Crises
Anger and frustration are common symptoms of depression in men. Many men experience depression during their midlife crisis because they become overly emotional, lose motivation, and make poor decisions.
Although experiencing a midlife crisis is not indicative of depression, it can certainly bring on a depressive episode or exacerbate preexisting depression in men. Further, midlife is when people experience the highest rates of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
How to Cope with a Midlife Crisis
The unpleasant effects of a midlife crisis can be alleviated without any intervention on the part of the man experiencing them, but some men will choose to do so in order to better cope and lessen the impact of their crisis.
These can be non-intensive, like forming a support group and talking about how they feel, or intensive, like seeking professional help.
Following are ten suggestions for men experiencing a midlife crisis:
Recognize Your Feelings
It’s crucial that you conduct a careful examination of your emotions. Don’t dismiss or dismiss your emotions; instead, acknowledge and accept their importance.
Feel Free to Express Yourself
You should talk about your feelings with other people once you have a handle on them.
You should talk to your loved ones about how you feel, why you feel this way, and what they can do to help. You could possibly gain something from group therapy.
Normalize Your Feelings
Experiencing a midlife crisis is natural. If you refuse to accept your current circumstances, you are, in effect, refusing to accept yourself.
It’s important to accept that, while undesirable, midlife crises are completely natural.
Gather a Team
Although you could handle the situation on your own, working with others to overcome the obstacles you face increases the likelihood of success.
Find people who will help you out, whether they’re friends, family, coworkers, or even your significant other.
You can choose how you age. Altering your outlook will allow you to reevaluate your views on aging and the future.
Avoid the Temptations
In a time of crisis, the urge to act hastily and recklessly is high. Take it easy and give yourself plenty of time to think through the long-term consequences of your current and future actions.
Refocus Your Efforts
Uncertainty about one’s future and one’s changing roles contribute significantly to the negative emotions one experiences during a crisis.
Talk to the people who care about you about your life’s mission and other aspirations. Will you keep going in the same direction, or will you try something different?
Maintain a high level of fitness
Your mental health will suffer during a midlife crisis, but you still need to take care of your body.
Take care of yourself by prioritizing sleep, exercise, and healthy eating. It’s tough to deal with a crisis when you’re hungry, thirsty, and exhausted.
Embrace the New
Although life’s changes are always a factor, they take on added significance during the midlife years.
Rather than resisting the inevitable, you should train yourself to welcome the changes that lie ahead with excitement.
Accept the Journey
The best way to deal with a midlife crisis, perhaps, is to embrace it as an inevitable part of life.
Your thirties will be unlike anyone else’s. Embrace the process of reducing unhealthy habits.