The neighbor next door just traded in his minivan for a cherry-red Corvette Convertible. A coworker, who used to wear a modest amount of jewelry or none at all, is now sporting a three-carat diamond ring. Your best friend made an appointment to get Botox injections, because she wants to look younger. What do these people have in common?
Buying fancy wheels, wearing showy jewelry, chasing the Fountain of Youth—these are some of the signs of a midlife crisis. The term refers to men and women from about 35 to 55 years old. The phrase, midlife crisis, was first introduced by psychoanalyst and organizational psychologist Elliot Jaques in 1965 and used extensively by Freudian psychologists like Carl Jung. This is the period when individuals make the transition from young people to older adults.
Studies have shown that only about 10 percent of the U.S. population has a legitimate, identifiable midlife crisis. Other studies report that at least one-third of men in their 40s and 50s spend a large amount of money on a new car, while some women get Botox or make some kind of drastic change in their appearance as a result of a midlife crisis. In addition, women are more likely to go through a midlife crisis earlier than men, many times between the ages of 35 to 44.
For most people, a midlife crisis is not that big of a deal. If they’ve spent their lives dedicated to fulfilling their ambitions, they are less likely to have a midlife crisis, and getting older is easier.
However, millions of individuals have a hard time grasping the concept of their youth passing or slipping away from them. Some people suddenly realize they are getting older, time has flown by and they haven’t accomplished much. These thoughts leave them with regrets and a feeling of despair. Men tend to focus on their achievements and a desire to prove their success to others, while women concentrate more on their physical appearance, sexual attraction and what they will do when their children are off on their own.
If you recognize some of the symptoms of a midlife crisis and take steps to address them as they occur, you will be able to survive this new stage of your life.
Signs and Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis
Buying a sports car. Adults may look to recapture their youth by investing in an expensive car. The vehicle symbolizes success and youth, which are important needs for people experiencing a midlife crisis.
Mood swings, impulsive decision-making and changes in habits. Sometimes adults try to cope with a midlife crisis by changing their habits, because they feel a need for a new schedule and challenges. They may become irritable, even angry, without reason or warning. In addition, they may be more unpredictable in their decision-making process.
Change in sleeping habits. Some people are unable to sleep or oversleep while their minds work overtime to make sense of the changes occurring.
Obsession with Appearance. Many people make changes in their personal appearance, such as trying a new style of clothing or makeup, as well as maintaining an exercise routine. Adults experiencing a midlife crisis may feel the need to remain attractive to others.
Breaking ties with old friends and making friends with younger people. Individuals having a midlife crisis may feel old when they notice that their friends have aged. In place of their old friends, they surround themselves with younger ones.
Feeling of being tied down and without a chance for change. Some people feel a sense of hopelessness, like they are in a rut. They think they have few opportunities for their future.
Thinking about death or dying. Many people suffering through a midlife crisis start to think about their own mortality, which can advance to a dangerous obsession with death. This can lead to depression.
Change of career. People having a midlife crisis might change careers, because they feel unfulfilled.
Leaving a partner or having an affair. Some people file for divorce or cheat on their partner, because they crave attention and affection from a new partner.
Depression. Sometimes people feel sad or even miserable. The signs of depression may include difficulty with finishing or focusing on simple jobs.
Drug or alcohol consumption is increased. Individuals may consume drugs or alcohol to cover up their feelings of regret and depression.
Bored. People may feel bored with their lives. Activities that used to be fun become dull, and a job that was challenging and exciting is now just a chore.
Blaming. When people experience a midlife crisis, they may be confused about the changes in themselves, and often blame others for a number of things. They may accuse partners and friends of trying to hurt them or prohibit them from moving forward in life.
Traumas. Getting fired, the loss of someone close, going through a divorce and empty nest syndrome can bring about a midlife crisis.
What to do Next: Tips and Strategies for a Midlife Crisis
1) By recognizing the changes that you are experiencing, you may find a way to move past the crisis.
2) Before buying a pricey car or jewelry, quitting a job or leaving a partner, talk to somebody you trust. Another person’s opinion can be useful in seeing a different perspective.
3) Make an appointment to see a therapist, visit the doctor to inquire about medicine or seek holistic treatment.
4) You may be able to use this new stage in life to think about things in a new, positive way. Sometimes attitudes can improve with change and lessen the effects of a midlife crisis.
5) Try something new, such as a hobby or travel, to increase your knowledge and help you move out of a comfort zone.
6) Volunteering at an animal shelter or pitching in at a food bank—helping others– can bring a new perspective to the problems of a midlife crisis.
7) Having a discussion about the midlife crisis with loved ones can help ease the pain.
8) Maybe the old plan for aging and retirement doesn’t appeal to you any longer. Reconsider where to live during retirement or whether to continue working at the same job. The steps toward positive changes can incite energy into a relationship and a career. In addition, make a “to do” list of for the next year, the next five years and the next 20 years. Discussing these new personal goals with a partner and other family members can help to achieve them.
9) Exercise, yoga or meditation that fit into a daily routine can help people going through a midlife crisis to gain perspective. Eating healthy and taking supplements for an energy boost are important.
Quotes for Midlife
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
— Mark Twain
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
— Henry Ford
“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”
— Henry David Thoreau
“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”
— Samuel Ullman
“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.”
— Victor Hugo
“We are always the same age inside.”
— Gertrude Stein
“To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent–that is to triumph over old age.”
— Amos Bronson Alcott