- Mental Health
Midlife Crisis Symptoms In Men and Women
The concept of a midlife crisis has been the brunt of many jokes. People envision men going out and buying racy, convertible sports cars or women going under the knife to look years longer. The truth is, the real faces behind this midlife mayhem probably look nothing like what you imagine. Midlife crisis symptoms vary widely- they can manifest themselves in fairly overt ways or can be a bit less "out there" and harder to identify. In fact, you or someone close to you might have already endured this undesirable condition without even knowing it. If you think having one is just a cliché, you may very well change your mind once you're in its ugly grips.
Let's take a look at what it REALLY looks like...
Midlife Crisis Symptoms- Feelings Common to Both Genders
Although there can be some differences in the ways males and females manifest their midlife crises, there is definitely some common ground. The feelings both genders experience are quite similar, although their behaviors in response to these feelings may differ. Let's look at the common feelings underlying this middle adulthood crisis:
- Youthful feelings of immortality are replaced by the realization that time is limited.
- Dwelling on the past is common- one may experience feelings of regret for past choices and may spend time pondering "what-ifs".
- Feeling bored and/or restless about one's life is a common experience.
- One may feel isolated, trapped or like you're stuck in a rut.
- Some people begin to question the central relationships in their lives, particularly the ones they have with their spouses.
- Others may question their lives in fairly profound ways. They wonder about the value of their accomplishments. They may reevaluate their goals, dreams and even career paths.
- Feelings of depression may become evident.
- Feeling dissatisfied with one's quality of life or lifestyle may emerge.
- Some feel an overwhelming sense of unhappiness with life. People may think their lives just aren't turning out as they'd hoped or envisioned.
- Midlife crises can involve feeling unattractive or "old".
Common Behaviors in This Period of Crisis
The feelings above often result in a set of behaviors in order to deal with these uncomfortable emotions. Naturally, they differ from person to person... But, here is a list of the more common behaviors people may exhibit:
- Making changes in appearance
The change might be something fairly simple, like a new hairstyle, hair color or even a tattoo. But, it could also be something more drastic like a complete change in wardrobe (some women start dressing in youthful clothes, for example) or even undergoing plastic surgery. Some people may begin exercising or weightlifting to alter their bodies. Not all changes are bad, in fact a reasonable amount of exercise is definitely good for you. But, occasionally a midlife crisis pushes people to overdo it... They may spend excessive time in the gym working out or they may become overly obsessed with their looks.
- Participating in impulsive behaviors
When people feel stifled, bored or stuck in a rut they may begin to look for excitement and "highs". This state of mind can lead people to make impulsive and irrational decisions. Examples would be making sudden geographical changes, quitting their jobs, separating from their spouses, having affairs, purchasing things or taking vacations they can't really afford.
- Similar to impulsivity, some people may exhibit compulsive behaviors
When there's an dissatisfaction with life in general, some people turn to methods that will dull or numb their feelings. Examples are binge drinking or using other chemicals, gambling, over-eating, frequenting night clubs, having multiple sexual partners, spending hours gaming or working out to extremes. Physical manifestations as a result of some of these behaviors may begin to become evident, like weight loss or weight gain.
- There may be moodiness, anxiety, depression and even angry outbursts.
Others may notice something just isn't right, that the person seems "off" and not him or herself. The person may be depressed, lacking in energy and negative. He or she may show overt signs of anxiety and being out of control. A patient person may become impatient. A reasonable person may become irrational and angry.
- Increased or decreased motivation
This can be the time of life people finally achieve a life-long dream. You may suddenly find your wife staying up all night writing that novel she's been putting off for years. Conversely, this can be a time of marked decreased motivation. People may not know WHAT changes they want to make, although they know something's got to give. In other words, it can be a paralyzing time.
There may very well be some physical reason for the midlife crisis. Women going into perimenopause or menopause are going through some very real and extraordinary hormonal changes. Men also go through hormonal shifts as they age.
These shifts alone can be responsible for fatigue, decreased sexual desire, depression, anxiety and even sleep issues. So, it can be a question of which comes first: the midlife crisis itself or the physical changes that accompany this time of transition.
This is why it's very important to talk to your doctor about what you're experiencing.
Not only are physical causes a major player in the crisis, but environmental changes may also play a role. Here are some examples of major changes often occurring in the middle years:
- Kids may be moving out and going to college
- Their parents may have passed away or are ailing- losing a parent often thrusts people into facing their own mortality. That generational "buffer" of the parents is gone and the idea that your turn is next becomes a reality.
- Their kids may be getting married
- They may become grandparents
- There may be career change- positional changes including promotions and demotions
What You Can Do
- Don't ignore your feelings, allow yourself to explore them. Talk to people you can confide in or seek a professional. Reaching out for help with a qualified mental health professional is critical if you're experiencing long-lasting depression and/or anxiety.
- Discuss any physical problems you're having with your doctor.
- Consider starting a new hobby or get yourself involved in the community. Volunteer work is a great way to feel connected, worthwhile and valued.
- Communicate with your spouse or significant other. Set aside time to spend with him or her. Get a regular date night going again.
- Exercise regularly... and no I'm not talking about getting all OCD about it. It is great for your mental health and for any physical changes your body may be experiencing.
- Eat a healthy diet. You really are what you eat, no matter how old you are.
- Sleep! Getting a good night's sleep is critical in how you feel both physically and mentally. Sleep patterns and requirements may change as you age, so stay in touch with the signals your body is giving you!