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Midlife Crisis Symptoms In Men and Women

Updated on May 7, 2012
Some midlife crisis symptoms may be more obvious than others!
Some midlife crisis symptoms may be more obvious than others! | Source

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.


Physical Reasons

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.

Situational Reasons

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!


Submit a Comment

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    I think you have a fantastic attitude, fiftyish. There's no dodging the changes, that's for sure. Perhaps you placed your hair dye in your new convertible? It's worth a look anyway... :-D Thanks for stopping by.

  • fiftyish profile image

    Andy Aitch 

    6 years ago from UK & South East Asian Region

    I enjoyed reading this hub. I'm actually a 50 year old middle-aged man, and think that perhaps I'm entering a mid-life crisis, adropause, or a bit of both, LOL :)

    Either way, I refuse to let these physical, mental, and dare i say spiritual changes, affect me negatively, but rather look at them as adjustments to get comfortable with.

    Now, where did i put my hair dye!

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Thanks for reading and commenting, meloncauli. It's a common problem, unfortunately. I do hope he's feeling better now.

  • meloncauli profile image


    6 years ago from UK

    Great hub. This affected my husband greatly and it took me a long time to convince him that many can feel as he did at his time of life. I think he felt he had failed at so many things and the boredom factor was profound. Thanks for sharing this information.

  • phoenixarizona profile image


    6 years ago from Australia

    This is great. voted up and awesome!

  • debbie roberts profile image

    Debbie Roberts 

    6 years ago from Greece

    I like this hub very much. It's not until we get older that we find the way we think and act changing in regards to our own mortality. Some people cope better than others with getting older and your hub makes some very good observations on what we should look out for. A good hub!!

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Thanks, Pcunix. I agree, it would be good to get a heads up before the big 4-0! I appreciate the visit and comment.

  • Pcunix profile image

    Tony Lawrence 

    6 years ago from SE MA

    Very well done. Everyone should read this before they are forty. It might save a lot of unhappiness later.

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    MissDoolittle, thanks so much. I think it times it probably FEELS like a personality disorder, too.

    DzyMsLizzy, I appreciate the visit. Hope you're well.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Good points, all! Very clearly written and well presented.

    Voted up, useful and interesting.

  • MissDoolittle profile image


    6 years ago from Sussex, UK

    This is great and enjoyed reading the hub. So many things to think about here. It actually seemed very similar to a personality disorder, like I have, although they seem to be diagnosed more in the young.

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    JayeWisdon, thanks. It really is a serious issue, especially when the person won't come to terms with it.

    marellen, thanks for reading. You're right, the changes can be good. I think I may need to write another hub on the topic.

    Thank you both for reading and taking the time to comment!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Very informative hub and something to think about. Some of these changes can be good not just a bad decision. When talking about a mid-life crisis we have a tendency to think of the cliches and not what some of us are or have really experienced. Thanks again for sharing this important topic.

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 

    6 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Very good article, wordscribe, and helpful. It's painful to recognize this when it happens to family or friends one loves, especially when they won't face the issue. The symptoms and fallout of a midlife crisis can be severe enough to ruin someone's life. As pointed out, it affects other people, also.

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Lisa, that's really interesting and I sincerely doubt you're alone there. I remember going through that when I was younger, strangely. I felt funny being so young when I was hardcore in my career. I worried people thought I was just too young to be doing what I was doing, that they wouldn't take me seriously, etc... So, although I've yet to come across that as I've gotten older, I do understand worrying about other people's reactions to age. I say, stand up tall and enjoy the status you've rightly earned from being on this earth as long as you have.

    I'm crossing my fingers for you, Alexandra!

    Stephanie, I agree... a lot of good can come out of these years, too. I mentioned many people have an increased motivation to get going on their goals and dreams. I could write an entire hub on using a midlife crisis to better yourself, no doubt! Thanks for coming by and sharing!

    woodamarc, thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you found it useful!

  • woodamarc profile image

    Marc Woodard 

    6 years ago from Portland, Oregon

    All very good mid-life crisis behavioral changes to be aware of, especially when those you and your family care about struggle with their own mortality. Very good pointers which in-turn may help others to identify with and offer helpful support.

  • Stephanie Henkel profile image

    Stephanie Henkel 

    6 years ago from USA

    Having been through the midlife crisis years and survived, I can vouch for the truth of what you've said about the feelings and questioning that happen. You've defined so well the pitfalls of a midlife crisis and your suggestions are excellent!

    Some of the changes we make during these years can also be good - starting a new and more rewarding career, going back to school or becoming involved in new hobbies that will give us pleasure into old age are some of the good results.

    Greeat hub! Voted up and shared on FB and tweeted!

  • alexandra-t profile image


    6 years ago

    thank you wordscribe =) hopefully things will smoothen out soon

  • Lisa HW profile image

    Lisa HW 

    6 years ago from Massachusetts

    I haven't had any "classic" mid-life crises as most people think of them. (Maybe that's because I've been busy with other crises. LOL) The one thing, though, that I know hasn't been the healthiest thing in the world (to say the least) has been that I've had trouble feeling "safe" in telling anyone my age (because I've seen that once we say our "big number", it can change how people see us and treat us (at least for awhile, or in big or small ways). So, just when we're supposed to have that confidence that's supposed to come with middle-age (and, shall we say, "slightly above the technical middle); I've found myself kind of ashamed of my age (not because of the age, itself; but because I can't seem to stop people (who in a lot of cases, know a lot less than I do) from thinking I don't know anything because of that "big number" that's now my age. At an age when we're supposed to be so confident and sure (and I am when I'm alone), I often feel pushed back to the insecurity often associated with fourteen-year-olds.

    It took me nine years after turning fifty to finally say my exact age. At this point, I'm in the process of working on getting "braver" about it. (In other words, I guess I had a nine-year-old "middle-age crisis" :/ )

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Thanks for reading, alexandra-t. I guess this hub is timely for you then, huh? It's tough for family members as well, people don't really think about how much it affects them. I hope he gains some insight into what's going on with him, either on his own or potentially through the people who love him. Hang in there...

  • alexandra-t profile image


    6 years ago

    I was just talking to my mom on this issue a few days ago because I feel like my dad is going through a mid life crisis now. =( He seems very irritable and easily angry of late, and has suddenly taken a big interest in gym as well as spending way too much money in his favourite sport. Thanks for a very useful hub! voted up and useful =)

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Thanks, angela. It sounds like you're going through a fairly big life transition- going from the workplace to being a stay-at-home mom is huge. Most people go through it to some extent, it's almost an unavoidable by-product of life's passages. Good you're self-aware, though!

  • angela p profile image

    angela p 

    6 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

    I enjoyed reading. I think resigning from my job and now staying at home has made me rethink a lot about my career. Sometimes feels like I am having a mid life crisis! I joke about this with my husband a lot lately. Might not be a joke after reading this. Thanks for the great info. Voted Up -


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