The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
There are so many stereotypical jokes in the media about someone going through a midlife crisis. For example, someone reaches their 50s and decides to blow all their cash on a red Porsche, or sells everything they own to globetrot.
We may have a general concept about what a midlife crisis is, but it can seem so gregarious in the movies that we don’t really think it’s something we’ll personally experience. In fact, we may misread the signs of a midlife crisis completely, or don’t fully understand what it means when it happens and how to healthily work through it.
What is a Midlife Crisis
Let’s get into what a midlife crisis actually is, what it might look like, and some of the signs one can expect when they’re going through it. We’ll also mention a couple ways to cope and manage it in a healthy way.
What Happens in a Midlife Crisis?
A midlife crisis generally takes place sometime during an individual’s ‘middle aged’ years, from about 40-60. It’s a time of dramatic and intense self-reflection about the state of one’s own life. It often involves anxiety or deep regret over mistakes from the past, wasted time, or the impending reality of mortality.
Most people create ideas and visions for how they want their lives to unfold at a fairly young age. And the older we get, the more we lean into these expectations for ourselves, and feel in pain when they aren’t coming to fruition as we had hoped.
A midlife crisis usually occurs after some inciting incident or outside stressor, like the death of a loved one, serious illness, or children moving away. Men and women alike are susceptible to experiencing a midlife crisis, but the stats show that more men on average experience them. And while a midlife crisis lasts around 5 years for women on average, it may go on for up to 10 years for a man.
Signs of a Midlife Crisis
There are some signs and symptoms that accompany a midlife crisis you can look out for. Keep in mind that just because you’re experiencing some of these doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going through a midlife crisis. In fact, depression can be easily mistaken for a midlife crisis, and vice versa.
The best thing to do if you’re uncertain is to talk with a mental health professional who can help you untangle these really challenging emotions. You can also find further resources and articles about coping with a midlife crisis.
Declining satisfaction with life.
If you find you’re increasingly discontented by the state of your own life, even if nothing in particular has changed about it recently, this is a sign you might be going through a midlife crisis. It’s important to develop healthy habits for mental health to improve your chances of avoiding a midlife crisis.
Increased intensity of regrets, sadness, or existential dread.
Most of us know what it feels like to regret our past actions or decisions. We are also prone to bouts of sadness. Life is a very complex thing, and feeling a range of emotions at times is completely normal. But if you find that your regrets over the past are intensifying, or your thoughts keep obsessing over all of the time you’ve wasted in your life, or opportunities you’ve missed out on, this is an indicator you’re going through a midlife crisis.
More fatigue, lethargy, and lower energy than normal.
The overwhelming emotions of regret, sadness, anxiety, or even depression may cause you to feel a lot more fatigued than you’re used to. A crisis of identity or existential dread can leave you feeling weary, lethargic, or with feelings of burn out in the activities you normally enjoy. On the flip side, some individuals may actually be craving certain activities like traveling or spending time with friends and family, if their regrets have to do with these things.
A longing to feel and look young again.
It’s normal to notice certain effects of aging in our own bodies, and feel bothered by them. As our skin changes and gets thinner or more wrinkled, or our joints feel more achy, we may remember how good it felt to be young.
But a midlife crisis may turn this mild bother into a strong longing and nostalgia for being young again. We may feel deep envy towards young people, replay our memories from childhood on repeat, or feel the strong desire to seek cosmetic intervention to change our aging appearance.
Changes to your interest in sexual activity.
This sign of a midlife crisis all depends on what your baseline level of sexual drive is. Those going through a midlife crisis may either significantly lose interest in sexual activity, or they may feel far more desirous of sexual activity. It depends on the individual’s outlook throughout the crisis. If you feel you haven’t received the sexual intimacy you’ve longed for in life, you may seek it more intensely. But if you’re really struggling with depressed and anxious thoughts, emotional pain, or low energy, you may lose interest in sex. This will be very personal to you alone.
What to Do if You Experience Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis
If you experience symptoms of a midlife crisis, it’s important that you not ignore them. Because some of the symptoms mimic other conditions, be sure to see your doctor to discuss your symptoms and the appropriate path forward.