Sometimes the term “midlife crisis” is used jokingly about someone who has a hobby that would generally be attributed to younger people. However, a midlife crisis can also cause concerning symptoms and reduce overall well-being.
A midlife crisis usually occurs after the age of 30, but before 60. However, it can happen outside of those years as well. There is an overlap between midlife crisis symptoms and symptoms commonly associated with depression. Because of this it is good to know some of the distinguishing elements of them. Then you can properly address the crisis or other underlying issues.
Signs and Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis
A midlife crisis can present different symptoms in every individual, but there are some commonalities between the signs. In addition, men and women can show different symptoms in some cases.
For both men and women, a midlife crisis can make life seem unfulfilling, boring, void of meaning, and empty. This can contribute to a loss of interest and other behavioral changes. In addition, intense nostalgic feelings and other reminiscence of the past often coincides with symptoms of a midlife crisis. This may also contribute to feelings of regret.
Someone who is having a midlife crisis may become more impulsive. They may also have thoughts of infidelity that they never had prior to the midlife crisis. In addition, a midlife crisis can cause someone to compare their own life with others, especially other people who seem happy.
Men may have some additional symptoms. They may have a loss of sex drive or lose interest in regular sexual activity. They may suffer with erectile dysfunction and low testosterone levels. They may feel overwhelmingly sad, but this type of sadness is typically, but not always, less severe than with depressive disorders.
A person suffering with midlife crisis and related issues may find that they have a strong fear of mortality. It may even cause desires of being young again. There may be strong cravings for emotions, situations, or experiences that occurred when the person was younger.
Behavioral issues that occur include changes in sleep habits, weight loss or weight gain, anger and irritability, restlessness or nervousness (often accompanied by anxious thoughts and feelings), withdrawal from routine, hobbies, or relationships, and the neglect of healthy hygiene.
For some people, these thoughts and feelings can cause other behavioral changes as an attempt to change life or revert back to younger years. This is where the ideas about sports cars, new clothing, and other changes in appearance and behavior come from. This is an attempt to create opportunities that the person feels they may have missed out on.
What Causes a Midlife Crisis?
While a midlife crisis usually occurs as we mature and leave phases of our life behind us, that only tells us a part of the cause. A lot of people find that their midlife crisis strikes as they begin to grow accustomed to a new role or develop o new relationship. It may occur as children leave the home or when you have to care for your elderly parents. These things can make it seem like life is passing too rapidly and cause a person to feel like they have been missing out on the thing’s life has to offer.
Regret may also cause someone to experience a midlife crisis. When thoughts of regret about something you wish you had done strike, it can be a catalyst for growing thoughts about the current situation and its relation to the past.
One major cause is the physical or psychological signs of aging. Sometimes people know that they are getting older, but do not deal with it directly because there are no major signs. However, when someone begins to become forgetful or starts getting more aches and pains, this may force them to accept that they are not as young as they used to be. A midlife crisis may also begin whenever someone receives a medical diagnosis, especially for an illness that is often associated with older age.
The feelings of regret can make a person reflect on their life and the events that shaped them as they are today. It may cause a person to look back over their life and wonder if things would have been better or how things would have turned out if things had been done differently. A different career, a bad breakup, or an important mistake can spring signs of a midlife crisis to action.
How is Depression Different?
A midlife crisis can cause extreme sadness, loss of interest, regret, and behavioral changes that are all symptoms of depression. However, depression is not related to a phase in a person’s life or their age. In addition, depression can occur even when someone is fulfilled and satisfied with their life.
Depression will cause more significant changes in appetite and sleep habits. Also, while a midlife crisis can cause feelings of sadness, if that sadness impacts the person’s ability to function, it may be a sign of clinical depression. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness as well as isolation and hopelessness are also more commonly signs of depression that will typically not occur with solely a midlife crisis. The loss of interest in activities will likely be worse with depression as well.
In addition, thoughts of self-harm and suicide are a concern with depression. If you feel like you have symptoms of depression, or even if your signs of a midlife crisis are severely impacting your wellbeing, you may find it helpful to talk to a therapist. A qualified mental health professional can help you cope with your negative thoughts and feelings and regain control of your life.
Sudden Behavioral Changes and Dementia
While sudden changes in behavior can be a sign of a midlife crisis, it can also be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. A drastic change in personality can sometimes be misrepresented as a midlife crisis. This improper diagnoses can reduce the likelihood of catching the symptoms early.
How to Manage Signs and Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis
A midlife crisis can be a very challenging time. The thoughts and feelings that come with a midlife crisis can cause someone to urgently seek out ways to improve their current life. However, there are some things to keep in mind that may help you manage those symptoms.
First, try to avoid making sudden decisions. Making an impulsive change can lead to more regret in the future. This is especially true with major decisions. A midlife crisis may seem like it is very important for you to trade in your minivan for a sportscar, but it is best to take time before making these decisions.
Talking with someone can also help a lot. A midlife crisis can cause feelings of loneliness. Finding someone that you can open up to or trust can help you feel better, even if they are unable to offer advice or guidance. They may also be able to offer an objective perspective that is difficult for you to see clearly.
Also, try to remember that a midlife crisis does not have to be wholly negative. Sure, some of the feelings that come with it are likely uncomfortable, but it can also cause you to do things that add meaning and fulfillment. Just do not make hasty decisions. Research shows that the curiosity that comes with a midlife crisis can open up your perspective to new ideas and opportunities.
A midlife crisis can cause a lot of different signs in personality, behavior, mood, and habits. It can cause feelings of nostalgia and regret. However, it is good to remember that it does not last forever. Try not to become impulsive and speak with someone if you need help. This could be a friend, family member, mental health professional, or anyone else that you trust.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.