What Are the Signs of A Midlife Crisis? Reasons to Seek Help

Discover the signs of midlife crisis, what a midlife crisis entails, and how to cope in this informative article.

Table of Contents

What Is A Midlife Crisis?

A midlife crisis is a time in one’s life, usually at their “mid-life,” where challenging emotions such as inner turmoil about mortality, identity, life choices, successes, and failures all occur. The idea of the midlife crisis is frequently associated with several common stereotypes fixated on individuals making dramatic life changes to restore a sense of youth and “gain back” lost years. There are multiple signs of a midlife crisis if you or someone you know is struggling with this issue.

Although this time in one’s life can involve several emotional and psychological challenges, it is not a medical diagnosis. However, it is not uncommon for people to experience challenges adapting to certain changes in their lives that may occur as they approach mid-life. Depending on the severity of their symptoms, some mental health challenges can arise, such as depression and anxiety. 

signs of midlife crisis

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How Common Is A Midlife Crisis?

The topic of mid-life crisis is common in conversation. For some, when the realization that midlife (around ages 40-60) is approaching, fear arises, and these concerns are not without merit. It is during these years that many changes occur in people’s lives. Children graduate and start college or move away, grandchildren are born, and retirement planning enters full swing.

Although this stage of life does involve complex and sometimes exciting emotions, it does not guarantee one will experience a crisis of emotion or even see the common signs of midlife crisis. Statistics show only about 10-20% of people report experiencing some type of emotional health crisis related to midlife.1

What are the Signs of Midlife Crisis?

The signs and symptoms of a midlife crisis and the severity of those symptoms vary widely from person to person. While some people may experience complex or debilitating emotional symptoms, others may experience none. Gender, financial stability, and underlying medical health challenges can also affect how one experiences midlife crisis symptoms.
Below are common signs and symptoms to watch for.2
  • An acute awareness of getting older
  • Impulsive behavior
  • A shift in mental or physical well-being
  • Reflecting on the past
  • Contemplating purpose and meaning
  • A desire to experience new things
  • Concerns about appearance & status
  • Loss of interest in certain relationships

What Causes A Midlife Crisis?

Not everyone will experience a crisis as midlife approaches, and for those who do, the causes or reasons behind their experience may differ. Potential causes include:3

  • Aging: Growing older and the idea of one’s mortality can trigger powerful emotions. For some, these emotions and associated worries and concerns may become overwhelming and difficult symptoms. 
  • Caring for Aging Parents: Caring for a loved one, such as a parent who is ill or needs extra support as they age, can trigger concerns about growing old, experiencing illness, or even death. 
  • Unmet Goals: Another cause of midlife crisis symptoms is unmet goals. Approaching midlife and examining one’s successes and failures may lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Common Stages of A Midlife Crisis

How midlife and the emotional symptoms associated with midlife changes affect each person is unique to several very individual factors. The factors that trigger your symptoms will be specific to your circumstances. If you or a loved one experience a midlife crisis, or signs of midlife crisis, your symptoms may fall into three loosely defined stages. 

Recognition (Trigger)

A particular stressor or tense moment leads to concern or worry over his life stage. Common examples of these triggers include job loss, the death of a parent, health concerns, and other day-to-day stressors. 

The Crisis Itself

The crisis period is typically characterized by emotional symptoms that involve examining one’s values, sense of self, accomplishments, relationships, unmet goals, and doubts. An unfavorable outcome attached to this process can lead to attempts to change or reshape one’s life through change. This can sometimes involve new romantic pursuits, passions, and other dramatic changes. 

The Resolution

The crisis stage ends when you have developed a greater sense of comfort with yourself and begin to look forward to what the future holds without looking back on the past with significant remorse or regret. 

How to Deal With a Midlife Crisis

Because the signs of midlife crisis affect each person in unique and highly personal ways, there is no perfect or ideal way to manage it. Remembering your emotions and concerns are valid and finding ways to manage them safely and healthily is crucial to overcoming the challenges that a midlife crisis may present. 

Coping Strategies

Several strategies may help you navigate your feelings productively and beneficially. Some healthy coping mechanisms include:
  • Be open and honest with friends and loved ones about your concerns and emotions.
  • Spend time outside in nature by going for a walk, hiking, or walking a pet.
  • Be sure to care for your body with a balanced diet and adequate rest.
  • Try journaling about your feelings.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Explore a new hobby or return to an old one. Develop passions and pastimes.
  • Set new goals and ways to accomplish them.
  • Take time for self-care.

How Does a Midlife Crisis Differ From Depression?

Some signs of midlife crisis may be confused with or mistaken for depression. Understanding the difference between the two can help you address your symptoms more effectively. There are a few differences between depression symptoms and signs of midlife crisis. For example:4

  • Depression is a diagnosable mental health condition with specific criteria mental health professionals use to develop treatment plans. 
  • Midlife crisis symptoms occur during one’s middle adulthood, while depression can occur at any age. 
  • Symptoms of depression may be more severe and persistent than those of midlife crises. 
  • Depression treatment may include medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes, while symptoms of a midlife crisis may resolve independently of therapeutic care. 
  • Depression, while highly treatable, is a life-long condition. In general, a midlife crisis lasts between two and ten years, depending on factors unique to the individual. 

Are There Treatments for a Midlife Crisis?

Working with a treatment provider can help you address and understand the symptoms and signs of midlife crisis that can accompany you during this time. Therapy may also allow you to explore emotions and feelings that lie at the root of your current symptoms but have been ignored or repressed for some time. A professional therapist can also help you work through any underlying mental health challenges that may contribute to your current symptoms. 

Although there is no specific therapy model designed to treat midlife crises, some therapy may help you manage the symptoms that accompany this period of life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, couples counseling, family therapy, and trauma-focused therapy are just a few examples. 

signs of midlife crisis

How to Help Someone Experiencing a Midlife Crisis

When a friend or loved one has a midlife crisis, those closest to them may feel confused, overwhelmed, and unsure of how to help. Some strategies for helping someone through challenging emotions related to midlife include:

Be A Good Listener

Listen to your friend or loved one without passing judgment. Do not ignore their signs of midlife crisis. It is essential to understand their emotions, worries, and concerns are not something you need to “fix” or change. Instead, letting them know you are there to listen and being open to hearing them may be what they need. 

Express Your Concern

Let them know you are concerned and there for them when and if they need help. Remember that you cannot solve their problems and that it is essential to avoid minimizing their concerns. 

Talk About the Importance of Getting Help

Mention the potential benefits of talking to someone outside of their immediate family or social group. A peer support group or therapy provider can help by encouraging your friend or loved one to explore their emotions and other potential root causes of midlife crisis symptoms or signs of midlife crisis.

Get Help For Yourself

Pursuing individual therapy to explore and address your own feelings can help you support someone else on their journey. 

Seek Immediate Assistance If Someone Is Suicidal

If someone you know is suicidal or talks of self-harm, it is vital to seek immediate help. 

Get Professional Help for Signs of Midlife Crisis at Profound Treatment

As noted above, not everyone will experience emotional turmoil or signs of a midlife crisis as their midlife approaches. For those who do, therapy sessions with a professional at Profound Treatment can help you develop and proactive coping tools to manage your symptoms as you navigate these challenges. Therapy that teaches you about trigger and stress management will help with this crisis and future stressors later in life.

If you notice any signs of midlife crisis, contact us at Profound Treatment today to learn more about specific therapy models that may help you.

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