6 Min Read
- Consider These Things First If You Think You're Having A Midlife Crisis
- Indications You're Having A Midlife Crisis
- What To Do If You Think You're Having A Midlife Crisis
Lamar had been feeling down, antsy, and feeling generally unsettled. Then one morning, earlier in the year, he woke up and thought, “I need to make some changes in my life. Now.” With that he proceeded to upend most areas of his life. He made changes to his appearance, decided he hated his job, and started to think his marriage was all wrong. Watching his wife and kids suffer because of his actions he started to wonder, “Why am I doing this? Am I having a midlife crisis?”
Lamar isn’t unique. There comes a point in many peoples lives when the life they're living starts to feel like an ill-fitting coat, and they just want to take it off. Some take it off and throw it away, while others just consider how to make it fit better. Either way, many people wonder as this is happening, “Am I having a midlife crisis – is this what it feels like?”
Consider These Things First If You Think You’re Having A Midlife Crisis
If you are of a certain age, feeling unsettled and struggling you may wonder if you’re having a midlife crisis, but making that determination isn’t that simple.
And if you’re at a younger age feeling this way you may assume that since you’re not middle-aged it’s impossible that you’re going through a midlife crisis. This is also a misconception.
There are a few things that you need to consider before you determine you’re having a midlife crisis, or conversely – that you’re not.
- First, it’s not a given that everyone will experience a midlife crisis. The term midlife crisis has become a common part of today’s language and it’s often assumed that once you’re over (insert number here) and you want to make changes in your life you’re experiencing a midlife crisis. Not true.
It’s also possible to experience the symptoms of a midlife crisis earlier than what’s generally considered midlife. Growing numbers of young people are experiencing what can be called a quarter life crisis as they try to cope with the stress and anxiety of navigating life.
- Second, many more people experience a midlife transition than midlife crisis.
It’s extremely common and natural to hit your middle years and feel a need to reprioritize and rearrange things in your life. During these years there are so many life changes – kids aging, parents passing, retirement on the horizon – that it makes sense that your goals and values will need to be altered. It actually shows a certain amount of maturity and psychological health to make adjustments based on changing circumstances.
- Third, midlife depression and midlife crisis are often confused. While the two can go hand in hand, there is a difference between the two and they are each treated differently for important reasons.
While midlife depression is something that is influenced and exacerbated by outside circumstances like age, stressful and negative situations, and other challenges in life, it often has a biological component. Someone experiencing midlife depression also isn’t generally trying to make sweeping changes to their life, whereas during a midlife crisis making grand (and often detrimental) changes are the norm.
There are a number of things that are important to understand about midlife depression and you can learn more about those here.
Just know that if you are wondering if you are having a midlife crisis, it’s important to understand the distinction so that you can seek the appropriate help and support.
Indications That You’re Having A Midlife Crisis
If after understanding the points above you’re still asking yourself, “Am I having a midlife crisis?” there are certain things to look for that can help you get a better understanding.
While every person’s experience is different, there are some indications of a midlife crisis that are fairly common. Ask yourself the following questions if you’re wondering if what you’re experiencing is a midlife crisis:
- Have you become resentful or started blaming people for the state of your life? Resentment toward the people and things that have gotten you to this point in life is common in a midlife crisis. “If it weren’t for my wife I’d be more successful,” “Raising kids kept me from doing the things I really wanted to,” or “I gave up everything for you” are sentiments routinely expressed by those experiencing a midlife crisis.
- Do you feel jealous of the happiness or satisfaction other people are experiencing – especially those younger than you? If you’re looking at Bob thinking that his life is perfect because he’s single, got a new girlfriend every month, and can do whatever he wants without a wife nagging him, it’s at minimum a sign of dissatisfaction if not midlife crisis. Or, if Linda’s Pilates perfect arms and toned abs are the reason you won’t invite her over and you’re starting to consider having a mommy makeover, then you may be experiencing a midlife crisis.
- Have you made, or considered making, drastic changes in your life? One of the biggest hallmarks of a midlife crisis is making impulsive and dramatic changes in your life. In fact, midlife crisis divorce is a real and devastating occurrence. These changes can be different for women vs. men, but they each generally involve an effort to recapture youth or missed opportunities in some way.
- Have you started to feel overwhelmed or dissatisfied? If you start each day feeling like it’s all too much and you simply want to ignore all the boring, tedious, frustrating things that seem to have become your life, there’s a problem. Everyone has daily activities that are a chore, but if you’re perspective on all your responsibilities is that they are dragging you down it may be that you’re having a midlife crisis.
- Do you feel an intense desire to run away? Feeling stuck and wanting to escape your life could just mean you need a vacation. But if this feeling is constant, urgent, and pushing you to quit your job, leave your marriage, or have an affair, then the answer to the question, “Am I having a midlife crisis?” may be, yes.
- Are you constantly thinking about the past and “good ‘ol days” and wishing you could go back? While some people who are wondering if they’re having a midlife crisis may be taking up mountain climbing or buying new cars, many others are trying desperately to return to their younger days and bring back the hope and feeling of freedom that they once had. So, if you’ve made Eddie Money’s “I Wanna Go Back” your personal anthem it’s possible you’re dealing with a midlife crisis.
Does answering “yes” to these questions mean you are indeed having a midlife crisis? No, not necessarily.
Much of that determination will depend on the length of time the associated feelings are present and the extent to which any of the resulting behaviors are affecting your life, happiness, and psychological well-being.
Keep in mind that no one is happy and satisfied every day. Life has ups and downs and both the ups and the downs can have long stretches at certain times. If these feelings come and go and you’re able to keep a positive perspective on your life, then you’re probably not having a midlife crisis.
With that in mind, the last question you should ask yourself is:
- Are you generally happier with your life more than dissatisfied?
If you can answer yes to this question then, although you may be going through a tough time and may need some help and support, it’s probably not a midlife crisis that you’re experiencing.
What To Do If You Think You’re Having A Midlife Crisis
If after reading the above you’re saying to yourself, “Yes, I think I really am having a midlife crisis,” your next question is going to be, “What can I do about it?”
Dr. Kurt works with both men and women having a midlife crisis on a weekly basis. When asked about what can be done if you think you're having a midlife crisis he had this to say,
Congratulations for having the courage to ask if you could be having a midlife crisis. Most people are so engulfed in it that they've lost any objectivity and willingness to look in the mirror at themselves. Usually the person asking this question is someone who loves them. Admitting you're struggling and don't know how to fix it is hard to do, but is necessary in order to find your way out of a midlife crisis and get to a healthier, happier place. As you consider the descriptions in this article, please have an open mind and be really honest with yourself. The truth is what you need, not more denial and deceiving yourself ."
Having a midlife crisis creates chaos and confusion in not only the practical areas of life like job, home, and your relationships, but within your thoughts and feelings too.
It can mean that one minute you feel certain that quitting your job was the right move and the next minute you desperately seeking ways to get it back. Or that after having an affair, thinking you’ve found new love, and divorcing your spouse, you start to think it was all a mistake and are filled with regret.
So, finding a way to navigate and handle the uncertainty of a midlife crisis is an important step.
The good news is that if you’re reading this you’re one step further than many others. Being aware that something is off about your current state of mind means that you’re in a position to receive help and make positive changes.
If you believe you are having a midlife crisis the following tips can help:
- Don’t make any life altering decisions without first talking it over with the people that will be affected.
- Discuss your feelings with a trusted friend or family member.
- Consider speaking to a counselor about what you’re experiencing to get an objective psychological perspective.
If you’ve been asking yourself, “Am I having a midlife crisis?” know that you’re not alone and you don’t have to wait it out or accept the way you’re feeling as normal. There is help available and ways to turn this time in your life into an opportunity for positive changes.
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