Signs Of A Midlife Crisis & How To Know When It's Coming To An End

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Middle aged woman with hand on head
Self

The “midlife crisis” is a staple phase in our culture typically depicted in television and movies as a person in their mid-40s grappling with their own mortality. 

They begin acting out in an attempt to recapture their youth by doing things like buying sports cars, pursuing younger people, other things in an attempt to recapture their youth.

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Are midlife crises real?

Many people wonder if the midlife crisis is a myth. While the series of events we so often see depicted in pop culture may be a myth, there is a lot of scientific evidence that men and women in their 40s are in a transitional point in their lives and are likely to experience some sort of crisis of self.

When talking about midlife crises, the first thing that needs to be acknowledged is that “midlife crisis” isn’t a medical term or diagnosis and is very poorly defined. Some sources say that a midlife crisis begins between age 45 and 60, while others say that it happens in a person’s 40s — and even as early as the age of 30. 

However, a 2019 study indicates that the occurrence of a midlife crisis seems to have more to do with life progress than actual numerical age.

The actual number of middle-aged people that have a “crisis” varies from study to study but is generally thought to be between 10% and 25% of people.

What is less often depicted in TV and movies is that a crisis doesn’t usually just happen. Typically, a crisis is brought on by a few different factors, but a major life event will usually be involved, such as a newly empty nest, a death in the family, or losing a job. etc.

After the triggering event occurs, the actual crisis will begin as the person exhibits out-of-the-ordinary behaviors that are sometimes destructive. These can range from depression-like symptoms to destructive behaviors to a sense of adventure.

What are the signs of a midlife crisis?

“A midlife crisis is often recognized by rebellion and risk-taking. It can also look like depression," Ann Papayoti, PCC, Relationship & Wellness Coach explains. "This is a stage of life where people find themselves wondering if there is more to life and if their choices were right for them."

The signs of a midlife crisis are as varied as the ages at which they can begin, but there are some common signs.

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1. Depression

The classic ignition for a midlife crisis is the realization of one's own mortality. The oppressive realization that someone is rounding the halfway point in their life can manifest as depression.

2. Attempts to recapture youth.

This is a broad but very standard symptom of the midlife crisis, though it tends to vary among men and women.

Men tend to seek elements like sporty cars and younger women.

Women, on the other hand, traditionally move into caregiver roles and feel subdued and desexualized at this point in their lives. This can cause women to develop mental health issues to attempt to cling to youth in appearance and behavior.

3. Sudden changes in routine.

A midlife crisis can inspire someone to seek out new passions — some of which can be risky, including having affairs, suddenly quitting a long-held job, or taking on dangerous hobbies.

During a midlife crisis, a person begins questioning everything, including "their relationship, their education, their career, their lifestyle," explains Papayoti. "Was any of it ever what they really wanted or what others wanted for and expected of them? Was it enough? Were they enough?”

4. Risk-taking

Someone that's experiencing a midlife crisis may begin to associate stability with sedentariness and start exhibiting wild and risky behavior.

This can be financial risks, emotional risks, or even health and safety risks.

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The final stage of a midlife crisis is some sort of resolution in which the person stabilizes and becomes comfortable with themselves once again.

Signs that the crisis is ending can include realizations of self-worth, awakenings, growth, or a return to normalcy.

How to Deal with a Midlife Crisis

The reality is that anyone at any time in their life is liable to have some sort of crisis. Having a close experience with death at 30 years old can force someone to grapple with their own mortality in the same way to someone that is 50 years old.

If someone seems to be experiencing a “midlife crisis,” then it’s important to evaluate their symptoms and to seek professional help if they’re experiencing any sort of mental health issues, get medical advice or treatment.

The best things that other people can do for someone having a midlife crisis are the same things that they would do for anyone having any sort of crisis. Support, and encourage them, be a good listener and, above all, seek professional help if necessary.

Midlife crises aren't necessarily all bad.

A midlife crisis can result in the discovery of new hobbies, careers, and relationships.

The most important thing to do when experiencing or seeing someone else experience a midlife crisis is to talk and listen. Express how you feel and reflect on why and how you want to move forward.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.