The Dreaded Midlife Crisis and How to Deal with It

man looking out the window wondering how to deal with a midlife crisis

Some say it’s a myth—that any instances of it appearing can be attributed to other more established things grounded in fact. Others swear it’s real and something to be feared, that they’ve seen it up close, and it’s terrifying. No, we’re not talking about Bigfoot or aliens that abduct hapless drivers from lonely highways at night. We’re talking about the dreaded midlife crisis—the suspected driving force behind the purchase of many red sports cars, extramarital affairs, and divorces. The opinions of both scientists and psychologists will vary on whether such a condition exists. But regardless of where they land on the debate, it’s worthwhile to know some strategies on how to deal with it. Because if the mythical beast eventually does attack… well, you don’t want to be stuck with a Bugatti Chiron that you’re never going to drive, do you?

What is a Midlife Crisis for Men and Women?

The term midlife crisis was originally coined in 1965 by psychoanalyst Eliot Jaques. He described this phenomenon as a psychological process that occurs as individuals begin to appreciate their own mortality. In essence, Jaques noted that individuals move from youthful idealism to a constructive resignation about life’s possibilities. Thus, as a realization about one’s own life’s limits emerges, a midlife crisis for men and women alike can develop. How to deal with midlife crisis dilemmas thus involves the way we react to these realizations.

Additionally, there is also an assumption that a midlife crisis for men is more common. The notion of a midlife crisis for men certainly receives greater attention and remains the stereotype. However, women can experience similar issues and struggle with how to deal with midlife crisis effects also. While men may struggle with professional limitations in midlife, women may experience those related to children and family.

Is the Midlife Crisis Real?

Science offers some interesting findings when it comes to the midlife crisis for men and women. Overall, it has been well-recognized that a U-shaped curve relating to happiness and age exists. Andrew Oswald from the University of Warwick and David Blanchflower from Dartmouth have both revealed this phenomenon. In essence, the U-shaped curve exhibits a natural tendency for adults in their 40s to have lower levels of happiness. That is true not only for both men and women but also for other primates.

Still, psychologists are not convinced that the phenomenon is real. For one, the vast majority of men and women do not experience these emotional and psychological effects. In fact, Margie Lachman from Brandeis University found that only about a quarter of adults over 40 years have met midlife crisis criteria. Likewise, even if individuals in midlife have less happiness, they generally would not be considered to be having a crisis. Finally, it is not uncommon for other age groups to also experience depression and despair at times. For these reasons, many believe a midlife crisis for men and women does not actually exist.

How to Deal with Midlife Crisis Issues

Regardless of the debate, scientists do agree on several strategies on how to deal with midlife crisis issues. Generally, a midlife crisis for men and women may arise as our perspectives change. As we focus more on the years remaining rather on than the past, anxieties can arise. After all, when we begin to appreciate the fact that we will not accomplish all of our life dreams, some sort of response is bound to occur. In addition, increasing pressures related to family, work and health may mount. Therefore, effective strategies on how to deal with midlife crisis generally focus on these aspects.

  1. One of the most important strategies involves frequently reassessing and updating your life goals. This step helps you avoid sudden realizations, revelations, or disillusionments. It should also include reevaluating your priorities and values since these commonly change with aging. In doing so, you can better define new targets and goals, which invites new excitement and passion. This action and self-reflection about the positives in your life offer ways on how to deal with midlife crisis pressures.
  2. Other essential strategies on how to deal with midlife crisis pressures involve social supports. Research shows that midlife crises for men and women are the least among those with strong family resources. Of course, that does not mean that individuals without families are high-risk. However, it does highlight that having others to help you process these life changes is beneficial.
  3. Finally, in more significant situations, seeking professional counseling should be considered. This tip may be especially true if major issues related to aging parents, health problems or marital stress are present.

A Silver Lining Regarding Midlife Crisis

Regardless of whether or not it’s real, it appears that midlife crisis for men and women does reflect an inevitable transition in mindset—that is, from younger to older life perspectives. Thus, advice on how to deal with midlife crisis effects offers some valuable guidance.

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