Mid-life crisis...it's not all a joke
The mid-life crisis is often a source of jokes about men between the ages of 35 and 50. A term first coined in 1965, it can happen when a man thinks he’s reached the halfway point of life and can give rise to feelings of running out of time. Whilst not a medical condition as such, for some men it can be a time of considerable anxiety and sometimes depression, which can be a major part of the crisis.
It can be triggered by one or more factors, including:
- Being made redundant
- Realising that your career is not going anywhere or you haven't progressed as you originally planned
- Divorce or separation
- Children moving out of home
Naturally, these life altering situations can be a cause for reflection, sometimes leading to unexpected decisions being made in an attempt to alter the course of a person’s life.
Some people may have an urge to escape, leaving relationships, jobs and the life they have built up in an attempt to deal with distressing feelings.
Often purchasing material items can be seen as a comfort, attempting to fill perceived gaps in the individual’s life.
Similarly, you may feel that you have been working hard for many years and are now left unsure what the point has been. Some reflection and reassessment can be expected at this time, but it is not always followed by the big changes that are stereotypically associated with the “mid-life crisis”.
Being fearful of the future can be a common occurrence, this fear being very real as changes are occurring and goals that one once had are now not as relevant.
Physical symptoms of a mid-life crisis can be very varied and include:
- Fatigue, lack of sleep or poorer diet than normal
- Mood swings, irritability and low self-esteem
- Loss of sex drive or impotence
- Increase in alcohol consumption
- Fat redistribution - a larger belly or 'man boobs'
- A general lack of enthusiasm, poor concentration or short-term memory
Sometimes there is no obvious reason for these feelings which, if occurring together, can lead to a sense of crisis.
If you experience any of these symptoms, then explaining your feelings to your GP is a good starting point. They will talk through your work and personal life, check for any stress and anxiety, consider any physical causes and explain ways to combat the feelings.
This may include changes to diet and sleep regimes, using stress management techniques, treatments such as talking therapies, recommending exercise or implementing medical interventions e.g. antidepressants.
Where appropriate, couple counselling may be seen as a useful tool for working through difficult feelings within relationships. Often feelings of isolation can occur at this time in life, so it may be that counselling helps in reconnecting with others.
Your GP may suggest checking for and rectifying any testosterone deficiency, a course of antidepressants or a natural supplement e.g. St John’s Wort.
The condition is not exclusive to men.
Sources used in writing this article are available on request
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Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 22 May 2018
Next review: 22 May 2021