When we hear the term “mid-life crisis” we often think of the man in his mid-40s who suddenly buys a sports car or the woman who becomes obsessed with plastic surgeries to look younger. Clinicians debate the existence of a “mid-life crisis” as a disorder, but few would dispute its existence!
The culturally based concept, in real life, might take shape as anything from an actual crisis, clinical depression or mania, to simple reflection, career or family changes, a new hair-do, or a new lifestyle. We might wonder if we are successful enough, or just feel like "how could I be going through a mid-life crisis?!"
But how do we know what is "normal" or when to seek help?
The Normality of Transitional Questioning
It is normal, at the mid stage, after a crisis, or major changes, to take stock of one's life.
Physical illness, death of a parent or peer, disasters, divorce, job loss, any transition can cause thoughts of “how much time do we have left?” or “what’s it all been worth?”
In psychological development models, the task of evaluating where we are is important to moving on to further stages of positive development.
There is nothing "pathetic" about a mid-life crisis – even if it may sound a bit cliché.
However, as "normal" as it is, we don't have to go through it alone. In fact, individual, group, or family counseling can contribute to increases in positive feelings, provide new frames of reference and bring valuable insights about life changes.
Dealing with Regrets
One normal component of reflection is that we may look back with “regrets” – things we had hoped to accomplish, choices we wish we could take back or paths we wish we had chosen. And while it seems healthy to avoid "regret" when possible, if we have a few, that's probably OK.
Ideas of "success" are often culturally grown, and vary widely. In many circles, if you are alive and healthy after any number of years then that is a huge success! There are many ways of understanding the value in a life. Understanding that concept, in itself, is a worthwhile pursuit.
Engaging in counseling, groups or other avenues of education can help validate our successes and help us think about our lives and changes we want to make with more information and support.
Indications of a Need for Help
No matter what age, be it "mid-life" or other, if a feeling of depression or doubt, or even a simple desire to explore the idea of making life-changes occurs, then it is a great idea to talk to someone!
Also seek help if substance use, symptoms of major depression (feelings of worthlessness, sadness, uncontrolled anger, emptiness, etc.) or mania (extreme feelings of euphoria, uncontrollable impulses, etc.) or any other clinical symptoms interfere with adequate functioning or normal functioning in one’s life.
Thoughts of harm to anyone, in any form, calls for immediate help. Get a medical check-up, as there are many conditions which can influence our feelings of well-being, and seek referrals for assistance.
Where to Find Help
There are many avenues of potential help in coping with a mid-life crisis - online counseling, support groups, in-person special interest groups, in-person therapy and religious counseling are among the options.
Self-help books abound on subjects directly and indirectly related to this topic, and many social groups also take on these issues. Alternatively, when you see your medical doctor for a check-up, ask for referrals.
Mid-life, before the hill, over the hill, if you just want to explore new ways of looking at your life, or look at new ways of exploring your life, counseling may be helpful. Life is short - so why not invest a little time to make our remaining time the best of times!
- About the author E W:
- From Victim Advocacy with survivors of abuse and violence, case management with senior citizens and their families, counseling with at-risk youth and their families, to therapy with adults fighting addiction - bereavement, depression, relationship issues, parenting issues, divorce, blended families, disability, career changes, life changes, my professional experience has encountered it all (so to speak). Fitness, health, coping with chronic illness, aging parents, raising children, job loss, job stress,.... and the list goes on!
Page last updated Mar 14, 2013