What is a midlife crisis? Is it a legitimate, medical condition? And are you going through it?
What it is and what it isn’t
We’ve all heard the term. “He’s going through a midlife crisis” is usually used half-jokingly in reference to a man in his 40s who just bought himself a sports car, left his wife for a younger one or quit the job he’d been at for 15 years to travel the world. At least that’s what the media has led us to believe a midlife crisis is. But is it?
Although there are medical professionals that argue that midlife crises are a condition invented by modern society, the mainstream belief is that it is a very real condition, sometimes a psychological syndrome related to hormonal changes. And it fits – while women go through menopause and all the psychological and physiological symptoms that come with it, it seems like many men go through their own “menopause” as well.
Symptoms (the real ones)
The sudden and violent changes of lifestyle choices and behaviors we associate with a midlife crisis are not necessarily accurate. Doctors and psychologists include the following range of symptoms their patients frequently complain mention:
Irritability, loss of sex drive, fatigue and tiredness, Erectile Dysfunction, night sweats, depression, weight gain, hair loss, still muscles and joints, dry skin and general lack of enthusiasm and energy.
Just like with many conditions, the causes of a midlife crisis seem to vary from person to person. Nonetheless, there are specific triggers that bring about symptoms like the ones discussed above. Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as an alternative to getting an official diagnosis from a licensed medical professional.
When people go through a life-altering event, such as being let go from a job they’ve been at for many years or getting divorced, especially for someone whose identity is closely tied to their job and family status, it is devastating. So is dealing with the death of a loved one. Imagine someone going through one of these situations in parallel to hormonal changes in their bodies. Add to that the realization that half their life is over and you’ve got the perfect candidate for a full-fledged midlife crisis.
But my life is great! Is it all in my head?
Some men’s lives don’t go through any dramatic change or special circumstance. And they might feel confused about why they suddenly feel depressed, tired and irritable, since everything remains picture-perfect. However, men’s bodies, as we know, are going through chemical changes that are not always accompanied by things we would see on the surface.
Lower testosterone, erectile dysfunction and loss of libido are especially common during the ages of 40-55. These symptoms sometimes cause some of the others associated with the midlife crisis, such as depression, anxiety and lack of energy. And this can complicate things.
When treating a condition, any condition, it is important to get to the root of the problem. Why put band-aids when the real issue can be dealt with? It is true, sometimes conditions do need to be treated separately. But lets try to avoid taking unnecessary medications or treatments if they are….well, unnecessary.
So…What do I do?
The best advice we can give anyone who suspects they are going through a midlife crisis is to go to their Doctor and/or Therapist. Nope, they are not sponsoring this article. It is simply the best approach. These professionals are there to help you! And you deserve to get the answers that will allow you to take care of yourself.
The first step is to find out what is going on. And once you know, choose a plan or treatment that fits your specific needs and wants. Sometimes this can mean getting extra sessions with a therapist. Other times going to therapy together with your partner is even better. Maybe there is medication that can help you. Or perhaps you have an actual hormonal deficiency and need a treatment for that. And sometimes some simple lifestyle changes do the trick.
The important thing is to be aware of what is happening in your body. You can then put things in place that will allow you to be healthy in both body and soul.
Wishing you lots of health all around! I am always here to answer your questions and concerns.