Many people experience a midlife crisis, so a midlife crisis in men is not uncommon. If you think you’re in the middle of one, it’s important to know that it’s never too late to start creating the kind of life that you want. Once you learn how to recognize the signs of a midlife crisis, you’ll be on the road to healing in no time.
So many of us slog through each day, only to look around and realize that we’ve been letting life pass us by.
If this is you, use this as a guide, and with any luck, you’ll begin to see the midlife crisis in men for what it really is: an opportunity.
Note that this is a midlife crisis guide for men, if you’re looking for a guide for women, check out this article instead.
Table of Contents
What Is a Midlife Crisis?
A midlife crisis is generally defined as a transition of identity and self-confidence that occurs in a middle-aged person (typically 45 to 64 years old). This psychological “crisis” is fueled by events that bring to light a person’s age, inevitable mortality, and perhaps a lack of notable accomplishments in adult life. Hence, midlife crises in men are very similar to midlife crises in women.
Not surprisingly, people can then experience depression, anxiety, and the desire to make significant life changes.
Incidentally, the term “midlife crisis” was coined by Canadian psychoanalyst and social scientist, Elliott Jaques, in 1957. (Funny enough, Jaques also coined the term “corporate culture.”)
But recent studies have shown that most middle-aged people don’t actually experience a midlife crisis. In fact, some have questioned if the midlife crisis even exists.
However, for many of us, the midlife crisis is all too real.
Why a Midlife Crisis Happens
It bears repeating that recent studies seem to reject the idea that most adults go through a midlife crisis. Researchers believe that personality type and a history of psychological issues predispose some people to the traditional midlife crisis.
Of course, common day-to-day stressors can pile up, causing middle-aged adults to believe they are having a crisis. Midlife crises in men may sometimes be just midlife stressors.
Additionally, many middle-aged adults experience life events that can lead to prolonged depression or psychological distress. Psychologists often attribute the phenomenon to aging itself, the aging or death of one’s parents, the maturation of one’s children, spousal relationships (or lack thereof) and career (or lack thereof).
Signs of a Midlife Crisis in Men
The midlife crisis for men can materialize in a number of ways. Some of the most common are found below:
- Mood swings: Those experiencing a midlife crisis can seem highly temperamental, becoming angry or irritable with family members without justification.
- Depression and anxiety: A midlife crisis can undoubtedly cause one to feel sad, restless, or just plain miserable.
- Sleeplessness or oversleeping: Depression, anxiety, and a constantly spinning mind can greatly affect one’s sleeping habits.
- An obsession with appearances: Those going through a midlife crisis often feel the need to remain attractive to others.
- Increased consumption of drugs or alcohol: Middle-aged adults may turn to drugs or alcohol to mask their feelings.
- Feeling stuck in a rut: Those going through a midlife crisis often feel like they’re stuck—in a bad job, a bad marriage, a bad situation—with no way out.
- Thoughts of death or dying: A midlife crisis can cause people to think obsessively about their own mortality.
Other signs of a midlife crisis include: impulsive decision-making, having an affair, replacing old friends with younger friends, assigning blame to others, and extreme boredom.
Take a look at this chart to see how many of these signs are you experiencing:
Stages of a Midlife Crisis
There are three stages of a midlife crisis. Understanding which stage a person is at, is beneficial in helping them overcome their midlife crisis. The three stages are:
Any incident in your life that brings you to the realization that nothing in your life is like how it used to be is what the trigger for a midlife crisis is like. This trigger can be bereavement, the fear of death, losing a job, or being faced with a medical illness.
This is the period where you try and understand just how much your life has changed. You try and reevaluate all your relationships, goals, skills, and achievements. It is normal to come into conflict with how your life is and feel hopeless, lost, and helpless.
After the crisis, when you begin to adjust to the new reality and learn to accept the new you, is the resolution stage. It is the outcome of all your efforts in the crisis stage and determine solely on how you handled the challenges middle age threw your way.
The Impact of a Midlife Crisis on Men
Men’s midlife crisis is often portrayed as the need to buy sports cars, have an affair, pick up an interest in DIY home projects, and many other sorts of stereotypical things. However, there is actually a lot more a midlife crisis does for the lives of men that is often not talked about. Some of the major issues that arise in the lives of men are:
Marital Relationships Suffer
Men in their midlife crisis often find themselves at couples therapy with their wives since the heavy time they’re going through starts affecting their marriage. They may feel unneeded and undesirable as well as unable to meet their wife’s demands.
If the ages of the spouses are similar they both might be going through a midlife crisis, which makes taking care of the other person hard when you need care yourself.
The Lack of Work or Stagnation at Work Causes Irritability
Since most men lose their jobs or get demoted to less important posts during this stage in life, they might find it hard to manage their emotions as well as they used to.
Most men find working a way of relieving stress and dealing with their feelings, a lack of work gives them too much time to think about things and irritates them.
Issues with Their Libido
The general feeling of unhappiness alongside frequent fights with the spouse and issues at work can lead to stress building up in an unhealthy way. Men begin to struggle with their libido and sexuality as well.
Feelings of Worthlessness
One of the most prominent impacts of a male midlife crisis is that it comes with a psychological crisis as well. Men begin to exhibit signs of depression and can start feeling lesser than they are, due to their current life situation. This leads to a direct increase in male suicide rates, it is advised that one seeks help from a mental health professional.
Losing Track of Health
Lastly, men who tend to be diagnosed with chronic or life-threatening diseases around this age may be stubborn and resistant to any lifestyle changes to actively combat them. The overall foul mood and lack of hope in life make them lose sight of their health. Many men give up on sports and even tend to gain weight during this period.
Midlife Crisis vs. Depression
A midlife crisis can sometimes come across as depression. Telling the two apart is important because the two are treated differently. Although no one can ascertain whether midlife crisis causes depression or vice versa, we must acknowledge that the two can coexist.
Suicide rates during middle age are very high, especially in men. They tend to face many severe changes in their 40s that they did not see coming. General stigma in society against male mental health may lead them to not talk about problems.
In most cases, a healthcare professional can diagnose depression and prescribe treatment and medication for it. Yet, there is no medical treatment for a mid-life crisis.
Understanding The Happiness Curve
One of the main reasons why people do not understand and relate to a midlife crisis is that they think of happiness as something that comes and goes. They do not see it as a curve that naturally progresses throughout the life of a person.
Many describe happiness to be a U-shaped curve, starting in the early years where one is the happiest. Towards the forties, people tend to reach a universal trend of general unhappiness. This is because so much is changing during this time, from the high divorce rate to losing loved ones, to being laid off from jobs, and much more.
Promoting such an understanding of happiness helps people in their middle age realize that there is more happiness to come in life. What they are facing right now is nothing short of being in a slump, something that they can definitely get out of.
How to Deal With a Midlife Crisis
If you believe you’re having a midlife crisis, if you feel stuck, or if you’re experiencing trouble with your mental health, I’d like to assure you once again that you’re not alone. A midlife crisis in men and women is normal.
Try following some of the steps below to help you learn how to deal with a midlife crisis and get yourself back on track toward a life you enjoy living:
Someone once said that “the first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you’re not going to stay where you are.” And, I couldn’t agree more. This is truly where the work begins.
I began to experience a shift only after I made the decision—no, the unbreakable promise to myself—that I was going to change my life. And no matter how much you’re suffering, you can make yourself the same promise.
2. Stop the Search for Happiness
As humans, we spend our lives trying desperately to find happiness, and yet we don’t even know what it is.
We can’t explain, describe, or define it; we just know that we want it because it’ll make everything peachy. Time and time again, though, studies have shown that our never-ending quest for happiness is quite often the very thing that screws us up.
Trying to find happiness is a futile effort, likely to exacerbate the “crisis” you’re having. Stop the search for happiness and start taking action steps toward creating the life you want. When you do, you won’t need to find happiness. Eventually, happiness will find you.
What I used to dismiss as new age nonsense has positively changed my life in more ways than I thought possible. Meditation has been proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve focus and concentration, increase self-awareness, and promote better physical health. It is a great way to help ease the midlife crisis in men.
And, for me, it’s the only activity that effectively tames my “monkey mind,” or what neuroscientists have recently named the default mode network (DMN).
Your DMN is most active when you aren’t focused on anything in particular, and your mind is wandering from thought to thought. At best, these thoughts can be inspired and entertaining. But when you’re in the throes of a personal crisis, these thoughts can be destructive.
Meditation has a quieting effect and significantly decreases activity in the DMN. And when the mind does start to wander, those who regularly meditate are much better at snapping out of it.
Try this 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime, and experience its benefits.
4. Develop an Abundance Mindset
For years, I operated from a scarcity mindset. I was angry that all the world’s goodies seemed to go to everyone else. I wondered why those around me were getting recognized, getting rich, getting a nice partner, and I wasn’t.
Maybe, I thought, there’s just not enough to go around. Of course, this kind of thinking isn’t just debilitating; it’s downright inaccurate.
The world, in fact, is a place of abundance with limitless opportunities. Remind yourself of this every day, regardless of your age. Open yourself up to all that the world has to offer.
5. Practice Gratitude
Before you go to bed at night, think of five things for which you are grateful. Better yet, write them down. These can be common, everyday occurrences, like seeing a beautiful sunset, learning something new, or hearing your favorite song on the radio.
As Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at UC Davis and the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, wrote,
“Gratitude is, first and foremost, a way of seeing that alters our gaze.”
Need a little inspiration on how to practice gratitude? Here are 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.
6. Pursue Your Passions
Another helpful thing to help ease the midlife crisis in men is to pursue passions.
Certainly, if you’re having a midlife crisis, it might seem hard to feel passionate about anything, but you can reinvigorate your spirit with a remarkably simple activity.
Think about what you love doing or what you loved doing when you were a kid. Think about how you might spend your time if you had the financial abundance to do anything. Think about those you admire, those whose careers you wish you had.
Whatever your passions are, pursue them wholeheartedly. If you’re not sure what your passion is, check out this guide.
Exercise is, by far, the most widely recommended way to stave off negative feelings and gain perspective. But you don’t need to go to the gym to get exercise.
You can do yoga, play badminton, or jump on a trampoline. You can go swimming or dancing or hiking or biking. You can hula hoop with your kids or practice Kung Fu.
You can clean your garage, pull weeds in your garden, or take a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Just do something physical, and you only need to do it for 30 minutes three or four times a week.
8. Set Goals
Make a list of everything you’d like to accomplish in the next year, in the next five years, and the next ten years. Talk to a coach or someone you love about your goals, and work out a plan to achieve them.
Learn to use SMART goals to achieve what you want: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life.
9. Stay off Social Media
I can’t think of anything worse for a fragile human psyche than social media. It’s no secret that using social media can lead to depression, anxiety, envy, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and all kinds of other problems.
One study found, specifically, that “participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media”.
It’s also a colossal waste of time. Imagine what you could accomplish in your own life during the hours you spend scrolling through the highlight reels from the lives of others. If you want to survive a midlife crisis in men, get off social media.
10. Laugh as Much as Humanly Possible
Whoever coined the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” was really onto something. Studies show that laughter releases endorphins, activates neurotransmitter serotonin, relieves physical tension and stress, boosts the immune system, and protects the heart.
If you’re having a midlife crisis, you might be wondering if you’ll ever experience laughter again. That’s why you need to seek it out.
Before I go to bed, I watch ten minutes of stand-up comedy. I read funny books, see funny movies and spend as much time as I can with ridiculously funny people.
Make a conscious effort to integrate laughter into your daily routine. You’ll be tickled you did.
11. Think of Your Life as a Party
The fact that you’re alive isn’t just a cause for celebration, it’s a miracle—so improbable that if you try to comprehend it, your mind will almost certainly turn to mush.
Dr. Ali Binazir, a wicked smart Harvard grad and the author of The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible, actually crunched the numbers, demonstrating that the probability of your dad meeting your mom was one in 20,000, the probability of your dad dating your mom was one in 2,000, and the probability of the right sperm meeting the right egg was one in 400 quadrillion.
And that’s just the beginning.
Your grandparents, great grandparents, and everyone before them—going back millions of years to the first Homo sapiens—had to meet and have children. In the end, explains Binazir, the probability of you being born was one in 10, followed by 2,685,000 zeroes.
Tragically, so many of us never truly appreciate what it means to be alive. We succumb to our fears, give up on our dreams, and tolerate the intolerable. We get into bad jobs, bad relationships, and bad situations, allowing others to treat us poorly.
Think of your life as a party and remember: life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.
No matter what age you are, every day provides a new opportunity to do something new:
- Sam Walton founded Wal-Mart when he was 44.
- Ray Kroc bought the first McDonald’s just after his 50th birthday.
- Rodney Dangerfield was 46 when he got his big break on the Ed Sullivan Show.
- Harland Sanders was dead broke at 65. Then, he sold the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.
- And Charles Darwin published On the Age of Species at age 50.
We can’t stop the inevitable. We’re all going to die. The question is: what are you going to do while you’re alive?
Life is precious. A midlife crisis in men isn’t the end.
Take a minute to examine what’s really going on, and you may find it’s not really a crisis at all. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s the perfect time to create the life you’ve always wanted. No excuses.
|The Atlantic: How the Midlife Crisis Came to Be
|Gerontology: Midlife Crisis: A Debate
|Motivation and Emotion: Expecting Stress: Americans and the “Midlife Crisis”
|Today: 8 warning signs that a man is having a midlife crisis
|Huff Post: How To Tell If You’re Going Through A Midlife Crisis, In One Simple Chart
|Annual Review of Neuroscience: The Brain’s Default Mode Network
|American Psychological Association: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
|Advances in Physiology Education: Humor, laughter, learning, and health! A brief review