Age is a constant in life. From the moment of one’s conception, there is biological change taking place. One continues to change and age and grow physically and mentally and throughout each phase in life there are new challenges and expectations. The ability to adjust and alter with change and aging is key to a happy life but certain phases in life can come with more emotional disruption. Usually one’s teens is the first phase of large change as one leaves childhood and enters into teenage years and young adulthood. The multitude of changes both physically, mentally and emotionally are extensive as one learns how to become an adult and take on responsibility, all the while forming an identity.
Very close or even equal is mid life. Mid life change differs in that it does not look to form an identity but it actually reviews one’s identity and also the existential reality of that identity. One is faced with the notion of life and death itself. This can lead one into what is referred to as a Mid-Life Crisis.
Phases of Midlife Crisis
There are three phases to a Mid-Life Crisis. First, the trigger. Whether it is a death in the family or one’s own existential awareness, something triggers this state of alert to change. Deaths of loved ones, children moving out, new family structures or even one’s own perception of self due to change can trigger a Mid-Life Crisis. Whether this trigger causes an awakening or crisis is how one views the changes or how well they are able to adjust. The second phase is the acute crisis. During this phase, one experiences the fear, doubt, anxiety and changes that correlate with these feelings. The final phase is the conclusion, where answers or adjustments are made to correct the imbalance to the non finite loss. Like everything in change, loss and grief, one must find adjustment to the new normal. How well one can cope and accept the person in the mirror and make the necessary adjustments in a non pathological way determine the success of the transition.
Triggers for Mid-Life Crisis
Like adolescence, middle age brings multiple changes in life. For both men and women, this means potential weight gain. Wrinkling, greying and balding are also physical changes also come with steep emotional prices. Individuals begin to see themselves differently in the mirror. The avatar they have envisioned themselves as for the last Twenty years is fading. This type of loss regarding youthful appearance can vary among individuals but it is a change that eventually some need to accept.
In addition, energy levels drop affecting one’s once athletic abilities, or also sexual drives. This change in physiology can be a difficult time, as difficult it is for teens during their years of change. What can become confused in this lost of identity and begin question oneself. Confidence can drop and anxiety and depression can set in for some. For most, it is only an uncomfortable transition of acceptance, but for some, it becomes a roller coaster ride of extraordinary crisis.
With this non finite type of grief and loss, one is sought searching and longing for the past. One is in search of the symbolic Fountain of Youth. Some may attempt to fabricate change through miracle drugs, or surgical procedures to attempt to recapture that look. Others will attempt to revamp their entire robe ward . In itself, these attempts to stabilize confidence can be innocent and non harmful but when these attempts overwhelm an individual to drastic change and dangerous procedures, then one may need to seek counseling or help. One may also need to speak to grief counselors or even licensed counselors when one’s self esteem is becoming dangerously tattered from these physical changes.
Some enter into Mid Life Crisis through more mental perceptions. One may become dissatisfied with their progress in life. Unfilled happiness or goals may begin to enter into one’s mind as one realizes one is no longer in the prime of one’s youth. Lack of pursued education, relationships, travels, or dreams may all begin to haunt the individual. This can lead to aimlessness, self doubt, dissatisfaction and longing.
Grief Counseling and Support
In response, individuals may seek to rectify some of these issues. In taking inventory of one’s life and looking and what is lacking or unfulfilled, one is not necessarily entering a crisis stage, but actually taking proactive steps to make a better life, but again, when done in haste, without plan, or financial consideration, these moves can become merely reactional and not well thought out. This may lead to a manic episode of off the wall purchases, such a dream car, or travel beyond one’s financial capabilities. Furthermore, if one is discontent with one’s relationship due to the change of time, one may be more daring to enter into an affair.
It is of no wonder then that suicide rates increase during Middle Age.
In dealing with a Mid-Life Crisis many may ask new questions about oneself. They may look where they came from and where they are going. They make take inventory of successes and failures and account new limitations and how to creatively balance them. In anything dealing with change it is crucial to have some relevance of coping ability and confidence in life. This is why it is crucial to acknowledge one’s feelings and the loss one feels. It is OK to feel uncomfortable and upset but one needs to be able to understand how is one going to react to these new challenges.
Optimistic outlooks point to the fact that life is growing and expanding and not becoming something less desirable. With each phase in life comes new advantages that someone can part take in. It is good to see optimism in one’s age and how one can make this phase of life the best it can be. Maybe through more exercise and health diets to maintain oneself better, or new hobbies or things that one has not accomplished as of yet but now financially can. It is important like any phase in life to take advantage of what each phase has to offer. If however one persists with depressive thoughts or suicidal ideas, it is important to seek counsel and help with a licensed healthcare professional. It is important to share these feelings with trusted friends and family.
Understanding change and how scary but wonderful it can be is sometimes a way to reframe it. Reframing is a key way to sometimes see the good over the bad. While one is changing physically and emotionally, this change may incur some disadvantages but they are natural changes that everyone is encountering. It is important to remain confident and secure in what one is while adjusting to the change through positive reaction or happy acceptance.
One needs an anchor in life. While accidental changes are occurring throughout, one is still oneself. One is must be anchored by that identity of self. True happiness in fleeting things will never allow one to find security and peace within. Placing happiness in eternal things over physical things is crucial. If religious, faith can play a key role in anchoring oneself. If not religious, ideals and concepts important to identity can help one find peace.
It ultimately comes down to the ontology of happiness. The glows that excite oneself versus the spurs that cause discomfort. What does one place one’s sense of joy and happiness in? Are they in tangible things that can be lost or destroyed or does one find a deeper happiness in family and friends. Yet these people can be lost as well, so there must be something more within oneself that anchors oneself in relation to the many blessings one has. This anchor, allows one to retain balance and security even when things of joy are taken by loss and change. The ability to have focus and a goal that can never be stolen within one’s spirit is the primary tool to cope and to move with change gracefully. For many this is faith, others it is idealogy. It is critical for one to find that anchor to prevent one from being swept with the current of the ocean.
Those who have no true anchor will drift longer during a Mid-Life Crisis. This is why it is important to have a great sense of self and values. Unchangeable values retain one’s identity and self and no matter the accidental changes of life, one remains the same at the core. Those who can adjust to aging gracefully and find youth as not a number can also adjust far better to these types of losses. Their identity remains core despite the accidental changes.
Depression or Mid-Life Crisis
When a Mid-Life Crisis is not properly navigated, or without an anchor, it can lead to depression. If individuals exhibit the physical and mental symptoms associated with depression, it is important to contact a healthcare professional or grief counselor. Others can fall victim to substance abuse and risky behaviors. Those with better support groups or individuals to talk to or share experiences with have a better chance of exiting the crisis with new insight and hope, but for those without support or an internal anchor, it is important for them to seek the counseling help they need.
Please also review AIHCP’s multiple counseling courses. AIHCP offers both a Grief Counseling Certification, as well as Crisis Intervention Counseling Programs. The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking training in counseling in these lay and pastoral fields. Of course licensed counselors can also become certified and utilize these skills in a clinical setting.
References and Additional Resources
“Midlife Crisis or Midlife Myth? What to Know About Going ‘Over the Hill’”. Crystal Raypole. July 8th, 2021. Healthline. Access here
“Midlife Crisis: Why We Reevaluate Our Lives at the Halfway Mark”. Amy Morin. February 23rd, 2023. VeryWellMind. Access here
“Midlife”. Psychology Today Staff. Psychology Today. Access here
“Midlife Crisis: Transition or Depression?”. Kathleen Doheny. November 11th, 2009. WebMD. Access here