A midlife crisis is an experience that many people, particularly men, face between the ages of 40 and 60. At this point, they begin to question their life and act out of character. RALIAT YUSUF explains this natural but distressing process of maturity in men.
Midlife crisis is a term coined in 1965 by a psychologist, Elliott Jacques and used to describe a period of dramatic self-doubt that is felt by some individuals in the middle years of life especially in men, as a result of sensing the passing of youth and the imminence of old age.
This normal process of maturity which happens between the ages of 40-60 in men can make them feel depressed, uncomfortable and even unhappy to the extent of taking to some radical lifestyles that may eventually lead to regrets later in life. For men it is usually a difficult experience.
Midlife crisis happens when men think they have reached life’s halfway stage. Anxieties over what they have accomplished so far, either in their job or personal life can cause men to slip into depression.
Sometimes, transitions experienced in these years, such as aging in general, andropause (men’s menopause), the death of parents, or children leaving home, can trigger such a crisis. The result may be a desire to make significant changes in core aspects of day to day life or situation, such as in career, marriage, or romantic relationships.
Although it is a term coined in the western world, it is applicable to all societies the world over as needs and wants are the same everywhere.
The experience is a combination of feelings, events, and physical changes that indicates that a transformation is at hand. The final proof often occurs in retrospect after a person accepts that they have changed and comes to terms with the new life patterns.
As people grow older they suddenly realise that overtime a lot has changed around them.For instance, as a parent, you suddenly wake up one day and discover that all your children have grown up and become adults and have left home to be on their own, or your girls have gone on to marry, leaving you and your wife all by yourselves and the house becoming very quiet and desolate.
Another instance is when one of the spouses suddenly passes away, leaving the other one devastated and all alone, maybe to care for the children, though in this case, it is believed that women are able to cope better than men in this situation.
Another scenario is that you suddenly lost that dream job of yours and can’t maintain your previous lifestyle or conversely you have just come into some big money and suddenly realise that there is a lot you have been missing and decide that now is the time to make up for all that you have lost and then throw caution to the wind and go wild by taking to radical lifestyle changes that can be very damaging.
A psychologist, Pauline Okojie explains why people, especially men suddenly slip into midlife crisis once they attain a certain age in life.
“Midlife crisis is a natural and unavoidable process of life. It is a phase when major adjustments to the personality and outlook occur. Through often disturbing, it is also transformational”.
According to Okojie, most men will experience one form of emotional transition at a point in their life. This transition might prompt them to take stock of where they are in life and make some needed adjustments in the way they live their lives.
But these feelings at mid-life can occur naturally or can be brought on by external factors, she notes.
She points out that one external factor is bereavement such as the death of a parent or other significant loss or change, such as redundancy or divorce. These things can cause significant grief which can be difficult enough to come to terms with on their own.But if they are compounded by the natural process of ‘mid-life transition’ this can make the whole process of adjustment bewildering and overwhelming she adds.
However, even in the absence of difficult external circumstances, there is still an internal process of change that takes place during midlife, Okojie said.
She also explained that there are symptoms that can be noticed in someone going through a midlife crisis such as: looking into the mirror and you no longer recognise yourself, unexplained bouts of depression when doing tasks that used to make you happy, loss of libido (sex drive),a desire to get in a physical shape, irritability or unexpected anger, thinking about death, wondering about the nature of death, excessively looking back to one’s childhood, desire to surround yourself with different settings and so on.
“The fact that midlife crisis can sometimes lead to denial but it is a life process that is inevitable”, she said. Continuing, Okojie added: “It is important to accept midlife crisis whenever it comes. The affected person should go into it and learn from it. This would help to participate actively in the process, and in that way, organise its passing to be a more pleasant and more productive process”, she advised.