How Psychotherapy Can Help Midlife Crises
By Guest Contributor Dakota Murphey
What Is A Midlife Crisis?
While midlife crises have been parodied in popular culture, for people experiencing them, the feelings are very real. Sometimes, in an attempt to stave off the feelings of grief or anxiety that can be experienced as we enter midlife, people engage in what might be called “regression”—they may have an affair, buy a new car, use drugs or alcohol, or otherwise try to recapture the exhilaration of youth.
For some, midlife is a time to reflect on past achievements and plan for future ones. But for other people, midlife is a time of frustration, resentment, and depression, all of which can lead to changes in behavior. As one ages, the freedom to choose and reinvent oneself may seem to decrease, regrets may pile up, and one's sense of invincibility and energy may also diminish. Facing one's mortality and the mortality of loved ones becomes inevitable. Accepting the loss of youth and beginning the process of aging is a transition that some find difficult.
Are There Signs?
Individuals experiencing a midlife crisis may exhibit some of the following emotions and behaviors:
Obsession with one's appearance - An individual might dress in clothes that create a "younger" look, attempt different diets, exercise often, or use cosmetics or procedures in an attempt to reduce or reverse the signs of aging. He or she may feel that it is difficult to recognize who he/she has become.
Emotional distress - An individual might feel down for extensive periods, be short-tempered or quick to anger, consider his or her mortality often, question religious beliefs, behave in a reckless manner, or abuse drugs and alcohol, sometimes in an attempt to escape feelings of emotional turmoil.
Relationship dissatisfaction - This may manifest as demonstrated sexual interest in someone other than one's partner, detachment from one's partner, or the pursuit of an affair.
Career dissatisfaction - Someone experiencing a midlife crisis might wish to quit his or her job or escape responsibilities and may feel envious and resentful of younger coworkers, especially those who appear to be advancing ahead in the company.
Most people manage to work their way through a midlife crisis without too much trouble, but for some, a midlife crisis is more complicated. If behaviors such as excessive spending, risky affairs, or an unwise career move go unchecked, the effects to self and family can be devastating. The good news is, a midlife crisis can be managed, and psychotherapy can help.
How Can Therapy Help?
Working with a psychotherapist during midlife provides the opportunity to enter the next phase of life with greater self-awareness, self-compassion and personal fulfillment. An individual will have the opportunity to:
- Identify and work through any issues that seem to be holding you back.
- Realise goals that may you may long for but have not yet have been realized in life.
- Explore desires and fears without behaving recklessly or in a way that might negatively affect your life.
- Learn how to deal with health concerns that might be contributing to the problem.
- Develop plans for taking the next steps in life that create a better life for you.
People who are experiencing anxiety, depression or feelings of emptiness as a result of midlife transition can also find that psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for those concerns. Therapy can also help people who struggling with an extramarital affair or who wish to seek a divorce.
Although popular stereotypes suggest that men are usually the ones who have midlife crises, midlife transitions can affect anyone, at any age in adulthood. Working with a psychotherapist can help a person discover the deeper meaning of their own particular experience of midlife, help formulate and execute healthier responses, and make changes, if needed, to create a happy and more fulfilling future.
Dakota Murphey; BA (Hons) Marketing graduate, freelance writer and Photoshop dab hand. When she's not running around after her two kids, you’ll find her relaxing in a nearby coffee shop, watching the world pass her by. If you enjoyed this article, see what else she's been up to on Twitter - @Dakota_Murphey.
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