Recent reports of UK PM Boris Johnson saying that he entered politics because of the “beginning of a midlife crisis” in his mid-thirties – have brought midlife crises back in the spotlight. They may be millions of people around the world who may be experiencing just what Johnson has said.
Johnson, the 56- year old PM of the UK, who earlier worked as a journalist, describes, “I know I had to something…I felt I had to sort of start to contribute more and so I went into politics”; precisely describes the thoughts and emotions that one may feel and encounter while experiencing a midlife crisis.
So what exactly is midlife crises?
According to experts, people who may be going through a midlife crisis are thought to be struggling with their own mortality, and hence, somewhere during this middle phase, they tend to abandon some of their responsibilities in favor of fun, perhaps in the search for lightness in daily life and a quick but thorough inspection of ones own life till that point.
We realize that we are aging may lead to emotional turmoil, which may trigger depression, remorse, and even anxiety in some.
Perhaps this is when we realize that half of our life on earth has already come to pass, and we start to ponder existential questions – why are we here? What have we done in our life? What were my dreams and aspirations, and how much have I succeeded in achieving these goals?
The questions may be countless and may differ from individual to individual but what is common is the thread – the looking into our lives as if we are outsiders looking on to an individual’s life and possibly picking at it experience by experience until date.
Hence, midlife begins a phase where we tend to re-begin, redo, rework what we want in our lives. It triggers a notion where we want to experience youthfulness again, the euphoria again, and many a time, this midlife crisis leads to emotional outages in the form of physical appearances (Botox and plastic surgeries), buying a sports car, or even in some cases extramarital affairs.
However, it is not true that the emotional turmoil brought on by midlife crises may lead to a lifestyle change in all. Many suffer silently, and the questioning and the pondering happen on the inside without a display on the outside.
How real are Midlife crises?
Not everyone experiences a midlife crisis; in fact, studies show that for many people from different parts of the world, midlife concerns are not an issue at all.
Some researchers believe that midlife crises are a social construct; it is the belief that one is supposed to have some kind of crisis in the ’40s that may lead some people to experience a breakdown.
Hence, this raises the question – whether these crises are genuinely related to midlife since midlife is typically considered at age 45.
What are the causes of midlife crises?
For many people, midlife is a time when their relationships and roles are changing. It’s the time when your kids are growing up and setting up plans for the future leading to the onset of “empty nest” syndrome, one may be required to take care of aging parents, or struggling with some issues in relationships, simply put the responsibilities and the duties towards others and towards oneself becomes at an all-time high.
Another trigger is the aging process which becomes more apparent than ever before, some may have developed illnesses, and some may experience a decline in their physical abilities.
However, it doesn’t mean that all considerations may be on the physical aspect alone. They are some who dive deep into a time of immense reflection. They may look back at their lives over the years and question how their lives may have been if they had taken a different path.
Some people may also regret decisions regarding a different choice of a career path, while others may regret not creating the life they wanted, while others may just reflect on happier days in their lives.
The bottom line is that it is the time of, simply put, a self–reflection period!
How did midlife crises come to be noted?
The midlife crisis was a term invented in London in 1957; a 40 year old Canadian named Elliot Jaques stood before a meeting of the British Psycho-Analytical Society and read aloud from a paper he’d written.
According to him, he had studied several people, including great personalities who seemed to be going through this extraordinary phenomenon. According to his research, he told his audience – this period is sparked by the realization that their lives are halfway over and that death isn’t just something that happens to someone else: It will happen to them, too, and hence the beginning of midlife crises.
Midlife crises vs. depression
They are many who may experience depression (the trigger for the same could be anything) during midlife and refer to their depressive state as midlife rises.
According to studies, women between the ages of 40 – 59 in the United States have the highest rate of depression (12.3%) of any group based on gender and age.
Suicide rates also seem to be the maximum during middle age among men in particular.
Hence one may ask – Does a midlife crisis cause depression? Does depression cause a midlife crisis? Or, is the depression people experience during midlife simply referred to as a midlife crisis?
However, these above questions do not have simplified answers. No one knows for sure if midlife crises are separate from mental health crises that one might experience at any point in their life.
When to get help?
If you think you might be experiencing midlife crises or are not sure if you are, talk to a doctor or contact a mental health professional.
- Your emotional distress is affecting your ability to sleep, or it affects your appetite. You are unable to concentrate at work
- Your stress and mood are taking a toll on your relationships
- You have lost interest in things and activities that gave you pleasure
- If you’re thinking of making some significant life changes, like ending a long-term relationship, switching careers, or relocating
- And your desire to make those changes stems from inner turmoil related to midlife—it could be a good idea to talk to a mental health professional before taking the leap.
The fact is also that Covid -19 pandemic has severely impacted the mental well-being of many. Especially for those who are living on their own, which includes the young and the old alike.
The additional pressure of providing for the family and the uncertainty regarding employment could also be a trigger for many.
Nevertheless, whatever may be the reason, awareness of the same can help you, and you can, in turn, be helpful towards someone else who may be experiencing a midlife crisis; kindness goes a long way!