How often do you meet with middle aged people whose lives have turned upside down as they take crucial changes all of a sudden and out of nowhere?
In certain age, mostly from late thirties to early fifties, both men and women might experience feelings of identity lost, depression, mood changes, and dissatisfaction about their life choices. These symptoms suggest that this person is passing through an important curve in his/her life: the middle age or midlife crisis.
It is not necessarily a crisis; it is a transitional period in life, which according to some factors might be an essential phase to be fully mature. It is a time for crossing roads to make radical change in one’s personal and professional life.
“First of all, midlife crisis is not a stop that everyone should pass through, some persons live their entire lives without experiencing it”, Samar Abdo, a social counselor highlights.
She further explained that the crisis differs in its triggers, presentation, and consequences from one person to another and from men to women. The worst, however, is when it is triggered by unfulfilled emotional needs in earlier life times that only come to the surface with the crisis. Muslim families should be fully aware of causes, symptoms, and consequences; they should know how to deal with this transition before it threatens the whole family’s present and future.
“For a long time, Muslim communities had their own traditions and values that made their social problems different, but after globalization, we cannot specify certain characteristics of the crisis in Muslim countries”, Abdo comments. Some people have wrong perceptions of midlife crisis with a very limited understanding of such broad phenomenon. They restrict this phase on men who marry another woman or have an affair.
Symptoms of Midlife Crisis
Typical signs and symptoms might include:
- Dissatisfaction with life style that you were happy about.
- Less interest to connect with your friends.
- Reconsidering and questioning decisions you’ve taken, which is usually associated with confusion about the future.
- Rethinking about having a new partner.
- Insomnia, fatigue, changed eating habits.
- Anxiety and irritability.
- The crisis or transition tends to occur around significant life events, like suffering from drastic loss or financial problems.
These might be the common symptoms for both men and women; however, understanding how it presents differently in men’s and women’s personas is very important approach to be able to handle this life curve.
At this age, men usually feel afraid of diseases associated with aging process,; they have thoughts like being less attractive and become suspicious about their future goals. They also experience:
- Suffering from identity loss.
- Trying new business and hobbies and buying new gadgets.
- Engaging in new relationships either through marriage or not, instead of dealing in a realistic way with the ups and downs of their current marital relationship.
- Having a tendency to marry young women.
For women, they feel time has come to do whatever they like; achieve things they couldn’t do earlier while taking care of the kids.
Other common signs and symptoms include:
- Awareness of her beauty fading, which results in trying new styles, uses Botox to make up for the wrinkles, wearing heavy make- up or putting on teenagers’ clothes.
- Having new relationships with eligible men that might develop into marriage.
- Women are generally more hopeful at this stage.
Midlife crisis consequences range from mild forms like changing lifestyle or career to severe depression that might develop into thinking about suicide- or actually committing it. Both men and women might mistakenly think they are reconsidering their choices through their kids, so, they choose what they view as the right career for their kids, or suitable spouse. People who do not talk and keep their problems to themselves will probably withdraw from their families, which is a very wrong decision in this particular phase of life.
Some women might involuntary take their sons as substitutes for emotions they lack with their husbands, which usually present as controlling mother in law who ruins her son’s life!
The Way Out
Given the previous facts, we can easily acknowledge that the longer the period of denial, the deeper the problem, and the worse the consequences will be.
- Only wise people make use of this period in their lives for their growth and maturity.
- Don’t give people the chance to tell you that you have no right to be sad or dissatisfied, of course, it’s yours and everyone’s right to think whatever they like.
- Men and women should be absolutely frank about their emotions, their fears, and their hopes.
- Accept and commit: accept the fact that you are having a problem and be committed to handle it as much as you can.
- Don’t jump to temporary solutions; try to believe in permanent family reform even if it is not the perfect picture that suits your ambition
- If you feel the crisis is going too far and turning into depression, you should seek immediate help.
- “Both men and women should always believe that it is never too late and it is never shameful to seek help”, Abdo advises.
The expert in this case might be a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a coach.
The bottom line: if you don’t want to counsel an expert, you should share your emotions and decisions with your family or close friends.
- Be there for your spouse, and try to understand what he/she is going through without blaming yourself or feeling guilty.
- Try to do new things as a family rather than an individual.
- Set new goals in life, and break them into smaller tasks so you are able to achieve them afterwards.
- Don’t over worry about your health, work and career, do what you are entitled to do.
- Try new food, new hobbies, go to a vacation in a different place that includes different activities.
- Don’t take quick unmeasured decisions without thorough evaluation.
- Try to live your life and enjoy simple things while going out and spending time with your family. This will have far better effect than burying yourself in more gadgets all the time.
First published: June 2015