Midlife Crisis Women. Why is their experience so confusing?
What are Midlife Crisis symptoms in women? The term “Midlife Crisis” was coined by Psychologist Elliot Jacques in an article in 1965. He used the term to refer to the time when adults come face to face with their mortality and the limited number of productive and healthy years ahead.
A midlife crisis comes down to the human species very basic and existential fear of death. A midlife crisis can occur roughly anywhere between the ages of 40-60. It can turn up out of the blue and catch you unaware, spinning your life upside down.
A person who spends all their time looking after others or working without focussing on their own needs is more likely to hit a wall in midlife and succumb to a midlife crisis. For this reason, people who have dedicated their lives to their family are more vulnerable to a major upheaval in midlife, especially as children begin to leave home.
It’s easy to think of a mid-life crisis in terms of how it affects men. We all know the stereotype. The man who buys a red sports car and clothes that are too young for him. He hits the gym and trades in his loyal wife for a woman half his age.
Whilst a mid-life crisis can manifest in this way, in women it can be very different from this simplified view. The midlife crisis generally affects women in ways that don’t resemble this stereotype. This can be confusing and make issues harder to recognise and resolve as the predominant ideas about what constitutes a midlife crisis don’t fit our experience.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES IN MIDLIFE CRISIS BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN?
MIDLIFE CRISIS IN MEN
Men may have a sudden and catastrophic realisation that life may be passing them by and they only have a finite amount of time left to achieve their dreams. This can lead to erratic and costly behaviour which can manifest through the following fears.
- Fear they are losing their attraction to the opposite sex
- Fear that they have not attained the goals they had set as a young person
- Fear they are becoming less healthy and their body is ageing
- Fear that they have married the wrong person
- Fear that they can’t deal with the responsibilities of having a family. Consequently, they may want to walk away from things they feel are holding them back
- Fear that they are losing their virility and that they will never feel the rush of initial sexual passion again
If you are struggling to deal with your husband’s midlife crisis you may find this post helpful…
Why Do Midlife Crisis Husbands Blame Wives?
MIDLIFE CRISIS IN WOMEN
In contrast, in women, the midlife crisis is not driven by fear. It’s driven by a desire for “something more”. To venture onto new horizons and new goals. It is a quest for self-actualisation.
Midlife Crisis Women have often spent years in a caring role, looking after kids and family. The Midlife Crisis can be a time when they now want to put themselves first for a change and have an opportunity to do things which have been put off for years.
The catalysts for a change may be.
- Your children are older and self-sufficient, leaving you more time to focus on yourself for a change
- After years of working you may have more money to do things you have always wanted to do, or the financial stability to try new things which may not return a wage at first
- If your focus has been on child-rearing when the kids fly the nest you may feel directionless. You may look for a new challenge and goal to add meaning to life
- Menopause. Hormonal changes can mean a turbulent time. Menopause marks a defined change to the end of child-rearing years and the start of something new. It is an obvious and physical full stop which can cause you to examine your life and direction.
WOMEN’S MIDLIFE IDENTITY QUEST – THE HEROINES JOURNEY
So Midlife Crisis in women is less of a fear-driven crisis and more of a midlife quest for identity.
You may question everything you have done so far in your life and ask “Is this it?’ “Is there more to life than this?” It all adds up to a restless quest to find a new direction, to realise your potential before it’s too late, to find fulfilment in all areas of your life. A quest for greatness.
SO WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC SYMPTOMS OF MIDLIFE CRISIS IN WOMEN THAT ARE DIFFERENT TO MEN?
1 – SELF QUESTIONING
You are looking deep inside yourself and asking “Am I on the right track?”.
You may be actually asking the question “Am I having a midlife crisis?”
You are taking stock of your life and looking at where you wanted to be in life at middle age as opposed to the reality of where you actually are.
Have you been playing by the rules that others set, either parents or society? You may now be questioning if this was the right thing to do and the best way to move forward. You may feel that you need to listen to your soul and gut instinct more…
2 – APATHY
You may find that you have lost interest in things that were important to you up to now. As your perspectives shift you may find that aspects of your life become irrelevant. For example, material possessions may become less important. You may have an expensive car or the house you always wanted but realise it doesn’t make you happy.
Work may no longer give you fulfilment. This can lead to a feeling of apathy where the things that once gave you pleasure no longer do. You have moved beyond the material and face value and crave deeper satisfaction in your life.
3 – MAKING DECISIONS THAT OTHERS THINK ARE CRAZY
When you examine your life in this way you may start to make decisions that can make others question your sanity. There can be an element of “sod it!”, going ahead with a decision that may be seen as risky.
This could be…
- Leaving your job.
- Leaving your husband.
- Travelling the world.
- Buying a smallholding on a remote Scottish island.
- Going off-grid.
- Getting a dog.
- Setting up a business.
- Retraining in a completely new career.
Anything that throws your life up in the air into a thousand pieces. How the pieces will reassemble is anyone’s guess but you can bet it will not be boring.
4 – YOU FEEL LIKE MAYBE THEY COULD BE RIGHT AND THAT YOU ARE ACTUALLY GOING CRAZY
Do you walk into a room and wonder why you are there? Misplace things? Forget names? Feel like you have constant angry PMT? Question seriously whether you may have early-onset dementia?
Hormonal disruption around midlife can cause all kinds of symptoms which can make life difficult for a while. It can affect thought processes and memory leaving you feeling confused, adding an extra level to the stress of life. This is due to the gradual decline in oestrogen that happens as you approach and progress through menopause.
Once you have weathered the storm of menopause life will be calmer on the other side but it’s not fun while you are going through it. Natural remedies can help. Don’t doubt your sanity through. You are growing into your wisdom with all the growing pain that entails.
5 – INSOMNIA
Do you wake at 3 am every night and toss and turn, worrying about anything and everything until just before it’s time to get up?Insomnia may have a physical and hormonal component relating to changes at menopause. Dropping oestrogen may disrupt sleep or lead to waking in the night.
However, the questioning and introspection that midlife crisis brings can also lead to a panicky feeling that results in an elevation of cortisol which disrupts sleep. A feeling of constantly being on a restless edge can lead to the classic symptom of lying awake at 3 am and worrying about the future.
Meditation and guided hypnotherapy apps can help to calm the brain and regain a sense of control over sleep. There are also herbal solutions that are less addictive than prescription sleeping tablets.