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Midlife Crisis : Between Reality and Myths

Midlife crisis is undoubtedly the most popular concept related to middle adulthood, yet the most misunderstood and poorly examined stage. Similarly to adolescence, the midlife period is also known as a transitory period which brings many biological and psychological changes in an individual’s life. Although both genders may experience different biological challenges, there are certain psychological aspects in which each gender may present similar concerns and changes (i.e. depression, low self-esteem and self-image, low life satisfaction level, etc.)

Whilst it is widely recognised that the biological changes in midlife are unavoidable and can influence the psychological reactions, current studies suggest that there are various misconceptions related to the subject.

Historically speaking, midlife crisis was considered to occur earlier than the age of forty, mostly due to the short lifespan while in the last decades, middle age was considered to begin around the age of forty and end at the age of sixty. On the other hand, recent studies indicate that due to the increased life expectancy, the midlife crisis might begin around the age of sixty, opposed to the past beliefs.

Given the high degree of variability within age periods and the lack of a consistent description, it is difficult to determine when midlife and its challenges actually begin.

However, there is consistent and empirical evidence which indicate significant biological and psychological changes that occur between the ages of forty to sixty. From a biological standpoint, both genders could present poorer neuropsychological performance, gain/loss weight, higher predispositions to cardiovascular diseases, hormonal deficiencies and a decreased function of the reproductive system.

Consequently, the biological changes seem to have profound psychological effects on behaviour such as a higher stress-level, low self-esteem, depression or low life satisfaction.

On the other hand, researchers strongly debate whether the psychological effects are indeed a result of the biological changes or if they are effects of inner turmoil and poor emotional management. Many researchers associate the psychological crisis with the nest syndrome, financial pressures, poor self-confidence (due to the physical aging signs) or leadership in the family. More interestingly, it is suggested that the midlife crisis would rather be influenced by the type of personality rather than by the biological or external factors. As a matter of fact, neurotic individuals who have had upheavals throughout their lives will be more stressed as a response to life events in the middle age.

Overall, there are numerous unclarified conceptions about the middle age challenges due the normative notion created throughout the years. Many researchers consider that the middle adulthood is generally overlooked allowing the society to hold accountable the biological transit for ruthless behaviours or negative symptoms. Such misconceptions can often lead to late identification and misdiagnosis for serious health conditions such as mental or physical diseases.

Image:Gladeana McMahon 

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