Midlife Crisis ...by Stan Hyman, PhD, LCSW
Midlife is a normal developmental stage that all men (if they are fortunate) get to experience. It is at this time, somewhere between 35-55 years of age, that both psychological as well as physiological changes take place.
It is often at this time that a man begins to question what has been driving him. Has he been following his dream or has he been a slave to his job or career? Has he made the best choice for a life partner? Is he happy? Does he know himself?
To complicate matters it is also at this time when a man comes face to face with the loss of his youth and the vitality that he once had. He can’t play basketball like he used to, he can’t run as fast, he may be heavier than just a few years ago, he may be losing his hair and he is not as attractive to “younger” women anymore.
These inevitable shifts in his reality are the unavoidable consequences of aging. Some men handle it well and others don’t. Those that don’t may experience a midlife crisis. Although a man may be more stable financially and socially than ever before, for some men this type of stability signals “old age” and it frightens them.
Midlife crisis, thus, is essentially a problem of psycho-social adjustment. It doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on a man's sexual functioning.
It is not synonymous with Andropause or male menopause but there are frequently some male menopausal factors at play. (Andropause is a term used to describe a state of lowered androgen levels in men as a result of the aging process. Androgens are a group of hormones that include testosterone and others. Although these are often seen as only male hormones they are also present in females but in lesser amounts). Midlife Crisis is really driven by the perspective a man has about his midlife transition.
This can be a very difficult time for family and friends as well. The man in midlife crisis is often difficult to reach emotionally. He can become detached or irrational at times. He may fill up his time with seemingly superficial activities or become preoccupied with sex, mostly as a way of affirming his manhood.
Midlife is a time when a man’s early fantasies begin to crumble. It is the steady drip of reality, the awareness sinking into his brain that he is passing his peak; that he is no longer the “kid” or young man he was and he has to deal with it.
This can be a time of liberation as a man looks to his future or slavery as he mourns his past. Adjusting to this new reality is a challenge that takes insight and courage. .