Women and middle life crisis
Women experience middle life crisis differently
When it comes to middle life crisis, it is important to point out that the subject is understudied and not very well known, in fact there is not even a clear definition as to what it entails. The causes and symptoms of middle life crisis also vary depending on the individual, sometimes one is able to make generalizations depending on the age and sex of the individual but otherwise it depends on the person's character and his or her environment and lifestyle.
Women are quite different to men, their life stages vary, physiology, life cycles, most of these differences are apparent and some are less well known. When it comes to middle life crisis, also known as midlife crisis, women experience it differently as well. Women's midlife crisis is often caused by different stressors and they display different symptoms of midlife crisis to that of men.
Whilst men experience this troubled phase during their midlife mostly basing their misfortunes on status and work, women's midlife crisis is often caused by family life issues and relationship problems. This is a generalization, of course, and in reality it depends on the individual and his or her values and needs. Middle life crises lasts or a period up to about 3–10 years in men and 2–5 years in women. A midlife crisis could be caused by aging itself, or aging in combination with changes, problems, or regrets, guilt or grief over recent events.
Causes of female midlife crisis
Physical signs of aging during middle life of women
Middle life crisis could be a result of a woman's physical signs of aging, the sudden realization by women that they are not as physically fit and healthy as they used to be, could come as a big shock. Feeling less attractive then before is also a big stress and a shock, especially in relationships.
When combined with being overweight, these signs are hard to ignore and come to reflect on a person's well being. Other physical signs that are often ignored or not openly discussed are that of the mental type, such as forgetfulness and inability to focus. Yet the person experiencing these may become upset and aggravated, stressed to the point of experiencing a middle life crisis.
Mental signs of aging may include chronic fatigue (often combined with physical signs), bad sleep, inertness and lower cognitive functions, which are although expected at a certain stage in life, they are often correlated with a badly kept physical shape and therefore a combination of poor diet, poor circulation, free radical damage or even reduced levels of neurotransmitters are the result of lack of exercise.
If one can get away with little exercise when young, it is much more dangerous in middle life, as the body cannot recover as quickly as before and therefore a person will need more discipline to work on his or her physical shape.
Mind like body needs exercise and whilst an untrained body will lag behind better trained bodies, a poorly mentally trained brain will lag behind better minds.
Bad sleep as another example of a physical/mental strain common during midlife, be it from pressure of a busy work schedule, relationship problems or health problems it will likely to affect the mental state of a person. For men, they will likely appear grumpy and women moody.
Loss of youth and beauty and middle life crisis
When it comes to the signs of middle life crisis for women, none are as prevalent or as blatant as the realization of the loss of youth and beauty. Women, in western society are bombarded with media messages about the need to be beautiful or at least try to be pretty. This stressor bears insecurities, sometimes bringing cost to the physical health and the mental state of women as they attempt to fight these changes.
An interest in plastic surgery could be regarded as a symptom of insecurities that are experienced during midlife crisis, most clients of plastic surgeries are middle aged women.
Men, in comparison, are nowhere near as attuned to their looks, but for women, of course, it remains a point of massive importance. If a particular woman believes she has lost her youth and in effect is burdened by lack of self-confidence and faces a loss of self value. Especially prone to this are the women who have been told their entire life that they are pretty, middle life crisis hits them hardest because often their self image is based entirely on looks.
Busy work schedule
Whilst a busy work schedule may postpone a woman's middle life crisis, it is also quite likely to be a massive stressor. A woman burdened with a busy schedule is forced to take time away from other activities that are directly correlated to her well being. A lack of social life, a lack of deep meaningful relationships are all a result of a busy work schedule. Middle life crisis hits women that had a busy work schedule as a stressor often when they face a substantial life change such as a break from work when they realize that they ARE their work. Seeing colleagues getting married whilst they themselves lack any degree of private life brings out natural envy. A later midlife crisis when approaching retirement will also be lead to self pity, resentment, disappointment or distress. Another realization that may bring about a work related middle life crisis is seeing their product, their campaign, their project collapse or being themselves removed from their position and being replaces by someone less able and least deserving, and often none of the aforementioned but just someone younger and/or prettier. Which is of course unfair.
Children being born and additions to the family
New family members require a lot of energy, time and financial resources and in return they bring about a lot of happiness and a lot of stress. There is also a risk of postnatal depression, or post childbirth depression, a condition which shares common characteristics with middle life crisis. Childbirth, especially the first child it is a massive shift in a parent's' life and women as mothers, spend much of the time with a child and therefore they are the most likely to suffer from postnatal depression. There are symptoms a middle life crisis shares with postnatal depression such as substance abuse mostly referring to smoking, especially when child is formula fed and not breastfed. Smoking itself is associated with stress related issues. Low self esteem, feeling unattractive and other emotional issues are common whilst mothers attempt to handle a newborn and career, are all often triggered by birth of a child. Mood swings and hormonal changes are also common.
Children leaving home as a cause of middle life crisis
Children leaving home as a stress factor and cause of midlife problems in women is not rare. Mothers tend to be more attached then fathers to their children, especially women whom spent much of their time with their children as their were growing up, housewives in particular, since much of their life was based around parenting and being a mother, which in effect triggered their self identity to shift towards a notion of an image of being a parent, or being a mother. When the opportunity to be a parent and to able to be close to their children decreases, it is often followed by decrease in levels of happiness, as it is hard to fill the void of being a full time mother with something else and that is when middle life crisis becomes apparent. A parent will have to find other functions to do and other roles to fulfill. Housewives and women whom spent a lot of time on their children will find the task odious and challenging, often it is ignored how deeply unhappy they are to lose close relationships with the people they have nurtured and love.
Divorce as a cause of middle life crisis in women
Divorce when it is caused by the other side, i.e. husband is another major stress which could by itself cause a middle life crisis. Typically in a normal divorce, even when there are children present, the two major causes are:
1. Irreconcilable differences, meaning that the two parties expected something different from one another
2. A substitute of some sorts to a fulfilling relationship on one or both parties' sides, for example too much work, substance abuse or a need of a younger partner or better looking partner.
Whilst midlife crisis in women whom experience divorce cannot be blamed entirely on the divorce, it brings forward other issues which may trigger the midlife crisis. Low self esteem, feeling rejected or unattractive, combined with the stress of seeking new partner and facing the world cut off from the person who was by her shoulder ready to assist and motivate previously is a difficult task. Midlife crisis becomes apparent when this task becomes too much to bear.
It may cause apart from a middle life crisis a feeling of emptiness and misdirection. A spouse could have been an sail or the anchor of a relationship and regarding of the way divorce is handled, it will expose reasons for divorce, usually the reasons are not flattering and therefore unwelcome. Divorce may also bring about a divide of friends, and if not, might still inflict division over friends and family.
If a splitting marriage has produced children this will also cause discomfort for all the parties involved, including the children themselves, it is better perhaps to minimize the impact on children, to protect them from falling out between two adults. Women on the whole are more attached to their children and therefore likely to suffer more. A lot of stress may be caused by the inability to see children regularly, especially if one of the former spouses moves away. The loneliness that may result from division of friends, losing a spouse and inability to see children regularly may naturally lead to depression and middle life crisis for both women and men.
Death of parents and other grief
Death of parent or a permanent loss of someone very close, as any of the emotional stressors mentioned above gives a massive change to the life of a human being whilst being, arguably the hardest one because if the children are born, despite the stress at first they will grow up, the divorce opens opportunities for novel relationships, but losing parents or someone close is irreversible and brings sadness and often a sense of guilt that is hard to let go. For some people their parents are their best friends, for most their parents hold a valuable opinion and loss of such friends and such authority is in itself a tragedy, when it is a close family member it is a personal catastrophe, recovering from which is an ordeal. A middle life crisis that has a loss of a parent at the core is one of the most common types of crisis, one that may take a while to overcome but it will leave marks for the rest of the life.
Symptoms of middle life crisis in women
Low self esteem
When it comes to ego and self assurance middle life crisis presents itself in form of low self esteem, typical signs of a low self esteem are apparent insecurities, for example over own physical looks a woman that spends two hours putting on make up and making her hair at the expense of sleep and social life. A step further would be a woman that consider plastic surgery, whether it be to appear more youthful or to appear more attractive. Whilst it is not all about looks, some women will seek to emotionalize everything and resort to being a drama queen, to seek care and attention. Whilst being overly dramatic clear attention seeking behavior usually reserved for slightly tipsy 16 year olds, such a display for a middle aged woman is a clear sign of low self esteem.
When work gets in the way of personal life or health most people are wise enough to brush work aside, when it comes to workaholics they brush aside personal life and health, female workaholics are not that much different to men workaholics. Often workaholics have to compensate personal happiness for activity, the more unproductive and under-appreciated the activity the larger are the signs of a middle life crisis.
Whilst often unnoticed, this symptom is quite apparent, most types of substance abuse are attempts to ignore and to escape reality, a middle life crisis is a sad reality which most people attempt to escape from. Smoking whether from the perspective of seeking attention or seeking calm is often abused by women whom lack energy, activity or productivity. Dealing with stress on their own is very difficult and some women find the best way to deal with midlife problems through drinking or smoking. There are no defining statistic on how many women drink alone in midlife, but a midlife crisis may devastate a person who finds no one to be interested in their problems. Perhaps they are too busy drinking or smoking or so exhausted from routine that a moment of blissful indifference to the rest of the world through alcohol or drugs is not only a symptom but also a silent cry for help.
Lack of a sustainable relationships
A lack of sustainable relationships during midlife could be an indicator of a middle life crisis. As a symptom of a period of misdirection and undefined distress, a lack of meaningful relationships indicates a deeply troubled personality. After all, peer bonding and forming relationships are required for psychological well being of a person. When missing out on deep relationships some people resort to psychologists, as a source of wisdom and as good listeners often because they find that nobody else is interested in their problems or nobody else takes their issues seriously. In middle life, as a time for opportunities and obstacles, a woman finds herself to be a wife or mother and being one of both of those usually brings to joy to her life. It brings stability and certainty, not to mention love and happiness. If a woman is unable to find herself in those roles, whether it be due to a lack of free time or other problems it should be acknowledged.
Female middle life crisis: conclusion
It is problematic to find a conclusion for a subject of a female middle life crisis, but there are several general points that need to be considered.
Finding work and life balance to cope with female middle life crisis
In order to avoid or to deal with the middle life crisis a woman needs to find a balance between work and personal life. When work takes up too much time or effort or emotion, it drains the person, leaving the vulnerable to indifference towards personal life. It is a dreadful state to be in. So a woman, especially a wife or a mother that is unable to find time for family, will struggle to find happiness. She could try to balance her schedule and attempt to find time for pleasure or her self.
Timing and priorities during midlife
Some people leave important things until it is late. When it comes to being a woman there is one big difference to men. Women become mothers. They have a biological clock that tells them there is a time to have children and overall it is a great thing, to give a new life. As with the point above finding time for a family is important, not just in day to day but also when to start family life.
Letting go and trying new things during midlife
Nothing is as important as trying new things whilst let go of old things and emotions. So the final recommendation is to consider middle life as a time of opportunity rather than crisis. Opportunity to travel, to change, to feel. Whilst people are reluctant to change, change should be welcomed. Middle life is time to accept what you have and to forget what you could have had, whilst letting go of disappointment and grief. Overcoming middle life crisis is partly losing the baggage of expectations, revaluing your needs and reevaluating your role. A world of opportunities for a wiser, more adapted, more mature self.