Can Women Have a Midlife Crisis?

“In middle age we are apt to reach the horrifying conclusion that all sorrow, all pain, all passionate regret and loss and bitter disillusionment are self-made.”

Kathleen Norris

Although the stereotype of a midlife crisis is a gray-haired man, dressing way too young for his age, with a woman who is young enough to be his daughter on his arm and driving a sports car, science tells us that it isn’t just men who suffer from midlife crises.

Some women experience a midlife crisis as they reach their late forties or early fifties. The term midlife crisis refers to a time in a person’s life when they begin to question their identity, and they can start to lose their self-confidence. It can happen at any point in life. But as you begin to age, the realism that life is short can creep in, and you can begin to wonder what it is all about. When combined with other factors, it can cause you to go through a midlife crisis.

Is a Midlife Crisis Real?

Many experts have debated whether a midlife crisis is real. Currently, it is not a diagnosable condition that comes with a set of symptoms, nor does it have a discernible treatment course. Studies show that a third of men go through a midlife crisis, but not much is known about the number of women who experience the same transitional phase. It is theorized that women might go through midlife turmoil earlier than their male counterparts, usually between the ages of 33 and 44. But are the signs the same in women as they are in men? What does it look like when a woman is experiencing a midlife crisis… assuming there is such a thing?

What Does a Midlife Crisis Look Like for Women?

The midlife crisis experience might differ slightly from men to women. It usually looks like a woman dropping her child at their first apartment and crying all the way home. Or, it might be showing up for work and looking around, wondering why you even went in begin with. A midlife crisis might involve not posting to social media anymore because you looked in the mirror and saw a different face than you remember in your youth. 

Or, it might even involve waking up in a panic, worried that you haven’t put enough money aside for assisted living for the future. In general, a midlife crisis is an emotional turmoil that comes from within. But it is also influenced by outside factors that push someone to take pause and evaluate the road ahead.

What Causes a Midlife Crisis for Women?

 Many factors can set a midlife crisis into motion. And it differs from one individual to the next. Midlife crises have components of physiological changes, along with emotional turmoil, and a mix of societal pressures, all rolled into one.

Physiological Influences of a Midlife Crisis

When a woman goes through the stages of perimenopause and menopause, their hormones can present a significant challenge. Doctors from Mayo Clinic explain that the decline in progesterone and estrogen levels can start to disturb a woman’s quality and quantity of sleep. And it can reduce energy levels and depress a woman’s mood. Sometimes a woman can also experience memory loss, weight gain, anxiety, and a decrease in interest.

Emotional Influences of a Midlife Crisis

When you reach middle age, you likely have experienced a traumatic event or the loss of a loved one. Losing someone you love can significantly alter the course of your life. Things like divorce, physical disability, loss of fertility, and empty nest syndrome may have the aftermath of persistent grief. And those experiences can cause you to lose confidence and question what you always thought was right. Also, in midlife, you can struggle with your religious beliefs and question the meaning of life and the legacy you leave behind.

Societal Influences of a Midlife Crisis

Our society values youth and beauty, and it isn’t always accepting or respectful of aging women. Aging women can begin to feel as if they are invisible and not valued. That might lead to an endless attempt to retain their youth and a preoccupation with their appearance. 

While worrying about the effects of aging, some have the additional burden of both raising children and taking care of aging adults simultaneously. Most of the caregiving responsibilities and decisions fall upon women, which can add a lot of social stressors. And financial crises like divorce and the wage gap can increase money worries, which can all contribute to having a midlife crisis.

Happy hiker reaching the top

How to Overcome Symptoms of Midlife Crisis

There might come a point in your life where you feel as if you have hit a brick wall, and things are all downhill. Midlife is a time when you reflect on your past and potentially your regrets. But it is also a time when you can set the course for a future filled with peace and happiness. 

Overriding the stressors that can come from society, emotions, and physiological changes are possible if you take steps to let go of the past and use it as a guide not to make the same mistakes going forward. In fact, it is a time in life when you have a perspective that allows you to make better decisions and find ways to alter the rest of your years to find more fulfillment without regret.

Make New Friends, and Keep the Old

A 2012 study found that women find it easier to navigate their midlife years when they are surrounded by friends who lend support and camaraderie. Women who have a good network of friends experience more fulfillment than those who don’t. Family is great, but friends appear to make a more significant impact. 

There is something so amazing about keeping in touch with friends over the years. But sometimes, when you grow older, you can grow apart. And it can be challenging to feel as if you aren’t connecting with people anymore.

Making new friends can help to breathe new excitement into life. And it can also help you to find people who get you and have the same interests. During different phases of our lives, we become friends with people out of necessity, like having children who are friends or living next to one another. 

Make your midlife years the time when you find people who you enjoy being around because of who they are and the experiences and interests you share. It is always good to know that you aren’t alone and also that someone feels the same way that you do and understands.

Stop Trying to Hide Who you are

So what if society puts a greater emphasis on youth? Don’t spend your time trying to hide your age or to mask it by doing things that take away from the genuine you. If you want people to embrace you, embrace who you are and stop trying to shield it from those around you. If you can’t be comfortable with who you are, then it is going to make people around you uncomfortable. Be happy in your skin, no matter how old it is.

Join A Cause That is Greater Than you

It can be easy to dwell on your own negativity, but when you have something to fight for, you have something to live and get out there for. Being involved as a member of something greater than just yourself is an excellent way to stop feeling as if you are fading into the background. Make a promise each day to do one significant thing to make things around you better. Or, find your passion and join a cause to make the lives of others better. Sometimes when you can get over yourself to see that things can always be worse, it gives us gratitude for the things you have, instead of what you don’t.

Let go of Past Regrets

How great would it be if we could go back and undo all the things we regret? The thing about regrets is that you have no idea how it would have turned out if you had made a different decision. Life is a path that has many twists and turns. And if you focus on all the wrong choices you made along the way, you might miss all the blessings that you have as a result of the choices you made. Let go of the past, you can’t repeat it, you can’t go back, and you made the best decision you could at the time and did. And, in the end, it was what you were meant to do, period.

Make a Bucket List and Stick to it

For many, a bucket list is something that you make when you are nearing the end, but that is when it is too late. While you are young, and still have ample time to do what you want to do and make a list of things that you want to see and experience. Once you think of all of the possibilities, the important part is to follow through with your list. If there is one way to pick yourself out of a midlife crisis, it realizes that the world has not changed; it is still your oyster and yours to grab hold of and enjoy the ride.

Focus on New Ventures Instead of Those That Have Passed

Try to change your perspective about what you can’t do, like have more children. And focus on all the things that you can do now that your baby years are behind you. How quickly we forget that the late nights and crying isn’t all that much fun. It is easy to look at the past with rose-colored glasses and wish for yesteryear. But it is much more productive to look at the future and all the things you can do because responsibilities aren’t standing in your way. Let go of things lost and embrace new ventures!

Seek the Help of a Therapist

There are times when a midlife crisis is something more. Things like an existential crisis, where you start to question what life is about, is not uncommon as you age. If you can’t seem to get past your feelings of depression and anxiety about your future, it might be time to speak with a therapist who can help to lighten your load. And also, it can get you in a better frame of mind to experience happiness. 

A midlife crisis can happen at any point in your life. It is a time when you begin to look to your past and realize that the ride is half over. And it can make you start to evaluate not just where you’ve been, but what you have ahead of you. Instead of looking at what is gone or lost, look to all the fantastic things that you have ahead in life. Don’t focus on regret; pay attention to not having any regret going forward by living life to the fullest.

There is Help Available

If you are having a hard time with being midlife, and it is leading to a crisis of identity or feelings of depression, then it is time to contact the professionals of ChatOwl. They can help you put your past behind you, overcome the stressors that might be weighing you down, and help you to set a course of living and loving to the fullest for the rest of your years.