It is part of the human condition to give labels to things. The brain likes to pigeon-hole.
We’re particularly fond of applying medical terms to mental and physical states. Sometimes this can lead to positive outcomes, for example a person experiencing extremely low mood and even potentially suicidal might be more likely to seek outside help if he recognises that he or she is suffering from clinical depression.
Some conditions though, can have negative connotations for some people and I believe this can often seriously hinder recovery and support.
The male ’mid-life crisis’ is, I believe, one of these conditions. Opinions seem to differ on whether this is a specific medical problem, but there is very wide recognition of the term among people in general.
The term ’mid-life crisis’ or ’male menopause’ seems to be applied to men who are in their 30s 40s and 50s who are beginning to experience dissatisfaction with their circumstances in life, whilst sometimes also experiencing physical symptoms that might be recognised as signs of aging, such as impotence, loss of sex-drive, erectile dysfunction, greying hair, hair-loss and changes in weight.
Society on the whole seems to view this with a bit of a joke, but for a man going through this experience, and for the people around him - his family and friends - it can be traumatic, life-changing, and may lead to deep distress and depression.
I fully believe that there is a condition that can be called ’mid-life crisis’, but I think it is much more important to look at the detail of each individual person’s situation, to treat the person rather than the condition. All of the symptoms described above, and in the literature, can be experienced at any stage of life.
Speaking personally, my hair started going grey at the age of 17 and I have had white hair for most of my adult life. A man can start putting on weight at any age and this often happens as a result of changes in outlook in life rather than the other way around.
Putting the label ’mid-life crisis’ on these conditions can highlight an age issue that men may otherwise not even have considered.
What about women?
Dissatisfaction with life is certainly not a condition specific to people of a certain age or sex. It is however, something that should be taken very seriously. The deep uncertainty and unhappiness that can be caused by a loss of direction in life can end up tearing families apart, destroying relationships that could have been rich and rewarding, and ending promising careers.
On the other side of the coin, and with the right support and coaching, taking a long careful look at where you are in life can be, preferably with a trained therapist or life-coach, a revelation that enriches all of those around you.
I can’t over-emphasise the importance of properly evaluating your situation before you embark on a purge of career, family and friendships in the name of a more fulfilling ’life’.
So whatever it is you feel you are going through - frustration, boredom, loneliness or lack of direction, there are solutions out there that are right for you. No change is without pain, but you owe it to yourself to cause as little suffering as possible, to yourself and to others. And sometimes we change in our attitude, rather than our actions and learn to value the very things we hate. So if you know anybody who is suffering a ’mid-life crisis’, encourage them to seek constructive help, with understanding and patience. It really is no joke.