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Midlife Crisis: Transition or Depression?

What do you do when a midlife crisis turns into depression?

Midlife Crisis: Path to Depression or Growth? continued...

The husband, who also talked to Sherman, became concerned after his wife spent nearly a week sleeping and crying.

The next time Sherman saw the woman in therapy, she offered her an alternative thought: "You're not losing your identity. You have an opportunity to create a new one."

Yes, her parenting role would change, but having much less responsibility -- as her kids were now in college -- would free her up to develop a new image and identity. The thought appealed to her. The next week, she went to a college placement service to explore her options.

When Midlife Crisis Turns Into Depression

Not everyone glides through their midlife transition that easily, of course, Jones says.

In midlife, people need to be aware of symptoms of serious depression, such as:

  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in sleeping habits, fatigue
  • Feelings of pessimism or hopelessness
  • Restlessness, anxiety or irritability
  • Feeling of guilt, helplessness or worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex and hobbies
  • Thoughts of suicide or attempts at suicide
  • Physical aches or pains such as headaches or gastrointestinal upset that don't respond to treatment

When Midlife Crisis Turns Into Depression: What Helps?

Behavior or "talk" therapy, as well as prescription antidepressant medication, can help treat major or clinical depression, says Anita H. Clayton, MD, professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

In a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Stanford University researchers compared medication alone, talk therapy alone, or a combination in 656 persons with chronic depression. They found that the combination produces a faster, fuller remission of chronic depression.

If depression is milder, Clayton says, a single approach may be enough.

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Reviewed on November 11, 2009
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