Midlife Crisis: Transition or Depression?
What do you do when a midlife crisis turns into depression?
The Midlife Crisis as a Normal Stage in Life
The midlife transition is looked on, more and more, as a normal part of
life. Yale psychologist Daniel Levinson proposed in his well-regarded theory of
adult development that all adults go through a series of stages. At the center
of his theory is the life structure, which is described as the underlying
pattern of a person's life at any particular time.
For many people, the life structure involves mainly family and work, but it
can also include religion and economic status, for instance. According to his
theory, the midlife transition is simply another, normal transition to another
stage of life.
In midlife, people often reevaluate their priorities and goals, Jones
Women, feeling they have raised their children, may want to go back to
school, even if they have been in the work force, reasoning they can now do
whatever they wish, work-wise.
"They're able to follow up on some dreams," he says, that might have been
abandoned due to family responsibilities.
"Men may get more in touch with their feminine side," Jones says. That could
mean taking up cooking or art or volunteering with children.
Meanwhile, midlife women may become more selfish, Jones says, even though
they value relationships. They may feel they have "paid their dues" and
not be willing, say, to babysit the grandkids every time they are asked.
Midlife Crisis: Path to Depression or Growth?
The midlife transition can be enlightening for some but also tough, agrees
Joan R. Sherman, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Lancaster,
Whether a midlife transition will develop into serious depression or into an
opportunity for growth depends on a number of factors, including support from
partners and other loved ones.
Sherman recalls a woman who came to her for counseling. She was in her late
40s, married to a man about the same age who had traveled extensively for his
job throughout their marriage. That left her with full-time household
responsibility, raising the kids.
She had been a nurse, but gave that up to be a full-time parent. When the
kids went off to college, she thought, "What now?" Sherman says. The woman told
her she felt she had lost her whole identity.