The stereotypical image of someone going through a midlife crisis is a slightly graying man driving an expensive sports car and scoping out younger women whom he hopes to impress with his wealth. While expensive purchases and a desire to date younger people are often part of a midlife crisis, those aren’t the only signs. In fact, a midlife crisis can happen to both men and women between the ages of 35 and 55 and can have very serious effects on the sufferer’s well being.
Here is how a midlife crisis can affect your health:
That expensive car or boat purchase is usually to make you feel like you have something to show for your hard work and to show others that you’re financially successful. But the decision to buy is often an impulsive one, and that can lead to an increase in stress – particularly if you’re living outside your means. Too much stress can negatively impact your health, raising your blood pressure and increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke.
A midlife crisis is often characterized by disappointment in not achieving career goals or obtaining a certain level of wealth, feeling trapped in a relationship or job that’s no longer fulfilling, sadness at no longer having children to care for, and a more intense awareness of one’s mortality. In serious cases, this can turn into depression. The fatigue, changes in weight, problems with concentration, and – in some cases – suicidal thoughts caused by depression are serious matters requiring medical attention.
People experiencing a midlife crisis often develop sleep disorders, often as a result of other health issues like depression or stress. Whether it’s insomnia or oversleeping, an irregular sleeping pattern can weaken a person’s immune system, raise blood pressure, and even lead to weight gain.
It’s been reported that substance abuse rates are rising among people in midlife and older baby boomers. People who are suffering through a midlife crisis are more likely to self-medicate with prescription medications, illicit drugs, or alcohol in order to soothe their fear, anxiety, stress, and depression.
If you think you’re experiencing a midlife crisis, talk to your primary care doctor about your symptoms and whether mental health treatment is necessary.