Midlife Crisis, Friend or Foe?

Between the age of late thirties and late fifties, men and women navigate through an important curve in their life and might experience feelings ranging from dissatisfaction about their life choices, to mood swings and identity loss. Such symptoms clearly suggest that the person is going through midlife crisis.

First introduced by Elliot Jaques in 1965, the term “midlife crisis” was described as a normal period during the lifespan, another growth point when we transition from young people to older adults. During this time, adults assess where they are in life, evaluate their achievements, goals, and dreams, and make some needed adjustments.

Symptoms of midlife crisis differ from men to women but common signs for both remain noticeable such as obsession with appearances, drastic changes in habits, and mood change.

Though this transitional period brings up the unfortunate images of broken marriages and adults acting like teens again, it is neither a time of trouble nor a compulsory stop in one’s life journey.

People who spend their lives dedicated to fulfilling their aspirations, growing older feels easier as they navigate through the process smoothly without making major life changes.

Unfortunately, for others who lived their life on “autopilot mode”, realising suddenly that time has passed them by, and that they are getting older without having accomplished very much, this experience is most likely to be tainted with feelings of resentment and regret. Chances are this emotional state will be a one-way ticket to depression and alcoholism.

Other factors may also contribute to making midlife transition an overwhelming experience, for instance,

  • “Empty nest”
  • Coping poorly with stress
  • Childhood issues that were never dealt with tend to resurface during this period.
  • Tendency to avoid conflicts

Thus, midlife crisis can be a positive experience if one embraces change and thrive to become the person they dream to be. Most importantly one needs to handle this life curve in a healthy manner by:

  • Acknowledging the changes happening and sharing emotions, fears and hopes with the loved ones
  • Not jumping to temporary solutions such as leaving the spouse/having an affair or increasing alcohol consumption to mask the feelings of regret and depression
  • Seeking immediate help if one experiences depression like symptoms
  • Getting out of the comfort zone and trying new activities (sports, travel, hobbies, etc.)
  • Creating positive changes that generate new energy in the relationship or career
  • Embracing a healthy life style

Written by

Sanaa Lundgren
MS (Counselling), MS (PolSci)
Collaborative Family Practitioner (SMC)

What measuring early-life intelligence (and other things) can tell us

As a psychologist who uses intelligence tests, I am always interested in what research tells us about what can and can’t be predicted reliably from them. I find most parents are interested, too, while many teachers pay them less attention. New research keeps changing the picture: the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS) has recently come up with some new findings.

I was amazed to see that DMHDS has shown that biological age at 38 seems to be predicted by IQ (even at 3). Looking at bit more closely the study actually found that IQ correlated strongly with how old your face looks, using a 10-biomarker algorithm, and with heart age; it didn’t correlate quite so well with another important sign of age, telomere length. So lower IQ is likely to mean you will look older in middle age, and you may be ageing more generally.

I was less surprised to see that DMHDS found self-control, which is not part of IQ testing, was also really important, even at 3. Children with poor self-control in early life, for example lacking persistence, difficulty waiting in line for their turn, deferred gratification (waiting longer for a bigger reward), were 3 times more likely to become poor, addicted, single parents, or to experience multiple health problems than those with good self-control.

The Dunedin study also reinforced the well-established finding that good early childhood education is one of the most valuable interventions. But it also enables us to better identify children who need more early help. Their findings suggest that self-control is not an entirely fixed quality – some young children markedly improve their self-control as they grow. It points the way towards further studies to identify what can really make a difference in learning to improve self-control.

This means that the teachers are probably wise not to pay too much attention to IQ figures: personal qualities like self-control are really important; and, we can sometimes teach children to become better self-regulators. DMHDS perhaps helps us identify the ones that need the most care and attention.

Written by

Dr Tim Bunn
EdD, MSc, BA (Hons), PGCE
Consultant Educational Psychologist