Midlife crisis in women is a transitional period of mental development, manifested by a reassessment of social roles, achievements, and rethinking of family relationships. Occurs between 30 and 50 years, lasts from 6 months to 2-3 years. The main symptoms: dissatisfaction with the current situation (work, lifestyle, spouse, children), the desire for change, emotional instability, irritability, the emergence of new hobbies. A psychologist is engaged in the diagnosis of the crisis, the research is carried out by the method of conversation. For easier and faster accommodation of the crisis, it is recommended to consult a specialist.
In 1965, the Canadian psychoanalyst E. Jacques published an article in which he first used the term “midlife crisis” to refer to the life period of awareness of the limitations of human capabilities and mortality. The crisis in women takes place at an earlier age than in men – from 30 to 50 years. By origin and manifestations, most of it is feminine – it is associated with the loss of youth, sensual dissatisfaction. In women with a career and business orientation, high purposefulness, confidence, the crisis is similar to the male (masculine). The experience of the crisis is more pronounced among middle-class women who have the opportunity to change their relationships and activities.
Midlife crisis in women is less pronounced than the male one, sometimes it remains almost unnoticed. The causes of the rapid and protracted course are psychological, biological and social in nature. The more areas for self-realization a woman allocates for herself, the more demanding she is about her own achievements, the more acutely the period of change is lived. The factors that reinforce the manifestations of the crisis include:
- Changes in appearance. In the modern world, the success and relevance of a woman is assessed through external attractiveness, youth, sexuality. Age–related changes – deterioration of posture, skin and hair condition, weight gain – become sources of anxiety, insecurity, low self-esteem.
- Hormonal shifts. The onset of the menopausal period is accompanied by emotional instability, mood swings, and symptoms of malaise. All these manifestations reinforce the negative aspects of the crisis.
- Family relations. The roles of wife and mother are the most important for women. In a crisis, satisfaction with marital and child-parent relationships is assessed. Unmarried and childless women are more susceptible to a prolonged, difficult transition period.
- Social status. The provoking factors of negative experiences are insufficient success in a career, dislike of the profession, low income. Women who are worried about their social status change their place of work, their field of activity.
- Social stereotypes. The severity of the crisis depends on the conformity of the ideas of social groups about the success and well-being of women. In a secular society, high demands are placed on appearance, career success. Among religious communities, the emphasis is on the stability of marital relations (without regard to quality), large families, and economic efficiency.
- Psychological qualities. Self-critical, dependent on the assessment of others, women are more susceptible to acute experience of the crisis. Overcoming emotional discomfort is facilitated by the development of self-love, acceptance of one’s weaknesses.
The psychological basis of the midlife crisis in women is described in detail by E. Erickson. The condition is characterized by the need for development – mastering new skills, mastering relationships and activities that are qualitatively different from the previous ones. Unlike the crisis in a child, where the source of the new is an adult, the crisis in women is the search for their own resources, the study of needs, the need to choose between stagnation of the Ego and generativity. This term refers to the ability to take care of the well-being of others, in particular the future generation. The new formation of the crisis is a “healthy sense of productivity” – the desire to support, provide financially and spiritually less experienced people. At the same time, personal life becomes more creative and productive. If a choice is made in favor of stagnation, the manifestation of care does not expand, concentrates on personal interests and experiences, which leads to boredom, longing, dissatisfaction.
The midlife crisis in women is manifested by symptoms of depression, chronic fatigue, nervous tension. A specific sign is dissatisfaction with the current life situation, the desire for change. Emotional experiences are associated with deterioration of health, age-related changes in appearance, problems in interpersonal relationships. After 30 years, ideas arise about the irretrievable loss of youth and beauty: wrinkles, pigmentation, darkening near the eyes appear, the skin becomes dry and less elastic, body weight often increases, gait loses lightness. Women who highly appreciate external beauty and are accustomed to the admiration of others experience aging more difficult. The desire to prolong youth is manifested by a passion for diets, sports, cosmetology and surgical plastic procedures.
Previous relationships become a source of irritation and discontent. Love for her husband fades into the background, dissatisfaction with his actions, insufficient attention, lack of emotional intimacy increases. Mentally, the woman returns to an earlier period when the relationship with her spouse was romantic, sensual, and brought joy. Nostalgia only increases despair and dissatisfaction. Trying to change the situation, a woman often starts heart-to-heart conversations that end with reproaches, accusations, insults and tears. Sometimes a decision is made to divorce, there are love affairs with other partners. For unmarried women, the source of worries is the absence of a man or a formal relationship with him, as a recognition of the seriousness of intentions.
In relationships with children, conflicts are becoming more frequent on the basis of poor academic grades, disobedience, and manifestations of independence. Often, a woman’s midlife crisis coincides with her child’s teenage crisis. By increasing the requirements, strictness, discipline, the mother tries to achieve the social success of her son or daughter and thereby prove her own parental worthiness. Women who do not have children tend to assess childlessness as a disadvantage, inferiority, so they try to get pregnant and give birth to a baby. Against the background of this need, rash marriages are concluded, large financial resources are spent on medical examination, including the use of reproductive technologies.
Women who were engaged in family and did not pay due attention to their careers begin to work hard, improve their qualifications or get an education for which they did not have enough time in their youth. Those who have achieved certain heights in the professional sphere suddenly leave their position, go into creativity, into organizations that allow them to show spiritual qualities – kindness, compassion, care. Often, in order to cope with emotional instability, a sense of emptiness, women resort to religion, esoteric teachings, unusual creative hobbies.
A prolonged crisis in women is complicated by depression. The absence of positive changes provokes a feeling of longing, hopelessness, meaninglessness of life. Sleep is disturbed (insomnia, excessive drowsiness), appetite, anxiety, irritability increases, a stable sense of guilt and worthlessness is formed. A woman loses interest in activities that used to bring pleasure, including hobbies and sex. Menopausal symptoms are worse tolerated, headaches, digestive problems, sweating, difficulty breathing are observed. In severe cases, thoughts of suicide arise, suicidal attempts are made.
In most cases, the crisis passes without the participation of doctors and psychologists, the need for qualified help appears with the development of complications – depression, persistent deterioration of well-being. To identify the crisis state, the method of clinical conversation is used. In a conversation with a psychologist, women note the instability of emotions, irritability, a sense of the meaninglessness of events, dissatisfaction with marriage, family relations, the content of professional activity. For complaints characteristic of depression and other neurotic disorders, a comprehensive study of the emotional and personal sphere is carried out using questionnaires and projective tests (Standardized multifactorial method of personality research L. N. Sobchik, human drawing, “House-tree-man”, thematic apperceptive test, Beck depression scale and others).
When a midlife crisis in women age occurs, it is important not to panic, not to be afraid of changes. Changes during this period are natural and inevitable, their acceptance allows you to live the second half of your life more meaningfully and effectively. Self-help should be focused on working with emotions, thoughts and actions. The recommendations of psychologists are as follows:
- Health care. Positive attention to changes in your body allows you to save strength and energy for longer. Women need to accept the fact of the naturalness of the aging process, shift the focus of efforts from external beauty to maintaining health. Attractiveness should be understood through harmony in appearance, emotions and actions.
- A manifestation of love and care. During a crisis, you can not focus on your own experiences, you need to maintain active and open relationships with family members, friends, colleagues. With the increase of irritation, discontent, resentment, it is worth understanding that the reason lies in internal personal changes, to find a way to develop and show love.
- Conscious experience. One should not deny the existence of a crisis and the unpleasant emotions, actions, and thoughts caused by it. In order to survive this condition as quickly as possible, it is recommended to objectify the negative – cry out, write about your experiences, draw them, understand destructive ideas and desires (quit, divorce, leave home), assess their consequences. At the second stage, you need to focus on the positive aspects – existing skills, strong personal qualities, goals achieved. Making a plan for the future is an effective development tool.
- Healthy egocentrism. There are many techniques for self-knowledge. The crisis is a time for new research of personal desires, aspirations, beauty, skills. It is necessary to shift attention from the negative moments of life to the positive ones – to do what brings pleasure, joy, pleasant excitement, a sense of contentment and happiness (dancing, camping, drawing, cooking, meeting friends).
Prognosis and prevention
The midlife crisis is experienced by most women. The prognosis is more often favorable – the transitional stage ends with the formation of a new attitude towards others and oneself, the development of a high level of care, acceptance, and love. In the absence of understanding of the crisis period, isolation, obsession with destructive experiences, the process is delayed, provokes the formation of depression, deterioration of health. In order to resolve conflicts productively, it is necessary to understand the transience and naturalness of the changes taking place, if necessary, seek professional help from psychologists, psychotherapists.