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Louis Auerbuck
Louis Auerbuck
Clinical psychologist
Stellenbosch
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Medieval crisis

The so-called middle age is the period during which most people begin to be confronted with their mortality, as well as the knowledge that there are not endless productive years ahead. In men this phase of life is more or less applicable between 40 and 55, and in women 35 to 50. Many descriptions and definitions are given to this period in people's lives, and especially with regard to men there are well-known clichés that are used frequently to describe some of men's actions in their middle years. The predominant need to suddenly acquire a sports car, the diet and exercise to look better and more youthful, and the fantasies about younger women are world-famous "symptoms" of what is described as a "middle-aged crisis".

However, if the research on this phenomenon is carefully studied, there is no real evidence for the occurrence of a typical middle-aged crisis. Obviously, many men and women who fall into this age slot are more emotionally vulnerable, and may be prone to severe mood swings. However, studies show that middle age cannot be more or less associated with anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, suicide, divorce and disillusionment over a career than other phases of life. While younger adults seem to experience the stressors of daily life more intensely emotionally, there are strong indications that adults in their middle years experience more personal crises due to "stressor overload". People in their middle years usually have several important activities to deal with at the same time, e.g. parenting, work commitments, and health. It seems that women struggle with this more than men, most likely due to more diverse demands placed on them by society. Women usually go through menopause in their middle years, which obviously exacerbates the experience of stress and consequent mood swings.

People in their middle years generally have the most control over more fasting in their lives than in any other phase of life. However, the lot of control can cause panic because there are many options to decide on in middle age, and the responsibility for it can take a physical and emotional toll. The impact of life's stressors, as well as the pressure to “keep all the balls in the air”, cause people in their middle years to be strongly confronted with fight-or-flight. The actions of those who choose to fight are usually characterized by drastic decisions, such as plastic surgery or completely changing professions. This fighting reaction can also sometimes be experienced in the form of restlessness or excessive energy, outbursts of aggression or irritation or increase in food or drink use. For those who choose to flee, the outcome can sometimes show up in boredom, daydreaming, a feeling of sadness or withdrawal from social interaction.

The so-called "middle-age crisis" is characterized by drastic decisions, and sometimes people in their forties or fifties do things and decide what they later deeply regret. So if you fall into this phase of life in terms of age, it might be wise to rethink any hasty decisions a few extra times!

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