Article Review Part II

This is the second post in a review of a few articles in the top searches at google for midlife crisis myth.

Is the Midlife Crisis a Myth?
This article quotes David Almeida, professor of human development and family studies.
“Research suggests the mid-life crisis is largely a myth. Very few people report having some definable crisis that’s due to their age.
That’s not to say that middle-aged people don’t experience crises, but they tend to be brought on by a major life transition, not necessarily by age alone. There are certainly things that happen in mid-life that are stressful…
…Mid-life crises are also often defined by someone else’s perception rather than our own.”
Well I certainly agree that it is often defined by someone else’s perception—It’s not my midlife crisis I talk about. MLCers may give unreliable data during the crisis and they may be in such a different state of mind years later that their information is unreliable, but it also seems unfair to base reliable data on someone else’s anecdotal information. MLC is not a disease—and I don’t think it should be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a disease. It’s too varied and the patterns are not limited to the midlife age range, it’s part of the life experience for some people; part of how some people develop and learn.
But to claim something is not real because it is uncommon or not experienced by a 51% majority within the target population or because it is not a disease is not a valid claim. Green eyes are a disease either, but they’re real.
According to the Stanford School of Medicine, “at least 10% of people in the U.S. will experience major depressive disorder at some point in their lives.” But depression is not being ignored; rather in recent years there have been large campaigns to educate about the horrors, reality and commonality of depression.
This article brings up the some of the same issue as the other articles. Since crisis is not limited to a specific age range, midlife crisis must be a myth and it is a myth because many who do have a crisis during the designated midlife age range do not claim the crisis has anything to do with a concern about aging or dying.

The myth of the male mid-life crisis
“Very few men – perhaps only 10 to 12 percent – have anything approaching a crisis.
…contentment – not crisis – is the true reality of mid-life for most men.”
I wrote a comment to this article when it came out. Basically this was about midlife transition—not crisis. It’s a great story that is trying to dispute the idea that MLC is common. I agree that midlife can be an opportunity and for many and maybe even most it’s about contentment. The myth of the crisis is not that it doesn’t exist, but that it is not inevitable. We get into these trends where we think something must be all one way—in the 1970s researchers were saying that 80% of people would have an MLC. So now the trend is to dispute that—good. But in doing that the real cases of MLC are often dismissed as well. It’s not all or none. To me 10-12% is a significant number of men experiencing MLC.

*Ask the Brains: Is the Midlife Crisis a Myth?
This column asks a question and brings in an expert o answer it. The expert is David Almeida who was quoted above and quite a bit of the article listed above is included.
Is it true that people can have a midlife crisis, or is it a myth?
“Many people expect that midlife brings forth inevitable crisis, but that idea is not supported by social science. In fact, only 26 percent of adults older than 40 reported having a crisis, according to a recent study…”
Whoa, it actually gives a statistic—one cited in other articles claiming MLC is a myth, by the way. I actually think that sounds pretty high. Was crisis defined for the survey participants or was it left open?

Basically these articles dismiss MLC because either not everyone reports having a crisis during their midlife years or crisis is not limited to the midlife years or because it should be considered an opportunity and a blessing instead of a crisis. And wouldn’t that be nice if life were always positive? But it’s not always that way for everyone. We don’t dismiss cancer or depression because not everyone is directly afflicted. I understand the desire to undo the idea from the 1970s that MLC was inevitable. I like making lemonade from lemons and clouds with silver linings are beautiful images, but that fact is that some clouds bring storms. Those clouds may be opportunities too, but sometimes the positive stuff comes after going through the trauma.

Series NavigationMidlife Crisis, What Are The Odds?


Midlife Crisis, What Are The Odds? Part IINo Comments

  1. In medicine and psychology, a syndrome is the association of several clinically recognizable features, signs (observed by someone other than the patient), symptoms (reported by the patient), phenomena or characteristics that often occur together, so that the presence of one or more features alerts the healthcare provider to the possible presence of the others…

  2. Schizophrenics would not report that they have a problem.

    I think it's fascinating that "only" 10 or 12% of men can be expected to experience a crisis. That seems like a huge portion, particularly given the severity of the consequences–the devastation wrought.

    One cannot ignore that so many of us refer to "the MLC script" wherein behaviors, words, timelines, family histories are strikingly similar.

    I suppose one might approach a refutation of MLC from the declaration that "all or most men experience an age-related crisis." Because I, too, would have to wholeheartedly disagree. I think most people, at least in Western culture, do experience a certain sense of dread or regret with aging–the physical changes in particular, the fear of feeling irrelevant sexually and thus socially–but most, by far, do not experience a crisis of the sort that we LBS's are witnessing or have witnessed.

    Do I think that all mid-life affairs fit the description of MLC? No, I don't–particularly if they are an extension of long-term and historical feelings of entitlement or narcissism. But the personality changes, the abrupt abandonment of what was once a seemingly mutually respectful and loving relationship and children, the wild spending of money, the "ILYBINILWY" speeches–there's something to this syndrome that should not be ignored.

    I'm with you on this one, RCR, and I deeply appreciate the research and forum you have provided–it's brought immeasurable comfort to many, and compassion for the MLCer as well.

  3. Some of my thoughts a little late on this article, but how about myself?
    Am I in a MLC. I don't think so, I am an LBS.

    HOWEVER I am in midlife and I certainly have now been through a crisis.
    So my opinion is to take your statistics and double them, to account for people that
    are LBS.

    Does that make sense?

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