Midlife Crisis or Cliche: The Medical Reality

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Midlife crisis: Something real or merely an excuse for the perplexing behavior of some men who – to use a golf analogy – make the turn and start playing the “back nine” of their lives?

"To some degree, the whole idea of a ‘midlife crisis’ is definitely a real thing," said Matthew Halfar, MD, CHI Health primary care provider. "Whether you can say that it always occurs in the middle of a man’s life is questionable. Although you’d probably be hard-pressed to find the actual term in medical literature, anxiety and depression are probably the cause for what people attribute to a midlife crisis."

The midlife cliché: a male in his 40s or 50s makes sudden or rash life changes. He might buy a new sports car or pursue romantic relationships with younger partners. Those stereotypes aren’t necessarily what comes to Halfar’s mind when he thinks of men in midlife crisis.

"Sudden large purchases and those types of things can be the sign of another type of psychological disorder, possibly, but we wouldn’t ask, ‘Do you have a girlfriend or did you just get divorced and start dating a woman who is 30 years younger?’" Halfar said.

"It’s a phenomenon that we see on a day-to-day basis, socially, but from a family practice perspective, it’s going to lead me to look for other things on the psychological spectrum."

Normally, that would include screening for things like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other psychiatric illnesses. While methods of treatments can vary from provider to provider, Halfar said it ideally includes a combination of medication and psychiatric therapy.

"A lot of people will say yes to medications and no to therapy or vice versa,” Halfar said. “But really, if it’s decided that treatment is necessary, doing both of those has been shown to have a synergistic effect on mental health."

Are You Having A Midlife Crisis?

Are You Having A Midlife Crisis

Matthew Halfar, MD

Family Medicine,
Family Medicine with Obstetrics

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