What is a midlife crisis for women? Everything you need to know

I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day. She was telling me about a pal of hers who after 25 years of marriage suddenly ditched her husband to go off and start a new life.

The kids were grown, the relationship felt boring, and life seemed flat with nothing to look forward to.

“I think she’s going through a bit of a midlife crisis” my friend suggested.

Stereotypically, this sort of phenomenon has been more commonly attributed to guys. But it’s just as normal for women.

What exactly is a midlife crisis for women? How does it manifest? And importantly, how can you navigate it?

From understanding the signs and symptoms to exploring the causes and offering coping strategies, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What am I doing with my life? (and other existential questions)

A midlife crisis tends to come along, as the name suggests, around halfway through our life. That’s typically anywhere between the ages of around 40 to 60.

You may feel like you are going through it much earlier or later though.

That’s because different crises can happen at plenty of milestones in life, and they often bring the same questions and doubts.

It’s usually triggered by the realization that we’re not going to live forever. As obvious as that may sound, it’s not necessarily something we contemplate as much in our younger years.

As we’re faced with our mortality it can prompt us to reassess our achievements, direction, and purpose. And as we do, it can make us feel pretty dissatisfied and restless with life.

The underlying reasons for a midlife crisis are largely the same for men and women.

In the video below you can hear the founder of Ideapod, Justin Brown, discuss his own personal experience.

Chances are, a lot of how he feels will resonate with you, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman.

Yet different biological, societal, and psychological factors will also mean that women’s midlife crisis can look and feel different in certain aspects.

Women are just as likely as men to have a midlife crisis

We’re all familiar with the cliched image of the middle-aged man who buys a BMW and takes up with someone half his age.

Fast cars, young women, and a desperate attempt to grasp onto youth — it’s a story as old as time.

Meanwhile, the picture of a midlife crisis for women is a far less established one. Yet research has shown it’s just as likely.

One study noted that around 15% of men reported having a midlife crisis compared to around 13% of women. So there isn’t much of a gender difference at all.

Louise Doughty is the author of Apple Tree Yard, a novel about a woman who embarks upon a mid-life affair.

She says in many ways society still doesn’t expect it from women:

“I think it’s nonsense that the midlife crisis is the preserve of men. I think there are lots of reasons why it doesn’t get talked about so openly by women. I think a lot of women prioritize protecting their families in a way that men maybe don’t. And also, for middle-aged women, it’s very common to still have a huge amount of caring duties. Even if your children are teenage, that doesn’t mean you haven’t still got a lot to do. Quite often you might also have elderly parents.”

Maybe women are better at hiding their internal midlife crisis. Perhaps they feel under more obligation to do so.

So how does a midlife crisis show up for women?

Let’s take a look at the signs.

18 signs a woman is having a midlife crisis

  1. You’re asking yourself deep questions about your life and feeling quite confused about the answers
  2. You’re bored as hell
  3. You’re feeling sad, low, or experiencing mood swings
  4. You feel apathetic and quite frankly can’t be bothered with anything
  5. You’re feeling lonely, misunderstood, or isolated
  6. You’re having trouble sleeping
  7. You’re experiencing weight changes
  8. You’re feeling bad about the physical signs of aging and changes to the way you look as you get older
  9. You feel like you’ve given up on yourself and your confidence is suffering
  10. You’re more short-tempered, irritable, or have been snapping at loved ones
  11. You can’t stop reminiscing about your past
  12. You’ve started to question or regret certain life choices
  13. You’re fantasizing about a new future
  14. You want to shake things up in life
  15. Your sex drive hasn’t been the same (maybe it’s increased or you may have lost it)
  16. You crave putting yourself first for once
  17. You’re feeling guilty about the way you feel
  18. You’ve been making some impulsive changes or decisions

Does happiness dip in midlife?

Some academics have argued that life follows a so-called “U-curve”, where happiness drops and is at its lowest when we reach middle age, only to rise again in later life.

It’s even a phenomenon that was claimed to have been observed in apes, suggesting a potential biological basis for it.

Yet this idea has been disputed by other researchers and therapists who claim that this certainly isn’t the case for many of us.

So what is to blame for the way we feel?

The likely answer is more complex than any simple reduction.

The triggers heavily depend on someone’s unique set of life circumstances. But there are certain factors that often play a part.

people who were raised by narcisssistic parents What is a midlife crisis for women? Everything you need to know

Pesky hormones, life stresses and unfair expectations can all get too much

There isn’t a cookie-cutter mold for a midlife crisis. It shows up in different ways and can be brought on for very different reasons.

Some of the following reasons can contribute to a woman’s midlife crisis.

Your hormones are changing

Hormones are a huge factor, particularly for women.

Perimenopause followed by menopause messes with us in all sorts of ways. Decreases in estrogen and progesterone can cause a wide range of symptoms.

That might include anxiety and depression, fatigue, mood swings, forgetfulness, brain fog, low self-esteem, stress, panic attacks, lack of motivation, and more.

Let’s face it, that’s enough to send anyone into a crisis.

Society puts us under pressure too

It’s hard enough to see your body changing before your very eyes. But we’re also bombarded with societal pressure that can make us feel even worse.

I’m in my 40s, and for well over a decade I haven’t been able to go online without being targeted by a tirade of anti-aging adverts.

The lyrics to the 1930’s song “Keep Young and Beautiful” may sound laughably outdated these days. But if we’re honest, the sentiment often feels like it still stands.

“Keep young and beautiful

It’s your duty to be beautiful, that’s right girls

Keep young and beautiful

If you want to be loved”

Of course, it’s not just a burden we may feel to combat visible signs of aging that we face.

Caring for kids, worrying about aging parents, empty nest syndrome, balancing work and family, financial pressures, embarking on new careers, dealing with divorce or relationship breakdowns.

The truth is that life can throw a lot at you, and it can take its toll.

Life gets on top of you

Human beings are emotional creatures. Our feelings are important signals that help motivate us in life. But they can also be a total pain in the ass.

Few of us by the time we reach middle age will escape untouched by hardships.

I’m an optimist so I’m certainly not trying to be a downer, but there is no denying that sh*t happens.

Negative experiences can accumulate and cause traumas that feel hard to shake off.

But I think for a lot of us, there is also something existential that crops up around this time of life that we can no longer ignore.

My quest for meaning

I was one of those people whose midlife crisis struck relatively early. My deep questioning phase came at the start of my 30’s.

I was suddenly struck by a deep dissatisfaction with the life I had built, whilst simultaneously feeling terribly ungrateful for feeling that way.

I’d wake up to the same exact day as yesterday and think “Is this it?! Surely there is more to life”.

Rather than being triggered by any particular event, I think I just started to increasingly ask myself what I really wanted.

I knew the answer was “more”, but I had no idea how that looked, let alone where or how to find it.

I had always just followed the expected path laid out in front of me. I did the things that everyone else was doing, without giving it much thought.

So this crisis came down to asking myself things like:

  • What’s most important to me?
  • What are my biggest beliefs, and am I living by them?
  • Where do I find and assign value in my life?

In short, I was looking for more meaning — and that felt elusive.

As soon as I dug deeper, I realized the way I was living wasn’t aligned with any deeper sense of purpose, which was becoming a big problem.

If you can relate, I’d really recommend checking out this free video that’s designed to help you get yourself unstuck.

And that’s the key here.

There are plenty of self-help gurus out there promising the magic formula. But I’m sick of people promising to “empower you” because we need to empower ourselves.

We’re the only ones who can develop a solution that will work for us.

In his short free masterclass, Ideapod founder Justin Brown steps outside of the box and away from conventional self-help techniques. Instead, he presents a new way of finding your purpose that’s refreshingly proactive.

So I would urge anyone who is ready to get real with themselves and find practical ways to improve their life to give it a try.

Here’s that link again.

11 practical ways of dealing with a midlife crisis

feel you have no purpose in life ask questions What is a midlife crisis for women? Everything you need to know

1) Accept how you feel

Pushing away how you feel only makes it worse. Healing from any emotional upheaval in life has to start with accepting what you’re going through.

That means ditching denial and refusing to pile on the guilt about feeling the way you do.

2) Journal about it

Writing about things has been scientifically proven to help you cope when life gets hard.

It’s been shown to boost your well-being, reduce stress levels, and help you better understand yourself through self-inquiry.

3) Practice gratitude

It’s not about convincing yourself you have nothing to feel bad about. It’s simply about remembering what you have going for you.

The research says this helps us tackle stress, reduces anxiety, lets us sleep better, and generally allows us to feel more positive emotions.

4) Talk to friends and family

You don’t have to go it alone, saying things out loud to someone you trust can feel like a weight off your chest.

5) Talk to a therapist

You may prefer to speak to someone neutral who doesn’t know you and can be more objective.

6) Take care of your body

When we’re low it’s easy to let the fundamentals slide.

But focusing on eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and getting enough sleep can make a big difference to mental health.

Self-care isn’t just about making time for ourselves to do nice things, it’s also about taking responsibility for our health and wellbeing as much as we can.

7) See your doctor about hormonal issues

When your hormones are flying all over the place it can be hard to think straight. Hormone tests or speaking to your doctor about it can present solutions.

8) Make sure it is a midlife crisis and not depression

They can look or feel similar, but they’re not the same. It’s a good idea to check you’re not dealing with depression.

9) Destress in nature

If you want to escape, try taking a stroll in nature which has been shown to be a good destresser.

10) Create more purpose in your life

I often hear people talk about “finding purpose” as if it’s something we may stumble upon. But my take is that it’s something we create.

We can’t wait to trip over it one day, we’ve got to actively look for and create things that bring meaning to our lives.

That free video on finding purpose I mentioned earlier can help you make a start if you’re not sure how.

11) Don’t make hasty decisions, but don’t shy away from making changes either

It may feel tempting to make big decisions when you’re feeling restless that you could later regret.

Whilst rushed or dramatic change is risky, that doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive.

It’s okay to reevaluate life, identify things that you may want to do differently, and then create an action plan.

In fact, it’s healthy. That’s how we grow and develop at any stage of our life.

Happiness takes work, at any age

My philosophy when life throws a curveball is to look for the opportunity. I think the same can apply to a midlife crisis.

It may not feel pleasant, but in the long run, it can even be good for us.

We can get to know ourselves better, ask some soul-searching questions, and potentially make improvements.

Finding sustainable happiness and fulfillment is always going to be something that requires effort no matter what your age is.

What’s also true is that whatever age you are right now, your best years in life can still lie ahead of you.

It all comes down to whether you decide to create them.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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