When is a Mid-life Crisis really a Crisis?

Is it always a Crisis?

When is a mid-life crisis a crisis?

Following on from my last blog, I continue to explore the male mid-life crisis. I think, given the mixed messages surrounding this whole mid-life crisis thing, it is important to get clear what we mean by the word ‘crisis.’  

Especially in the context of the phrase as a whole (for convenience I am going to refer to the ‘mid-life crisis’ as MLC from now on.  As we have explored, the phrase can be chucked around as a joke, a label, a criticism, a way of writing off strange behaviour.   And it need not actually be applied to someone during ‘mid-life.’

So, I dug out a couple of definitions of the word ‘crisis’ as a starting point to help me and you understand it a little more.


1 ‘a crucial stage or turning point in the course of something, esp in a sequence of events or

a disease’ Collins English Dictionary website

2 ‘A time of intense difficulty or danger.’ Oxford Dictionaries website

3 ‘A time when a difficult or important decision must be made.’ Oxford Dictionaries 


Now, having absorbed the above, I find myself being a little surprised.  To be honest, my own internalised understanding of the word was more akin to definition number two which refers to ‘intense difficulty or danger’

Maybe it’s my background in policing? Maybe those experiences working with people who, whether as a result of psychological difficulty (threatening suicide or having attempted it), or physical injury (following a road traffic accident for example),  I have always viewed the word in a negative context.  Maybe that’s why I have sometimes found the phrase ‘mid-life crisis’ when applied in a joking fashion a little hard to stomach?

But, I have to say, when researching this, there are plenty of variations of the definition. Many of them focus less on the harm and danger potential, and more on the fact that it is a time for a challenging decision or path to be taken.  

This sits more comfortably with me in the context of the MLC.

Don’t get me wrong, I am more than aware that men and women can be pitched into a place where psychological danger can be a genuine risk.  But, for many of us, perhaps many many more than we care to acknowledge, the crisis we face is more akin to facing a difficult choice, coming to terms with something big, or finding ourselves at a turning point in life.

I guess too that the ‘intense difficulty’ aspect of definition number two doesn’t have to mean extreme difficulty in terms of our physical or mental health and wellbeing.  

How many of us have faced the most gut and heart wrenching conflicts within ourselves when we dare to face up to questions like, ‘am I really happy here?’, ‘Is this it?  Is this my life now?’  These sort of questions can lead to real difficulty. 

And that difficulty can manifest in a number of ways.  

In the arguably lesser taken road, we confront them head on in a positive manner and really work through our feelings.  We seek proactively out options and, perhaps, make the hardest of choices consciously rather than by default or impulsively.

The alternative more commonly chosen path (even if not consciously selected) is to try to quash those feelings and questions.  In so doing, we can find ourselves adopting some of the coping strategies more commonly associated with a MLC.  Which for men, can range from buying a flashy car, chasing women, drinking heavily, and/ or working all hours.

So, what does crisis mean to you?  

Do any of the definitions above resonate with you?  

Have you your own definition of ‘crisis’ and the phrase MLC?

In part two of this blog, I will introduce the ‘crisis continuum.’ This is my attempt to conceptualise the variation in the impact of such experiences and feelings arising from the MLC.  I intend to use it as a means of identifying where we might fall on the continuum when experiencing our own so called MLC.  The aim is to then identify the most appropriate support or action to take.

Today, however, I think it is worth reflecting on what the word ‘crisis’ means to you.  

And how does it fit into the overall phrase of ‘mid-life crisis’ for you?  Do you see it as something catastrophic? Or something less so?  It may nonetheless still have a significant impact on you, your life and your sense of place and happiness, but be less extreme.

Keep an eye out for the next blog.

Dave Algeo
Motivational Speaker on resilience and men's mental health.  

Asking yourself 'is this it?'  Have you got to a point in life where, despite working hard and building a 'great life,' you still feel there's got to me more?  Here's a short video with three tips to help you get back a sense of hope and direction.

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Contact Dave to share feedback and questions, or learn more about his work in developing resilience and enhancing wellbeing. 

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Contact Dave to share feedback and questions, or learn more about his work in developing resilience and enhancing wellbeing. 

As a word of advice for any one experiencing their own sense of desperation, loss or crisis, please, don't endure it alone.  Seek help.  From family, trusted friends and professionals.  Your own Doctor or GP is a great place to start.  Or there are great services provided by organisations such as the Samaritans.  For further advice on professional support and advice check out the NHS resources.  

This series of blogs is intended to encourage reflection on your own wellbeing and mental health.  It seeks to encourage you to speak up and get help where needed and take hope that you things can be better.  It is not intended as therapy or a replacement for professional help and advice.


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