"Midlife transition" is a natural stage that happens to many of us at some point (usually at about age 40, give or take 20 years).

Midlife transition can include:

  • Discontentment or boredom with life or with the lifestyle (including people and things) that have provided fulfillment for a long time
  • Feeling restless and wanting to do something completely different
  • Questioning decisions made years earlier and the meaning of life
  • Confusion about who you are or where your life is going
  • Daydreaming
  • Irritability, unexpected anger
  • Persistent sadness
  • Acting on alcohol, drug, food, or other compulsions
  • Greatly decreased or increased sexual desire
  • Sexual affairs, especially with someone much younger 
  • Greatly decreased or increased ambition.

Middle age is a time in which adults take on new job responsibilities and therefore often feel a need to reassess where they are and make changes while they feel they still have time. In his 1965 article "Death and the Midlife Crisis" for the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, psychologist Elliot Jaques coined the term "midlife crisis," referring to a time when adults realize their own mortality and how much time they may have left in their lives.

The midlife transition (or crisis) can also be understood using a Myers-Briggs personality model stemming from the works of Carl Jung. The stages are as follows:

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  • Accommodation—presenting ourselves as different people ("personae") based on our situation
  • Separation—removing the personae we wear in different situations and assessing who we are underneath; rejecting your personae, even if only temporarily
  • Reintegration—feeling more certain of your true identity and adopting more appropriate personae
  • Individuation—recognizing and integrating the conflicts that exist within us, and achieving a balance between them
Mid-Life. Last reviewed 01/15/2010

Sources:

  • Death and the Mid-life Crisis
  • Psychological Types (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 6)
  • MBTI Manual (A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator)
  • Handbook of Midlife Development
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
  • Stress, coping, and health at midlife: a developmental perspective