When people think of midlife depression, they may think it’s the same as a midlife crisis. However, these two are quite different. In a midlife crisis, a person compares how they are now to how they were in the past. This can make them worried that they have stopped growing as a person, as they may not have accomplished as much or stagnated compared to their younger selves. A midlife crisis can lead to impulsive and sometimes reckless behavior in an attempt to kickstart the next chapter in their lives or make their mark on the world.
Midlife depression is different in how people who struggle with it feel and act. When someone has midlife depression, they view their lives as half over. They may be overwhelmed with dread and foreboding, spending a lot of time contemplating their mortality. Some feel they are failures or struggle to find meaning in their lives. This can sometimes lead to suicidal idealization and constant thoughts of death.
Our society puts enormous pressure on its citizens to “make it big” and make a large mark on the world. This is not always possible, and many people will compare themselves to celebrities and other celebrated individuals. It can make someone worried that they haven’t done enough in their lives, making them feel as though they somehow failed. These feelings of failure can also lead to midlife depression.
Depression and midlife depression are all treatable conditions. It’s essential to be aware of the signs of midlife depression, understand why someone may develop midlife depression, and how to find treatment for you and those you love.
The Signs and Symptoms of Midlife Depression
Midlife depression tends to develop in adults between the ages of 40-50 but can, in some cases, start in the mid to late 30s. When we are young, we often don’t think about our mortality or any other serious issues. We are more focused on growing and maturing. As we get older, however, it can be quite a shock to realize just how much time has passed. Once we realize how much has changed and what stands to change even more, we can sometimes become depressed.
Common Triggers for Midlife Depression
It’s common for older adults to develop depression simply because they deal with many serious life-changing events. Some such events that may cause midlife depression are as follows.
- Serious and chronic medical problems, such as chronic pain
- Changes in hormones, such as menopause or a drop in testosterone
- Biological issues, such as thyroid problems and nutrient deficiencies
- Death and other significant personal losses resulting in grief
- Relationships changing between children, friends, and family
- Societal pressures can cause feelings of stress, failure, or being “stuck” in your life
Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression
The persistent occurrence of any of these symptoms for more than two weeks is a sign of depression. Contact your local mental healthcare facility if you or someone you love is experiencing any of the following:
- Lack of sleep or oversleeping
- Constantly feeling tired of fatigue
- Thoughts about death or suicide
- Persistent negative feelings, such as sadness, hopelessness, guilt, helplessness, dread, and emptiness
- Increased feelings of restlessness and irritability
- The loss of interest in things that once brought happiness, such as hobbies, social activities, or sex
- Difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and being unable to make decisions
- Eating less or more than usual, with significant unplanned weight loss or gain
People with untreated depression are at high risk of engaging in self-destructive behaviors. This is most often expressed by self-medicating, but severe and persistent depression can sometimes result in suicide or self-harm.
Finding Mental Health Treatment
It’s possible for those with depression to recover from it eventually. It takes the proper treatment, along with time and works on the person’s part, to achieve this. To start, contact your local mental healthcare facility to speak with the staff on duty about making an appointment to speak with a mental healthcare professional. This usually begins with a therapist, who can help you make a treatment plan for your depression.
If you feel as though you are going to harm yourself immediately and need help now, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. They can help you get in contact with services that can give you immediate care.
Treatments for depression usually use psychotherapy or talk therapy to help someone learn to cope with their mental health. This gives someone the valuable skills they need to not only navigate their depression now but prevent it from getting out of hand in the future. If the depression is severe, someone may need to take medication to help reduce symptoms so they can function in daily life. In the case of treatment-resistant depression, different types of treatments may be used. An example of such as treatment is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
It can take a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and other therapies to help someone recover from depression. A therapist will work to help tailor a treatment plan to fit each client’s unique needs. Treatment can take time to see any effective result, so it’s essential for someone on a treatment plan to complete their treatment fully.
Remember that no mental healthcare professional will ever judge someone for asking for help. Recovery is possible; it just takes that critical first step to recognize that you need help and then ask for it.
Depression is a serious mental health disorder that can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or background. However, many people become depressed during the midpoint of their lives, known as midlife depression. This is because sometimes a person may feel as though they haven’t “done enough” in their life. This can cause symptoms of depression, and sometimes these can escalate into thoughts of death or suicide. At Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we help those struggling with depression by providing quality treatment and caring staff. Anyone can achieve recovery, provided they are willing to reach out for help. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, call (949) 647-4090 today.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.