We all go through our share of ups and downs in life. One of the most famous examples of a “down” is the male midlife crisis. Whether you believe that the midlife crisis is psychological, physical or a problem with modern society, the fact is that a large number of men must deal with this issue.
As a doctor, I know that a midlife crisis can cause not only mental and emotional struggle, but real physical symptoms that must be addressed. Some men experience fatigue, loss of energy or sexual dysfunction as they approach midlife. It is important to understand the causes and symptoms of male midlife crisis so you can face this life challenge head-on.
What is Midlife Crisis?
On the surface, the theory behind midlife crisis is easy to grasp: as we age, we become increasingly aware of our own mortality, so we start feeling or behaving differently. However, a midlife crisis is not simply about wishing we were young again. By midlife, many men feel weighted down by life’s burdens, such as providing for a family and sustaining a career. In fact, men who base their identity on one area of their life, like their jobs or their virility, are more likely to experience a midlife crisis.
Another reason for midlife crisis is the realization that old expectations or fantasies about life are not going to come true. Maybe you had always envisioned yourself starting your own business, yet by midlife you finally see that your life has gone in a different direction. Sometimes, unresolved emotional issues come to the forefront at midlife and must be dealt with. If you have been avoiding your personal emotional baggage for years, it may be time to address your feelings in order to move forward.
All of this may sound purely psychological, but I assure you that a midlife crisis can also be physical in origin. Beginning in your late 20s, testosterone gradually decreases, sometimes causing decreased sex drive or erectile dysfunction. In addition, there is an increase in sex hormone binding globulin, a protein that impairs the body’s ability to use testosterone.
Another piece of the puzzle is related to changes in sleep. As men move into midlife, they start to sleep more lightly, spending less time in a state of deep sleep. This can lead to weight gain, fatigue and irritability because the body is unable to make enough of the hormones required for energy and optimal functioning.
Real Solutions for Men
Feeling your age and resolving emotional issues is difficult enough without the added worry of sexual dysfunction. See your doctor to rule out other health problems that may be contributing to dysfunction. You can take action by trying many testosterone-boosting natural supplements designed to increase virility, energy and hormone levels. Look for formulas with vitamin B12, zinc, gingko biloba and ginseng. To increase blood flow, supplements containing either L-arginine and Citrulline may be useful. Other ingredients to look for are Tribulus Terrestris a sex-related hormone, and Macuna Puriens (L-Dopa) an herb derived from a Brazilian plant known to have stimulant properties.
Quality sleep is important for men undergoing the physical changes of midlife. Minerals like magnesium and herbs like passion flower extract and valerian are effective sleep aids. Other ways to encourage deep sleep are to get plenty of exercise and avoid stimulants like coffee several hours before bed.
Managing stress will help you sleep easier, as well as reduce symptoms like irritability and fatigue. A daily B-complex vitamin can reduce stress, and minerals like selenium and chromium can boost energy. St. John’s Wort is a potent herb that has been shown to lessen feelings of anxiety, apathy and despair.
In addition to the natural remedies above, never underestimate the power of trying something new. If your life has always revolved around your job, learn to delegate and make time for other activities you enjoy, like sports, music or travel. Learning a new hobby or meeting new people can refresh your perspective when life seems like a hassle.
Finally, the ability to stay positive and acknowledge difficult emotions has gotten many of my patients through midlife crises. Focusing on all the things you have to look forward to can make your current problems feel far less daunting.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.