Understanding Male Depression in Midlife Crisis Stage

Hitting my 40’s has wrought up some deep feelings that I imagine many men feel but aren’t aware of. I think it’s important to pay attention to this stage of life. It’s trying to gift us, if we can do the hard work.
 
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“In its essence, the midlife crisis is part of a life stage. Sooner or later, as one ages, a time comes when one engages in a process of reassessment. It’s a time to explore and test new choices, generally evoked by a deep pessimism about one’s present existence or future prospects. This pessimism emerges in full force when youth is over and maturity starts to take its place. One becomes discontent about one’s lot in life and begins to believe that what is left is not going to be much better…Men in their midlife crises are usually unaware of being in a crisis. They think they are just making natural changes. And, even if they feel depressed, irritability ity and dissatisfaction usually mask it. They gripe a lot, but don’t see it as a crisis time when they are doing some deep soul-searching.”
Archibald Hart, Unmasking Male Depression

Depression and Mid Life Crisis of Faith

“For the majority, the midlife period may mean a crisis of faith of lesser proportions. You question your values, but there is no risk of abandoning one’s faith or family. You struggle to ignore your disillusionments, and your spirituality may suffer a little, but you plod on hoping that all will come right in the end. What is needed here? Hang on. This, too, will pass. Pray for a deep sense of understanding of what is going on within your spirit. Periods of doubt are normal for humans who “only see through a glass darkly.” Remember, this is your crisis not God’s. God hasn’t abandoned you. This is a time for Him to do His finest work in you, if you cooperate.”

Archibald Hart, Unmasking Male Depression

During this period of time, we need a spirituality of “hang in there”.  God will never leave us or forsake us.  Our values, senses, and beliefs are being refined.  Hold on!

Research on the Effects of Stress

Dr. Archie Hart is a leading expert on stress and its effects.  I had the opportunity to meet him about 4 years ago.  In his book “Adrenaline and Stress“, he addresses various sources of stress.  If we can’t name what is stressing us, we can’t see it healed.

He says,

There are many experts today who arc concerned over the “stress epidemic” in our culture. Almost every direction you look, warning signs arc up. Immunologists warn us that stress is damaging our immune systems, cardiologists warn of heart disease, cancer specialists declare that stress aggravates cancer. Dr. Joel Elkes of the University of Louisville says, “Our mode of life itself, the way we live, is emerging as today’s principal cause of illness.”

The effects of stress are causing much of our illnesses and for Hart, it’s not the big crises that are causing most of the effects–it’s the minor hassles of life.

There are two major sources of stress:  people and pain.

People:  The correlation between stress and people is mainly about experiencing fear and anger.  At times, we might feel like our security is threatened or that someone might withhold their love and approval of us.  Fear and anger cause much of the adrenaline running through our brain and bodies.  The more fear and anger we have, the more stress we’ll have.

Here are a few additional reasons why people cause us stress.

  • Hart says, “One reason is because we need them so much! We all have a need to be loved and accepted by others, and many of us will go to almost any length to achieve respect or avoid criticism. We fear rejection because we so desperately want to be thought of as having value. Our egos crave the respect of others.” (Loc. 1142-1143)
  • People are imperfect:  They can be loving and giving  but also self-serving and inconsistent.  This causes hurt and stress.
  • Lack of Coping Skills and assertiveness:  when others are inconsistent or show relational inadequacies.  We all have basic rights to be valued, heard, and respected.  We may not speak up and share what we need or want.  He says that “Under-assertiveness is the primary cause of much of the helplessness everyone feels from time to time.” (Loc. 1158-1159)
  • Lack of courage to be our true selves:  We may not know who we are which results in not being able to assert ourselves.  Or we fear being our true selves because we may not be accepted or liked.

Hart offers two assessments to identify how stressed you might be and how to analyze your stress sources (i.e. home, recreation, work, general).  Underneath each category are examples such as “Angry at spouse, financial problems, angry at boss/coworkers”.