You’re only 30 years old. You haven’t even started really thinking of yourself as being middle-aged. And yet, you seem to have symptoms of a midlife crisis at 30. Is it possible? Is it normal? Don’t worry. This is a very common experience, and although it can feel frightening, it might actually be a good thing.
What Is a Midlife Crisis?
Back in the 1960’s society started defining the midlife crisis. At the time, it was named as such because people developed symptoms of it in their 40’s and 50’s. Their children would leave the nest, their relationships would shift, their jobs would change, and they would enter this period of pensive confusion. The midlife crisis is characterized by:
- Desiring a stronger sense of purpose in life
- Entering a period of transition and change
- Feeling like you just aren’t yourself anymore
- Impulsive decision-making that doesn’t “seem like you”
- Restlessness in work, relationships, and life in general
Of course, some of these can also be symptoms of depression. As a result, it’s important to think about what’s triggering the feelings. It’s important to distinguish between depression and a midlife crisis. A midlife crisis is triggered by life changes that lead to a shaky sense of identity. If you’re feeling like you don’t know who you are or what you want, then you might be experiencing a midlife crisis.
What Leads to Midlife Crises At 30?
People seem to expect that a midlife crisis could come about. However, they rarely expect it to hit in their 30s. When it does, it’s surprising and upsetting. However, these days, it’s not at all rare to have a midlife crisis at 30. It’s ironic since longer lifespans mean that 30 is rarely our “midlife”. Nevertheless, changes in life circumstances mean that people can have their midlife crises at almost any age.
Since the 1960’s we have learned a lot more about adult human development. The old models seemed to indicate that people stopped developing psychologically after entering adulthood. Today, our understanding has changed.
Resarch shows that adult brains keep growing and changing.
Psychiatrist Gene Cohen has authored a book called “The Mature Mind: The Power of the Aging Mind” that identifies common phases in adult psychological development. The first of these phases is the “midlife reevaluation.” Essentially, you’re turning away from an outward focus on the world towards an inner pursuit for meaning. As a result, you may evaluate what came before.
Any transition can trigger a midlife crisis at 30. You might be getting married for the first time, getting divorced, or reconsidering your sexuality. You may want to go back to grad school or to embark on a new career. Or you may be satisfied in your job but wonder what else matters as you settle down. As you reflect on these things, you think a lot about your own identity. As you think about who you were in the past and who you want to be in the future, you may experience what feels like a midlife crisis.
What is the Difference Between a Midlife Crisis at 30 and a Quarterlife Crisis?
You may have heard of the quarterlife crisis. If you’re having these feelings at 30, is it really a midlife crisis or is it the quarterlife crisis? The truth is that they have a lot of similarities. However, one difference is that the quarterlife crisis is outwardly focused.
For example, it’s common in your mid-twenties and early thirties to:
- Compare your relationships to others, particularly the first of your friend group to marry
- Feel like you’re stuck in a juvenile or entry-level job
- Have a sense of disillusionment with the world
- Respond to the stresses of becoming adult with uncertainty and anxiety
All of this can toy with your self-esteem and sense of identity. However, mostly you’re looking outward. You’re comparing your life to others. You’re looking at what you wish you could have and wondering how you’ll get there. In contrast, a midlife crisis at 30 is more about turning inward. It’s about asking yourself deep questions about what you want in life, regardless of what those around you are doing.
Whereas a quarterlife crisis is triggered by becoming an adult, a midlife crisis at 30 is triggered by bigger life transitions.
How Do I Recognize a Midlife Crisis at 30?
If you’re only 30 then you might not be looking for signs of a midlife crisis. Things don’t feel right, and you don’t know why, but a midlife crisis hadn’t crossed your mind. If you’re starting to think that might be what’s going on with you, here are some symptoms to look for:
- A big change has occurred and you don’t feel like you’re adjusting to it over time.
- Everything feels boring. Nothing is “wrong” in your life but nothing excites you either.
- It feels like you’re just on autopilot.
- It feels like your commitments are trapping you.
- Self-care doesn’t make you feel refreshed or renewed.
- Sleep is fitful and you struggle with insomnia.
- Suddenly you’re making impulsive decisions to quit a job or move.
- There’s a preoccupation with your appearance.
- You find yourself interested in personal growth and self-improvement. You’re seeking more purpose.
- You’ve been wondering if you’re going through menopause but are sure you’re too young.
If you think that you might be having a midlife crisis then therapy can help. This period of time is all about self-reflection and gaining a new understanding of your own identity. It doesn’t have to be a crisis; it can be a quest. Viewed that way, you can use this change to find new purpose and reinvigorate your life.