Weathering traumas and transitions in a man's midlife

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Thursday, November 9, 2023
Weathering traumas and transitions in a man's midlife
Weathering traumas and transitions in a man's midlife

BROOMALL, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The 40s are often a transition time for men. There are physical changes, families growing up, parents aging, and perhaps changes on the work front.

It can be a time for emotional challenges, so it's important for men to mind their mental health - as well as their physical health.

Paid Sponsorship with Main Line Health

John Lindsay of Broomall, PA. fondly remembers his mother.

"Mom was my rock," he says.

Lindsay became very close to his mother after his parents divorced during his youth and his father died when John was a young adult. They loved going to Ocean City.

"She also loved ice cream, so I would stock the fridge with ice cream for her," he recalls with a big smile.

About the time she died, John was also being overwhelmed by his managerial job, thinking about it round-the-clock..

"I can immerse myself so much in my career that I lose track of who I am," he says.

After suffering an emotional crash and being hospitalized, John began therapy at Main Line Health's Mirmont Outpatient Center in Broomall.

Medical director Dr. Phillip Izzo says men in their 40s often struggle with society's pressures and what they put on themselves.

"You're simultaneously managing, raising, you know, a young family, and having to care for older parents," says Dr. Izzo. "There's a physical burden and an emotional toll of what to do with this person. And that can drive a lot of anxiety and stress."

But men are reluctant to deal with it, especially to seek professional help.

"They kind of ignore that there's a problem, and say, you know, it'll get better, I just got to keep pushing with this," says Dr. Izzo. "And you keep pushing, keep pushing, and you think you're pushing, but really what you're doing is digging, and you're digging and digging a deeper hole for yourself."

That can make the hole harder to get out of.

Signs of a stress overload include: Restless sleep or waking frequently, appetite changes, more fatigue, losing interest in things you used to enjoy. Sometimes, panic attacks develop.

"Shortness of breath, palpitations, and excessive sweating, an impending feeling of doom," says Dr. Izzo.

He says more drinking, smoking, or risky behavior can signal trouble - and friends and family might spot it first.

"Oftentimes the patients are the last ones to know that they're depressed or anxious," says Dr. Izzo.

John says to accept their concern and get help before emotional issues boil over. Talk therapy releases stress, puts situations in perspective, and gives him coping tools.

He can now leave work behind at the office and he tells other men - don't fear medication.

"If you had cancer, you would get chemo. Well, if you have depression or anxiety or bipolar in my case, there's no way to treat that without medication," John says.

Dr. Izzo says managing stress by adopting healthy habits early on is a key: get more exercise, make time for a hobby or outside interest. Make sleep a priority, not an afterthought: shut off the TV, put down the phones and tablets 30-60 minutes before bedtime.