Is there really something called “a midlife crisis” a crisis that many 40-somethings are designed to experience? Or is it all just hype and merely a myth? In using the film American Beauty (1999) I will attempt to assess Lester Burnham’s midlife crisis, the principal character played by Kevin Spacey, to some of Daniel J. Levinson’s theories of adult development. Does Lester’s so-called midlife crisis follow Levinson’s transitions and sequences of midlife? Or is Lester Burnham’s experience merely an adjustment distress, as described in the DSM-IV-TR of the American Psychiatric Association (2000 p. 28):
The adjustment disorder, unspecified type (DSM-IV-TR 2000):
- The development of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to identifiable stressors occurring within three months of the onset of the stressor.
- These symptoms or behaviors are clinically significant as enhanced by either of the following:
- Managed distress that is in excess of what would be expected from exposure to the stressor.
- Significant impairment in social or occupational (academic) functioning.
- The stress-related disturbance does not meet the criteria for another specific Axis I Disorder and is not merely an exacerbation of a preexisting Axis I or Axis II disorder.
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