The Irritable Male Syndrome and Male Menopause
Jed Diamond, PhD, LCSW
Understanding this "double whammy" can be the key to sanity and healthy relationships
Posted June 11, 2009
"He used to be the nicest guy you could imagine, now he's become moody and mean." I hear this bewildered concern from women all over the world. "She used to be gentle and caring, now she treats me like her worst enemy." Men are equally frustrated and confused. Millions of women and men are finding that something strange is happening to them when their relationship moves into mid-life.
Sometimes I think it's evolution's little joke to split us apart and send us looking for new partners to propagate the species. But for those dealing with the stresses of mid-life, it is no joking matter. The key to saving our sanity and keeping our relationship alive and well is to understand two interrelated life changes affecting men (and the women who love them) at mid-life: male menopause and Irritable Male Syndrome. I sometimes think of them as the double whammy. But with a little understanding and help from those we love, we don’t have to let them do us in.
What are the most common symptoms of male menopause and Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS)?
- Hypersensitivity: The least little thing can set him off.
- Anxiety: He worries all the time, even when things seem to be fine.
- Frustration: At times, he seems like a pressure cooker about to explode.
- Depression: He may not have the classic symptoms like sadness, feelings of worthlessness, or thoughts of death; but he definitely isn’t happy and he’s often irritable.
- Loss of sexual desire: He doesn’t seem as interested as he once was.
- Erectile dysfunction: Even when he’s interested he may have problems with erections.
- Fatigue: His energy level is often low even when he has had lots of rest.
After seeing this kind of behavior occurring in my own mid-life marriage and those of my clients and friends, I set up a research project to determine the extent of the problem. I developed an Irritable Male Syndrome Quiz that was filled out by nearly 10,000 males and by hundreds of women. Based on the responses I received I found that there were four major causes of Irritable Male Syndrome.
First were fluctuations in male hormones. This can occur as we age and our testosterone levels begin to drop. It can also result from lack of exercise and weight gain.
Second were changes in the biochemistry of the brain. For instance, drops in the levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin can increase feelings of hostility, anger, and blame.
The third cause of Irritable Male Syndrome was increasing stress levels in men as we age.
Finally, loss of male identity as we struggle with new sex roles in a changing society can create problems.
Although mid-life relationships experience many challenges, there is tremendous value in working through these issues together. One man, who has been married 32 years and raised three children with his wife, says, "Love is a lifetime of work. Be a little more empathetic to the one who really cares for you. Be patient. Nurture your relationship. It’s all you really have."
For more information on Irritable Male Syndrome and Male Menopause, please visit my website at www.MenAlive.com
Jed Diamond is director of MenAlive, a program dedicated to healing men and the women who love them. He is the author of 7 books including Male Menopause and The Irritable Male Syndrome.