The term IMS was introduced by doctor Gerald Lincoln of the Medical Research Council’s Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Scotland. Lincoln studied the mating cycle of Soay sheep and discovered the rams became nervous and moody in winter, when their testosterone levels were low. Naturally men aren’t sheep, but the principle is the same: the Irritable Male Syndrome is caused by a drop in the levels of the male hormone testosterone. According to Jed Diamond, the symptoms of IMS are comparable to those of PMS: mood swings, irritability, anxiety and aggression. It has to be said, however, that the scientific community is sceptical about IMS.
How about the suspected male menopause? Does it really exist? Men do experience a decrease of testosterone production: 1 to 1.5% a year from the age of 30. In women, however, the estrogen production decreases at a phenomenal rate: 80% within a few years. This sudden hormonal change causes quite a lot of menopausal complaints. If men experience complaints which resemble female menopausal problems, it’s often related to their lifestyle. Obesity and diabetes, for example, are risk factors. Men who suffer from the metabolic syndrome have a 50% chance of testosterone deficiency.
What’s called ‘male menopause’, is known in the medical world as late-onset hypogonadism (LOH) or testosterone deficiency syndrome (TDS). When they’re around the age of 60, about 6% of men suffer from a shortage of testosterone. These low testosterone levels could lead to a diminished libido and erectile dysfunction. Other characteristics include depression, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, osteoporosis, reduced muscle mass, hot flashes (!) and tiredness.
Women can’t outrun the menopause, no matter how fast they move. For men, however, LOH is reversible by changing their lifestyle (read: losing weight) or testosterone replacement therapy. Long story short: the male menopause doesn’t really exist. And synonyms such as andropause or penopause don’t cover the subject. ‘Andro’ means ‘man’ whereas ‘pause’ means ‘stop’, but the andropause doesn’t stop you being a man. For that same reason the popular expression penopause doesn’t make any sense at all.
Is he suffering from IMS? Take the quiz on Jed Diamond’s website.