What is irritable male syndrome?

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Men's Health Advisor
@AVogelUK
Ask Dr. Jen Tan


14 November 2018

What’s in a name?

Even if you are unfamiliar with Irritable Male Syndrome, you may have heard talk of andropause, or even the male menopause. Well, in actual fact these terms are used interchangeably and IMS, andropause and the male menopause are actually the same thing.

After the age of 30 male testosterone levels begin to fall and this can cause physical and emotional changes to occur. However, most experts agree that it is unhelpful to call this a male menopause because hormone levels fall very slowly and over a longer period of time than is the case for women going through the menopause. This means that symptoms can be quite mild but also not everyone will experience a “male menopause” either. 

Also, the term male menopause suggests that menopause is the same for each gender when, in fact, women experience a much more rapid decline in hormone levels than men. This leads to an array of problematic symptoms including hot flushes, fatigue and mood swings. As a result, the focus now seems to be on the term andropause, though Irritable Male Syndrome is occasionally used too.

Symptoms of IMS

As I’ve already mentioned, IMS usually refers to a fall in testosterone levels, a hormone that regulates bone mass, muscle size and fat distribution. However, it also regulates sex drive and so a decrease in levels can lead to the loss of libido, a key symptom of IMS.  

On top of this, other common symptoms of IMS include irritability, low mood, low confidence, low energy, trouble sleeping, erectile dysfunction and weight gain.

Other causes of IMS symptoms

 Although declining testosterone levels often have a big part to play in the development of the symptoms I’ve just discussed, it would be inaccurate to suggest that this is the only cause of such problems. Instead there are a number of things that could have a part to play.

Psychological issues – stress, anxiety and depression can result in erectile dysfunction and loss of libido. Stress and anxiety are usually brought about by relationship issues or concerns about work and money whereas depression tends to be a long term problem that requires the help of a medical professional to address.

Physical issues – erectile dysfunction can occur as a result of changes in the blood vessels and so psychological problems don’t always have to be behind the issue.

A midlife crisis – despite what you might have heard a midlife crisis is certainly not a made up phenomenon – it’s real! This affects both men and women, though concerns at this time may differ between the genders. Men tend to worry about what they’ve achieved so far in life and become afraid about what lies ahead in the future. This can lead to anxiety and depression which, in turn, leads to mood swings, poor sleep and low energy levels. 

Poor diet and lack of exercise – these things can contribute to weight gain, plus it also means you won’t be getting a wide variety of nutrients which can contribute to falling testosterone levels.

Poor lifestyle choices – lots of alcohol and smoking can also contribute to some of the symptoms I’ve discussed such as trouble sleeping and weight gain

Hypogonadism – this problem occurs when the testes produce little or no hormones. This can be something you are born with but it can also develop later in life (especially if you are obese or have type 2 diabetes). Hypogonadism can cause the symptoms I’ve mentioned above however, unlike IMS it is not a normal part of aging. 

What impact does it have?

For a variety of reasons relationships suffer the most when there is a case of IMS. Low mood and mood swings can put strain on a relationship for example, whilst the loss of libido can place tension on the relationship with your partner. 

On top of this, poor sleep, a common sign of IMS, can affect other areas of our health. First of all, it becomes harder to concentrate, the vision may be affected and it can become difficult to make decisions too. However, if the problem should go on for a long period of time then it can also make you more prone to serious conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure.

What can you do?

Now that we’ve discussed what IMS is you may be wondering how to address the symptoms so here are a few simple tips.

Visit your doctor – they will be able to use a blood test to check your testosterone levels, plus you’ll be able to talk to your doctor about any symptoms to help figure out what’s at the root of the problem. 

Talk – it’s a good idea to talk to your partner about how you’re feeling to avoid any tension between the two of you. As well as this, if you talk to your doctor you’ll receive professional advice on any issues.

Address stress - if you think that stress is at the root of the problem then you need to address this. How you do this will depend on what’s causing these feelings in the first place however, relaxation techniques like deep breathing and stretching are a good place to start. Another option is to try our Stress Relief Daytime remedy which contains a mix of Valerian and Hops to help tackle mild stress and anxiety. 

Exercise – not only does this keep us fit and healthy, it can also release feel-good hormones called endorphins which may improve mood. So, whether you dig out your running shoes or jump on your bike, try to get moving to improve the symptoms of IMS.

Eat well – fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish and meat all constitute a healthy diet so make sure you are eating plenty of these to keep yourself in good general health. Also, zinc, which can be found in wholegrains, oysters, nuts, chickpeas and more, is really important for testosterone levels so make sure you’re getting plenty of this too. Alternatively, if you aren’t keen on these kinds of foods or, indeed you are vegan/vegetarian, you could try a supplement. Our friends over at Jan de Vries do a nice selection but my personal favourite are Lamberts Zinc Tablets as these are easily absorbed by the body.

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