Mid-Life Men: What Families Should Know
THE IRRITABLE MALE SYNDROME
by Jed Diamond
The male mid-life is often talked about in general or humorous
terms, but rarely is it discussed seriously. Jed Diamond is a
world authority on men in the mid-life period, and here he suggests
an alternative to the traditional treatment given to men in the
I have been a psychotherapist for 35 years and have seen too many
men destroy their own lives and the lives of those they love because
they didn’t understand the inevitable changes that go on
in a man’s body, mind, and spirit at mid-life.
I’ve found that my understanding of these issues has been
greatly expanded since recognizing that men go through a form of “male
menopause,” generally between the ages of 40 and 55. Marc
Blackman, M.D., chief of endocrinology and metabolism at Johns
Hopkins Bayview Medical Center says, “The male menopause
is a real phenomenon and it does similar things to men as menopause
does to women, although less commonly and to a lesser extent.”
I believe thousands of families could be saved from spliting apart
if men and women learned about the newest research findings on
this crucial time of life.
More than 25 million men in the U.S. are now going through male
52% of men between 40 and 70 suffer from some degree of erectile
Men, like women, experience complex hormonal rhythms that affect
their mood, their physical well-being, and their sexuality.
Emotional symptoms include irritability, worry, indecisiveness,
Physical symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, short-term memory
loss, and sleep disturbances.
Sexual symptoms include reduced libido, fear of sexual failure,
and increased desire to “prove” he can still perform
by seeking a younger partner.
Male menopause is like puberty the second time around where a
man must face issues of identity, sexuality, dependence, and independence.
When a man is going through Male Menopause it makes it very difficult
to be an effective parent.
A Woman’s Concern
I receive hundreds of letters a week from women who are confused
about what is happening to the man of the house. “I believe
my husband is experiencing male menopause,” this one began. “My
husband attended a training course away from home for five weeks.
He asked me to visit during the third week, which I did. It was
like a romantic get-away for both of us. But when he returned two
weeks later something had changed.
I knew something was wrong when I met him at the airport. He was
very moody, said nothing was wrong, and wouldn’t talk. When
we made love, he found it difficult to obtain an erection and seemed
angry when I tried to talk with him. Since then he’s become
more and more withdrawn and uncommunicative. He insists there isn’t
another woman involved and seemed surprised that I would even bring
What really hurts is how he treats our daughter. They have always
been very close, like best pals. Lately he is critical of everything
she does. He snaps at her, then apologizes, and later does it all
over again. She and I both feel we have to walk on egg shells.
Clearly something is very wrong. Our daughter is beginning to spend
more time away from home. I’m sure it’s because she
is so hurt by her father’s sudden change of behavior. What’s
going on? What can I do?”
A Man Gains Insight
Jake wrote me to tell me how he had come to understand that Male
Menopause was at the center of the stress he was experiencing with
his family. “I’m 45 year’s old and have been
married to my wife for 23 years. We have four children who range
in age from 9 to 19. Until recently I was the kind of Dad I had
always wanted to be—involved with their lives, caring, concerned.
But something changed when I hit 40. Not since I was a child did
I feel such a deep-seated anger and sadness. I would yell at the
kids, which I never used to do. Late at night I’d lay in
bed with my wife and cry my eyes out. I couldn’t believe
it was me. I’m a grown man, a truck driver, for heaven’s
sake, throwing a tantrum like a four-year old or bawling like a
I never knew that depression in men often expresses itself in
anger. That was certainly the case with me. I was often irritated
and grouchy and sometimes would have angry outbursts over the least
little thing. I would tend to blame it on my wife or the kids.
I know they began to withdraw and lose respect for me, which made
me feel even worse.
One of the most difficult aspects of this time of life is the
uncertainty. I question everything. I have faith in nothing. Even
though I hate the way I feel, I can’t seem to do anything
constructive. I seem to be on a downward slide and I am destroying
my family. There are times I think of killing myself. At least
I wouldn’t be hurting those I love the most.
I can thank my wife for helping me break out of this destructive
cycle. She lovingly, but firmly encouraged me to talk to a counselor.
I resisted for a long time, but finally went to see someone. It
was the most important decision of my life. My family is recovering
from my “mid-life crazies.” I’m beginning to
be a loving husband again and my kids tell me that they are glad
they have their father back.
Side Bar: 12 Tips for Dealing with Male Menopause in the Family
- Recognize that when one member of the family is having problems,
it affects all the others in the family as well.
- Like puberty, menopause is an inevitable life passage. Be alert
to the most common signs of Male Menopause including the following:
Loss of sexual desire for marital partner
Problems with erections
Irritability and anger
Fatigue and low energy
Marital and family conflict
- Be aware that men and women often go through the “change
of life” at the same time. A great deal of mutual understanding
is needed to support each others’ process.
- Recognize that parents often go through menopause while their
children are going through adolescence. Since these stages of
life are similar conflicts can arise if not understood. For instance,
a father can get angry at his daughter’s emerging sexuality
because he is uncomfortable with his own sexual changes.
- Realize that Male Menopause generally arises slowly over a
number of years. Symptoms may be difficult to recognize and interpret.
- Be aware that for some men the symptoms can arise very quickly. “It
seemed like one minute he was the normal, loving guy I have always
known. The next minute he was moody, angry, and withdrawn,” one
woman told me.
- Appreciate the fact that Male Menopause is often precipitated
by changes within and without including:
Disability or death of parents, friends, or colleagues
Children leaving home
Job changes or fears of job loss
Slowing down or loss of physical abilities
Sexual dysfunction and worries about virility
Concerns about future goals and directions
- Accept that most men will initially deny they have a problem.
Since male identity is shifting, even contemplating such a change
can be terrifying to a man.
- Understand that there are a number of steps to accepting and
dealing with Male Menopause:
Step 1: There is no problem here.
Step 2: If there is a problem here it must be you who has it.
You need help.
Step 3: If there’s some problem with me, it is minor. (I
just need to relax more).
Step 4: If the problem may be more serious, I can handle it myself.
Step 5: Even if I need help, there’s no one who would understand.
Step 6: If someone understands I need help, I just want him to
give me a quick fix (like changing the fluids in my car) and get
me back on the road.
Step 7: I guess I’m more complex than my car and I may need
support with hormonal, physical, emotional, interpersonal, sexual,
social, economic, and spiritual aspects of my life.
- Accept the fact that most medical professionals don’t
understand or accept the concept of Male Menopause. Research
on Male Menopause is still about 30 years behind research on
menopause in women.
- Realize that the predominantly male medical establishment
is caught it its own denial. Surveys have shown a significantly
higher acceptance of the concept of a Male Menopause among female
physicians than their male counterparts.
- Rejoice in the fact the Male Menopause can be treated through
a variety of modalities including:
Hormone replacement therapies
Exercise and diet
Herbs and medications
Stress reduction, relaxation, and body centered therapies
Cognitive and psychotherapeutic support
Couples and family therapy.
About the Author: Jed Diamond, a licensed psychotherapist
for 38 years and director of the health program MenAlive, is the
author of seven books, including the international bestseller Male
Menopause. He is on the board of advisors of the Men's Health
Network and also serves on the international scientific board of
the World Congress on Men's Health. He lives in Willits, California.
For more information, please visit www.menalive.com or www.writtenvoices.com.