“If menopause is the silent passage,” says author Gail Sheehy, “Male menopause is the unspeakable passage. It is fraught with secrecy, shame, and denial. It is much more fundamental than the ending of the fertile period of a woman’s life, because it strikes at the core of what it is to be a man.” When I started doing research on what I came to call “male menopause” in 1995, I had never heard of Gail Sheehy. I just knew I was having difficulty with erections, my libido was way down, I was more irritable and had less energy, and my marriage was in danger of going under.
I also knew that I wasn’t the only one who was having problems. When I told people I was doing research on men between the ages of 35 and 65 and the changes they were going through, I began to get e-mails from people describing what they were experiencing.
“I know I’ve been struggling with all facets of my life lately,” said 34-year-old Rob. “Everything from not enjoying the things I have always enjoyed, to losing my latest girlfriend over unknown reasons of which erectile dysfunction at some level was a factor. I have had problems with just everyday living, confusion, and lack of direction in my life. I happened to come across an article you wrote. Wow! What an enlightenment. Just knowing what is happening is a major relief and reduction in a very high level of anxiety. What do I know now?”
I also heard from women who were describing how these changes were impacting the man in their lives.
“I have just discovered your website, and was referred to it by a friend who knows the man I live with. He is 48-years-old and has been getting more and more frustrated, irritable, angry, and depressed over the last year. He’s had all kinds of tests. One doctor thought he might have ADD and he’s taking medications for that, thinking it might help. It hasn’t. After reading about the symptoms of male menopause, I’m convinced that this is his problem. But I’m having trouble getting him to get checked out for that. Can you help?”
I began counseling the men and women who were having these struggles and I started a research study that included interviewing hundreds of men and women from throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, and England. When I began my research, I assumed that the changes men went through would be worlds apart from what women went through. For instance, I knew women had uncomfortable “hot flashes.” Yet, when I completed the interviews I found that many men experienced “hot flashes” as their hormone levels dropped.
There were changes, of course. Women reached a point where they couldn’t have children as ovulation ceased, while men can continue having children later in life. But I found there were actually more similarities than differences, which is why I titled my book, Male Menopause.
I eventually wrote three books, Male Menopause, Surviving Male Menopause: A Guide for Women and Men, and The Whole Man Program, that became international best-sellers which have now been translated into seventeen foreign languages including Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Malaysian, Portuguese, Slovak, and Spanish. I’m hosting a special free webinar on Thursday, April 27th at 9 am Pacific Time titled 3 Hidden Causes of Mid-Life Marriage Meltdown which includes a discussion on Male Menopause. You can register here.
Here are some of the important things I learned.
Male menopause is real.
Men, like women, experience a hormonally driven change of life.
Male menopause involves all aspects of a man’s life.
Male menopause (also called andropause or manopause) begins with hormonal, physiological, and chemical changes that occur in all men, generally between the ages of 40 and 55, though it can occur as early as 35 or as late as 65. Male menopause is, thus, a physical condition with psychological, interpersonal, social, sexual, and spiritual dimensions.
Male menopause in many ways is like puberty, the second time around.
Think of the symptoms associated with puberty: sexual changes, mood swings, changes of identity. Similar things are going on with male menopause. Puberty is the transition period between childhood and adulthood. Male menopause is also a transition period. That’s why 50-year-old males resemble 15-year-old males and one of the main reasons families become so stressed at this time of life.
Male menopause is the transition period between first adulthood and what I call super-adulthood.
The purpose of male menopause is to signal the end of the first part of man’s adult life and the beginning of the second. For most of human history there was only one mountain we climbed, since for most of human history we died by the time we were 40. Now our lifespan has doubled and there’s a second mountain to climb.
Male menopause is not the beginning of the end, as many fear, but the end of the beginning.
It is the passage to the most passionate, powerful, productive, and purposeful time of a man’s life.
What we know about male menopause is forty years behind what we know about menopause in women.
When Male Menopause was published in 1997 few people believed male menopause was real. Now most people, including health-care professionals, recognize the reality of male menopause, but still don’t fully understand the symptoms, causes, and treatments that are most helpful.
The most common symptoms include:
- Loss of erections
- Loss of desire for current sexual partner
- Irritability and anger
Male Menopause is often preceded by changes within and without including:
- Disability or death of parents, friends, or colleagues
- Empty nest after children leave home
- Job changes or fear of job loss
- Changes in energy and activity levels
- Sexual changes and worries about virility
- Financial worries
- Concerns about aging
- Feeling trapped or tied down and a desire for more freedom
Male menopause, male-type depression, and irritable male syndrome are related.
Although depression and irritable male syndrome (IMS) can occur at any age, they are particularly common for men going through male menopause. In my own life depression was a significant issue that I needed to address.
Once we understand male menopause there are many ways to get help.
- Counseling and psychotherapy
- Marriage and family counseling
- Diet and exercise
- Decreasing alcohol consumption which raises testosterone levels
- Losing belly fat which also raises testosterone levels
- Hormone replacement therapy
Your comments are welcome. Are you concerned about your mid-life marriage? Would you like to work with me? I have two programs, “Private Diamond” and “Pocket Diamond.” The first, offers private counseling in person or by phone. The second, offers a unique, internet and text-based program. If you’re interested, drop me a note, put “Private D,” “Pocket D” or “Double D,” (If you’re interested in both programs) in the subject line of an email. Be sure and respond to my spamarrest filter request when writing for the first time.
The role of men is changing in the 21st century. Want to keep up?
Previously published on Men Alive.
Photo Credit: Getty Images