By Shelly Xu
Although most people now accept that women and men have “male” and “female” hormones, it is more difficult to accept that men also have hormonal cycles. According to endocrinologist Dr. Estelle Ramey, professor at Georgetown University Medical School, “The evidence of them may be less dramatic, but the monthly changes are no less real.” But if men do have hormonal cycles, why don’t they recognize or talk about them? Dr. Ramey believes it is because men respond to their cycles in a way that is a function of their “culturally acquired self-image. They deny them.” This denial is the main reason that the largely male scientific and medical communities have taken so long to recognize hormonal cycles in men.
Like women, men experience hormonal shifts and changes. Every day, a man’s testosterone levels rise in the morning and fall in the evening. Testosterone levels can even vary from day to day.
Some claim that these hormonal fluctuations may cause symptoms that mimic the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including depression, fatigue, and mood swings.
But are those monthly hormonal swings regular enough to be called a “male period”?
Psychotherapist and author Jed Diamond, PhD. created the term Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS) in his book of the same name, to describe these hormonal fluctuations and the symptoms they cause, based on a true biological phenomenon observed in rams. He believes men experience hormonal cycles like women. That’s why these cycles have been described as “man-struation” or the “male period.”
A woman’s period and hormonal changes are the result of her natural reproductive cycle, sex therapist Janet Brito, PhD, LCSW, CST says. “The hormonal changes she endures are in preparation for possible conception. Men do not experience the cycle of producing egg cells, nor do they have a uterus that gets thicker to prepare for a fertilized egg. And if conception does not occur, they do not have a uterine lining that will be released from the body as blood through the vagina, which is what is referred to as a period or menstruation,” Brito explains. However, Brito notes that men’s testosterone levels can vary, and some factors can influence testosterone levels.
As these hormones fluctuate, men may experience symptoms. The symptoms of these fluctuations, which may share some similarities with symptoms of PMS, may be as close to “male periods” as any man will get.
What causes IMS?
Although IMS is most often caused by high stress and/or low testosterone; high estrogen levels can also cause irritability in men. The main source of this imbalance is a declining level of testosterone associated with aging (a man’s testosterone levels start declining as early as age 30). Other factors can contribute to mood swings in men including weight gain. This creates fat cells which produce estrogen from testosterone. The higher the estrogen levels and the lower the testosterone levels, the greater the likelihood of irritability in men. Furthermore, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol diminish testosterone levels, causing the same increased likelihood of mood swings in men. Eating disorders and certain medications can also cause hormonal imbalances.
What are the symptoms of IMS?
The symptoms of so-called IMS mimic some of the symptoms women experience during PMS. However, IMS doesn’t follow any physiological pattern the way a woman’s period follows her reproductive cycle. Symptoms of IMS are vague and may include:
- confusion or mental fogginess
- low self-esteem
- low libido
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, there is likely something else going on. Some of these symptoms may be the result of testosterone deficiency. Testosterone levels do naturally fluctuate, but levels that are too low can cause problems, including:
- lowered libido
- behavior and mood problems
If these symptoms persist, make an appointment to talk with your doctor. This is a diagnosable condition and can be treated.
Likewise, middle-aged men may experience symptoms as their natural levels of testosterone begin to fall. This condition, called andropause, is sometimes referred to as male menopause.
How to relieve IMS?
Exercise, eating a healthy diet, finding ways to relieve stress, and avoiding alcohol and avoiding smoking may help stop these symptoms from happening. These lifestyle changes can also help a variety of physical and mental symptoms.
However, if you believe your symptoms may be the result of low testosterone, see your doctor. Testosterone replacement may be an option for some men with low hormone levels. If your doctor suspects another underlying cause, they can schedule tests and procedures to help rule out other problems.
Lingering mood changes aren’t normal. Bad days that cause crabby attitudes are one thing. Persistent emotional or physical symptoms are something entirely different, and they’re a possible indication that you should see your doctor. See a sex therapist if you need help revitalizing your sex life or see a mental health professional if you are experiencing depression or anxiety.
For stress, depression, and anxiety relief, don’t forget Poppy Life Care’s wellness programs are available to support you wellbeing. Schedule a consultation with our clinicians at the link below: https://poppylifecare.clientsecure.me