Grumpy Guys

Irritable Male Syndrome: What is it and is it real?

By Sara Peyton

Based on his own experience, Diamond offers these four "red alerts" or warning signs of impending IMS damage to the relationship, from the least to the most destructive.

  1. Criticism: "In my mind, my wife appeared determined to bug me," says Diamond. "I didn’t see myself as criticizing her, but simply pointing out a problem she was causing me. For example, she’d take longer than I expected to leave a party and that really annoyed me, even though logically I knew it takes her longer to say goodbye."
  2. Contempt: "My wife and I didn’t get into this too much, but in my practice I see a lot of men who call their wives stupid or say they can never do anything right." Says Tim, "I love my car and usually keep it immaculate, but when I’m in an IMS mode, I let it get dirty and think about selling it.
  3. Defensiveness: Like Susan’s husband, Diamond found himself on the defensive. "If my wife pointed out I spilled some soup on the counter, I wouldn’t thank her for pointing it out. Instead I’d say something like, ‘you are always nagging at me.’"
  4. Stonewalling: And like Tim, Diamond held back his emotions and sat around looking mad but denying he was. "The reason men hold back their emotions isn’t because they are unemotional. Instead they fear becoming overwhelmed and breaking down," Diamond says.

If you think you are living with an IMS male, don’t despair. "Let him know you love him but you aren’t giving up on your own happiness," counsels Diamond, whose own wife urged him to seek help. "Tell him things need to change and you want him to join with you in making a life that works for both of you.

Battling IMS

A combination of therapy, antidepressants, a men’s group, regular exercise, and a healthy diet helped Diamond heal from IMS, restoring his cheerfulness and saving his marriage, he says. In his book, which Diamond suspects will be read by more women than men, he urges men to seek professional help for depression, along with offering some practical lifestyle tips to help heal from or prevent IMS.

Eat Right

A balanced diet of lean meat, leafy green vegetables, and carbohydrates promotes production of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin. Say no to licorice; it zaps testosterone. After reading about IMS, Tim immediately gave up drinking beer, because alcohol raises estrogen levels.

Exercise

Not only does regular exercise promote well-being, but even an extra 10 pounds overweight can raise estrogen levels and make a man grumpy.

Heal Unresolved Issues to Foster Optimism

Joining a men’s group or seeking therapy is often the best way to heal past hurts from the past, including childhood experiences of abuse and abandonment, says Diamond.

Pass On What You’ve Learned to Others

"Many of my clients get enormous satisfaction out of volunteering in programs dealing with at-risk young males," says Diamond. "Knowing you can help others usually translates into feeling better about oneself."

Tim says going through the divorce and losing his identity as a husband triggered his IMS and made it worse. "Not knowing what was ahead and not understanding who I’m supposed to be as a man had a big impact on my well-being," he says. But learning to open up and discuss his feelings with his girlfriend eased his fears. "I was so worried I would lose her but now we make little jokes about my IMS. I believe there are a lot of men out there that just won’t admit they’re moody and unhappy."

And Susan? After checking out Diamond’s Web site, she’s thinking more about slipping her husband Diamond’s book rather than cleaning out the garage. "I’ve often wondered why we’ve been led to believe that women are the only ones who have hormone troubles in later life! The idea that my husband may be on the same chemical roller coaster I’m riding helps me stop taking some of the things he says and does so personally and to think about ways we can tackle our midlife transitions together."

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