Maybe He Has Irritable Male Syndrome


    5 Min Read


    Among the myriad of medical acronyms there are some that are pretty familiar. Most of us have heard of things like ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), and even IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). But how familiar are you with IMS (Irritable Male Syndrome)?

    It almost sounds like something disgruntled wives created to describe their grumpy, set-in-their-ways, middle-aged husbands.

    Oh, never mind him, he’s always this way. I swear he has IMS!”

    Says the wife to her best friend as her husband gripes about taxes and the irresponsible ways of today’s youth.


    You can picture it, can’t you?

    But Irritable Male Syndrome is an increasingly recognized affliction that affects many men and has its own set of symptoms and challenges - and it’s no joke.

    What Is Irritable Male Syndrome?

    Before we go much further it should be stated that Irritable Male Syndrome isn’t a formally recognized mental disorder. You won’t currently find it in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition).

    That doesn’t mean, however, that it doesn’t exist.

    In fact, Irritable Male Syndrome has been around and generally recognized for years. Over time it’s been referred to by other names as well, such as andropause, low-testosterone syndrome, or even male menopause.

    No matter how it’s called, they all refer to the time of life when men start to reevaluate their lives and reprioritize. This very often coincides with natural hormone changes in a man around middle age and can cause a variety of symptoms, one of which is irritability.

    For many men the hormone changes are negligible, and they can stay within normal ranges well into their later years.


    Some, however, experience a more substantial decline in testosterone (the primary male sex hormone) and suffer changes that exacerbate what can already be a tumultuous and confusing time of life. Because of this many have erroneously equated the changes men experience to the menopause women experience.

    Although Irritable Male Syndrome can occur around the same time of life a woman experiences menopause, they are physiologically different making the term “menopause” a misnomer when applied to men.

    Is IMS The Same As Midlife Crisis?

    The simple answer is no, a midlife crisis and Irritable Male Syndrome aren’t the same thing.

    It’s a worthy question, however, because they share a number of similarities and can occur around the same time of life.

    IMS encompasses a broader spectrum of changes than what’s typically considered a midlife crisis.

    A man dealing with IMS will likely experience,

    • Hormonal fluctuations

    • Biological changes

    • Sexual problems

    • Psychological issues

    Midlife crisis, on the other hand, is generally considered a psychological response to,

    • Age

    • Social influences

    • Failure to meet personally imposed metrics

    • Perception that time is running out

    A midlife crisis may be a result of IMS or occur on its own, but the two are not one and the same.


    Spotting The Symptoms Of IMS

    So, how do you know if you or the man you love is being affected by Irritable Male Syndrome?

    There are few tell-tale signs to watch for.

    • Irritability. Not surprisingly given the name, irritability is one of the signs of IMS. It’s as though a man becomes hypersensitive to nearly everything, resulting in irritation and snappy or angry responses. For the man experiencing this it can feel like everything, and everyone is coming at you and rubbing you the wrong way.

    • Depression. Depression can be a big factor for men experiencing IMS. This is due to not only biological changes but the circumstantial changes as well. Feeling constantly irritated, tired, frustrated, and dissatisfied can create the right mix for depression to set in. Depression symptoms in men can often manifest as anger, so if the irritability intensifies and turns into inappropriate burst of anger, depression should be on the radar.

    • Fatigue. Most of us lose some stamina as we age, but regular or unexplained fatigue should be investigated and could be an indication of IMS.

    • Decreased sex drive. Since testosterone is a primary sex hormone and it can decline during the middle years, it’s no surprise that decreased libido can occur around the same time IMS can manifest. A dampened sex drive can be a part of irritable male syndrome.

    This can create big problems in a marriage. Not only is intimacy a crucial part of a healthy relationship, the lack of physical interest from a husband towards his wife can leave a wife feeling unloved, unattractive, lonely, and wondering who or what has his interest.

    • Anxiety and uncontrolled worry. The middle years of life are a time of great transition. Men are often facing increased financial stress as kids go to college, retirement looms on the horizon, and age-related problems start to surface.

    The amount of uncertainty that can exist in these years with respect to future financial stability, health, relationships, and unrealized goals can cause severe anxiety in some men. For some men it can result in a full-blown midlife crisis.

    The list of symptoms can vary from man to man, but these are usually the most disruptive ones to a man’s life and relationships. Not all men experience each one, but a combination of any of the above is a cause for concern.


    It should also be noted that simply being irritable doesn’t mean you are experiencing Irritable Male Syndrome. Dr. Kurt sees men whose irritability arises for other reasons but can be just as disruptive.

    According to him,

    'Irritable male' could describe a lot of men at times (myself included - just ask my wife). While the term Irritable Male Syndrome is connected to physiological changes at middle age, you could be an irritable male at other times in life too. If this describes you, then being an irritable man is still a problem, just one with different origins. I've been an irritable male at other times in my life and it wasn't because of my biology. So, if you can relate to having what seems like uncontrollable irritation, frustration, or anger, there are things to learn and tools you can use that will help. I know - I use them and teach them."

    Damage Caused By Irritable Male Syndrome

    Some would argue that the most damage done by Irritable Male Syndrome is to a man’s relationships. And yes, those certainly can suffer. But in my view the area of first and greatest concern is the mental health of the man suffering.

    Too often men find themselves dealing with negative changes without understanding why they’re occurring or what can be done about them. Many assume it’s just what happens and is their new version of normal.

    Unfortunately, because men are less apt to reach out for help or put their feelings into words, those who are suffering with Irritable Male Syndrome can find themselves sliding right into a midlife crisis and the damaging consequences that result.

    If not careful, a man can find himself going from living in a grumpy, irritated state to upending his entire life and making sweeping and likely detrimental long-term changes.

    are just some of the poorly thought-out choices some men make during this difficult time of life.

    It’s worth mentioning again that depression is a serious concern for men suffering from IMS.

    Depression can be very difficult to manage alone, and many men don’t seek the help they need. Left untreated depression can have dire consequences including suicide, so finding the right help for anyone experiencing depression is crucial.

    What You Can Do About Irritable Male Syndrome

    Irritable male syndrome can be managed. It will, however, require a certain level of self-awareness on the part of the man suffering.

    Too often aggravated and discontented behavior in men gets explained away. It can be easy to do as there are a number of normal life stressors that can bring out the irritable male in all of us.

    • Work stress

    • Financial concerns

    • Family pressure

    • Feeling out of shape or unattractive

    Some men even blame their wives transition through menopause as the reason for their irritability.

    So, recognizing that something is wrong and wanting to make a change for the better is your first step.


    Once you’ve done this there are several things that can help you or the man you love get to a better and happier place.

    Some of the most impactful include:

    • Regular exercise

    • Improving sleep

    • Good nutrition

    • Regular social interaction

    • Learning how to express feelings

    And when needed,

    What To Take Away

    There’s no escaping the changes age brings. Whether they’re physical, emotional, or mental, we all experience changes in some form.

    If you or your partner are experiencing symptoms of Irritable Male Syndrome, keep the following things in mind:

    • Irritable Male Syndrome is a real thing, and it affects many men each year.

    • Trying to pretend the changes associated with midlife aren’t happening, or just accepting unhappiness as your new normal isn’t healthy.

    • Without proper attention and intervention, IMS can lead to a midlife crisis.

    • Depression can be associated with IMS and should be taken seriously.

    • There is help available and things can get better.

    Experiencing Irritable Male Syndrome, or feeling generally negative about life at any age, shouldn’t just be accepted. The right changes and help can make a big difference. Rest assured - grumpy men don’t have to stay grumpy.


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