Is my husband going through "male menopause"? Lately he's been irritable and moody, but when I ask him about it he says he can't put a finger on anything. We're both in our mid-fifties, and I remember that when I went through menopause I felt a lot like my husband seems to be feeling now. Could he be going through a male version of what I experienced?
"Male menopause" is a term that has been used a lot, but the physiological changes that occur with aging in males are quite different from what happens in females. So different, in fact, that many experts take the view that male menopause is nothing but a myth. Others, however, don't dismiss the term altogether. Either way, the changes men experience as they age are very real and are worth recognizing.
In women, menopause is caused by the decreasing production of estrogen and progesterone by the ovaries. As production of these hormones decreases, menstrual periods become irregular and finally cease altogether. In fact, a woman is said to have reached menopause when she has gone one year without a menstrual period. Because a menopausal woman no longer has menstrual periods, she can no longer have a baby. In the U.S. menopause occurs, on average, around age 51. In addition to the loss of fertility, women in menopause often experience a range of other signs and symptoms – hot flashes, sweating (especially at night), sleep disturbances, irritability, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating, among other things.
With males, aging presents issues that are generally quite different. Men, too, experience a decreased production of sex hormones (in this case, testosterone). But whereas hormone production drops off fairly quickly in women approaching menopause, in most men it is much more gradual, and the effects appear less dramatic. For example, while women are unable to have children when they reach menopause there are numerous examples of men fathering children in their 70s and 80s.
Nevertheless, men with low testosterone may deal with a number of problems: erectile dysfunction, reduced sex drive, and changes in sleep pattern (either insomnia or needing more sleep). Fatigue and lack of energy are sometimes experienced. Decreased testosterone levels can contribute to a tendency to lose muscle mass and gain body fat. And as hormones drop men may experience depression, irritability and trouble concentrating.
So where does this leave you and your husband? Could he be experiencing the effects of low testosterone? We can't say for sure, but we would recommend that if your husband is bothered by any of the symptoms listed above, he should discuss the matter with his primary care physician, especially since symptoms of low testosterone can sometimes be caused by other medical conditions.
It's also important to recognize that the irritability and moodiness you've see in your husband may have nothing to do with testosterone deficiency or any other physical condition. They may be due to things such as stress or unresolved emotional or relational issues. Many men, and women as well, go through a period of reflection and adjustment at this stage of life. The services of a licensed Christian counselor could be extremely valuable in identifying and working through issues like these that may be affecting your husband.
Call us. Focus on the Family's Counseling department can provide you with referrals to qualified professionals in your area. They would also be happy to assist you or your husband by discussing the situation over the phone.
Men in Midlife Crisis