Today we are delighted to welcome author and psychotherapist, Dr. Jed Diamond, to our blog for sandwiched boomers. Jed is the author of The Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression. He has been researching this problem for years and has lots of wisdom to share. Now see for yourself:
Nourishing Relationships: How did you discover “Irritable Male Syndrome?”
Dr. Jed Diamond: When doing the research for my book series on “Male Menopause,” I found that the most common symptoms were irritability and anger. Although the media focus was on sexual dysfunction, I found that a much more destructive factor was the emotional disconnection occurring in relationships.
I received many letters from mid-life women expressing their pain and confusion:
“Last January a man came home from work with my husband’s face but he did not act at all like him. I've known this man for 30 years, married 22 of them and have never met THIS guy before. Mean, nasty, and cruel are just a few words to describe him.”
“He blames me for everything these days. If his socks or underwear are missing, I must have put them somewhere or done something with them to piss him off. The thing that bothers me the most is how unaffectionate he has become. My husband used to be the most positive, upbeat, funny person I knew. Now it's like living with an angry brick!”
As a psychotherapist, it broke my heart to see so many mid-life marriages falling apart, just when the couple could be enjoying their lives the most. I knew I needed to understand what was going on.
NR: What exactly is Irritable Male Syndrome and how common is it?
JED: IMS can be defined as a state of hypersensitivity, anxiety, frustration, and anger that occurs in males and is associated with biochemical changes, hormonal fluctuations, stress, and loss of male role identity.
The medical community is notoriously slow in recognizing new problems. However, A few pioneering practitioners are beginning to understand IMS. “IMS is incredibly common—up to 30 percent of men experience it,” says Chrisopher Steidle, M.D., clinical associate professor of urology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
NR: How does someone know if they, or someone they love, are suffering from IMS?
JED: When I was conducting research for the book The Irritable Male Syndrome, I created a questionnaire that I gave to 1,000 men and women. The following 10 symptoms were the most common: Grumpy, Angry, Impatient, Tense, Hostile, Lonely, Stressed, Annoyed, and Touchy.
I put the full questionnaire up on my website at www.IMSquiz.com. Over the last five years more than 40,000 men and 20,000 women have taken the quiz and gotten their scores.
NR: I understand there are different types of IMS. Can you tell us about them?
JED: That was one of the most interesting outcomes of the research study. There were fifty symptoms that we explored and we discovered that they grouped together in fascinating ways. We found that there were 7 different sub-types of IMS: Grumpy, Fearful, Aggressive, Unloved, Jealous, Exhausted, and Impulsive.
NR: How is IMS related to male depression and aggression?
JED: When I began studying IMS, in myself, my clients, and the thousands of people who called and wrote to me, I was struck by the level of violence that was occurring. Although most cases of IMS didn’t lead to the most extreme forms of violence, murder or suicide, there was a great deal of verbal and sometimes physical abuse directed at others. I was also struck by the degree of hostility that was turned inward.
I see IMS as the tip of the iceberg that leads down one side into sadness, depression, and (if not treated), suicide; and down the other side into anger, aggression, and (if not treated), violence.
NR: What can be done to treat IMS?
JED: Fortunately, there are many things that can be done including the following:
1. Heal the sprained brain by restoring the neurotransmitter, serotonin.
Eat protein rich foods such as turkey, chicken, fish, and dairy products. Avoid anti-serotonin foods such as caffeinated sodas, coffee, or “diet sweetened” drinks or foods. Exercise more and get out in the sunshine.
2. Restore testosterone balance. Irritability can come from having too much testosterone (men that use steroids to build up muscles for sports) or too little. Surprisingly most men suffering from IMS have testosterone levels that are too low. Have your doctor test for both free and total testosterone.
3. Lower stress levels. Learn to meditate, take time off from work, or walk in the country. There are many ways to lower stress levels and all will help with IMS.
4. Work with a health-care provider who understands IMS. We are still in the early stages of understanding IMS and there aren’t many practitioners who are trained to deal with it. Find someone who understands the physiological, hormonal, psychological, interpersonal, sexual, and spiritual aspects of IMS.
NR: Are there things a woman can do to help rescue a relationship that is in trouble.
JED: I’ve gotten hundreds of letters from women who want to know what they can do to help the man in their lives, deal with their own wounds, and insure that their relationship survives this difficult period. In response I have written a new book, Mr. Mean:Rescuing Your Relationship from the Irritable Male Syndrome. The book will be out later this year and will address the most critical questions women are asking about IMS. Those who want to be kept informed can sign up at www.TheIrritableMale.com to receive my free e-newsletter.
Now it's your turn, readers - scroll down to 'Comments' on the lower righthand side of this post and follow the prompts to ask Dr. Diamond any questions you may have. And tomorrow we'll do a wrap-up of your concerns and Jed's responses right here. Learn more about Jed and his work - clicking on the title of this post will take you to his website, www.MenAlive.com.