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Is “Irritable Male Syndrome” Real?

by Russell Smith
Sad man syndrome

Lately, you’ve found yourself behaving erratically. On your drive home from work, you yelled at the elderly woman who stopped her car to let the ducks cross the street. Why would she do that when she knows I had to work overtime? You find yourself complaining to your friends about how Steve at work took credit for one of your ideas. That really hurt my feelings! And when your lovely wife wanted to model her lingerie for you at night, you simply huffed and turned away from her. I’m not in the mood, you say.

Sad man doll

What is IMS?

And you’re right – you aren’t in the mood. But perhaps it’s not because you’ve had a bad day; maybe it’s because of your hormones. Like women, men also experience fluctuations in their hormone levels. Although this “male PMS” doesn’t involve bleeding, cramps, or some of the other things that women experience, it is a real condition and it can affect the health and wellbeing of men, their relationships, and their careers.

Fundamentally, the hormonal variations occur throughout the day and can make men irritable, distraught, and turned off. Aside from the natural chemical and physiological changes that occur in men, these oscillations can be caused by a variety of external factors such as stress, poor diet, and lack of sleep. So, if your partner accuses you of being cranky and ill-tempered, you can blame it on your “period.”

Although male PMS isn’t exactly a new discovery, it has been popularized over the past few decades. As a result, this change in male attitude has been given a name: irritable male syndrome (IMS). This condition was coined in 2001 by Dr. Gerald Lincoln, who discovered hormonal fluctuations in male sheep across certain months of the year.

IMS has several symptoms with anger, impatience, dissatisfaction, argumentativeness, lack of enthusiasm, and hostility being at the top of the list. After studying the behavioral changes in various species, experts concluded that Dr. Lincoln’s results could be manifested not just in sheep but also in human males.

Unlike male menopause, which usually occurs mid-life and is a gradual process of testosterone reduction, male PMS can affect men any day and at any age. Although Dr. Lincoln’s study focused on the behavioral changes of sheep over certain seasons, recent studies have shown that IMS can be a daily occurrence.  The testosterone levels of men vary regardless of age, but this fluctuation largely depends on certain factors. For example, high levels of stress have been known to decrease testosterone, which actually affects mood and behavior.

How to Avoid It

Increased stress and the subsequent testosterone reduction also have poor effects on social interactions, which may lead to arguments and other regrettable behavior, both personally and professionally. Things like weight gain and lack of sleep can also affect men’s testosterone levels, too, so treating your body well is of utmost importance in avoiding the negative implications of IMS.

Essentially, living a healthy lifestyle is the most important factor in keeping IMS away. By getting enough sleep, eating healthily, exercising, and engaging in activities that reduce stress, men can fight off symptoms of IMS and participate in healthy relationships with loved ones. Ultimately, when men understand their bodies, they’re more prepared to handle the situations that they encounter. But if living a healthy lifestyle isn’t enough to keep the IMS away, you could always get some advice from your wife about how to make your day better.

And just watch out, because it may involve romantic comedies, ice cream, and facials. So be careful what you wish for…

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