MALE MENOPAUSE - When a man's behaviour alters considerably in middle age, this is often referred to as the ‘male menopause'. But anxiety about growing older is the usual cause - not any hormonal changes - and reassurance is all that is needed
Q All of a sudden my 50-year-old husband has lost interest in sex. Is this the male menopause?
A Since the male menopause is more a psychological state than a medical condition, his loss of interest is likely to be due to another cause, especially since it is sudden. Fears about his future, his financial status, his job, his health, his acceptance by others, or about you r love for him and his ability to make you sexually happy are far more likely as causes for anxiety which can reduce his interest in sex. Reassurance is what he needs most.
Q Do men go through similar hormonal changes to women at middle age?
A No. The hormonal changes that occur in a woman at the menopause can be quite dramatic: hormone production diminishes unevenly and finally settles at a lower level within two or three years. In men, hormone production starts to decrease very slowly at about the age of 40 and goes on doing so slowly over the next 20 to 30 years. In any case, adult men produce about ten times as much male sex hormone as they need, so the gradual decline seldom bears much relation to their sexual behaviour.
Q My father has suddenly become faddy about food and very concerned about maintaining a youthful appearance. Is this a male menopause symptom?
A Probably. These are fairly common behaviour changes which occur when men are in their late forties. What he is really saying is, 'Please reassure me that I still look attractive.' So try to do that!
Q A friend of mine says that the male menopause was invented by men to excuse middle-age bad temper, depression and infidelity. Is she right?
A Certainly some use any excuse for selfish behaviour, just as some women blame their selfishness on 'nerves'. In fact, the anxieties that some men suffer in middle age are often very real.
Coming to terms with the physical changes that occur with ageing is for some a disturbing process, but it must be done. In middle age, some men become obsessed with proving that they have not lost their sexual prowess.
Far from being a time of life when a man becomes less active, the male menopause can signal new activities and interests.
When a man reaches middle age, a number of events in his life may make him feel tense, uneasy, depressed, uncertain of himself and at odds with those around him. Some men attribute these feelings to the 'male menopause', but they may be in error. For doctors doubt that the male menopause is a physical reality as it is with women. Rather, the symptoms a man feels may simply be a result of his becoming more aware of certain physical changes, and coming under social, psychological and domestic pressures which occur with middle age.
Some men suffer from no menopausal symptoms, while others seem particularly prone to them-especially the insecure, anxious and defensive types. Their symptoms may arise from a variety of causes, sometimes in combination. Some men find that they have reached the highest rung on the promotional ladder and cannot go further. Or others, having passed the milestones of marriage, setting up home and having a family, may begin to wonder what the future holds. Others may have become over-accustomed to the ways of their sexual partner, and begin to question whether their powers of sexual attraction and performance are as good as they once were.
Two types of men have been found to be more obviously at risk: workaholics who have used their work as a defense against anxiety, and men whose self-image is largely dependent on the approval of those around them. However, any man who has not achieved self-confidence and personal satisfaction will react more intensely to changes and pressures.
Emotional symptoms are by far the most common. A man may suddenly become depressed about his job, family or future. He begins to lose concentration and his memory may begin to fail him. He may become irritable, forcing his family and friends to become more careful about what they say to him. Often he is critical of those around him and resentful of the demands made upon him by his wife and family. His moods may swing enormously - from lethargy to great activity.
Apart from, or accompanying, these may be sexual difficulties: problems in getting or maintaining an erection, loss of interest in sex or in his sexual partner or, on the other hand, a sudden increase in desire and a turning to younger women.
Finally, there may be physical changes: sudden unexpected hot flushes, palpitations and sometimes sleeplessness. Although these resemble the symptoms of the female menopause, they are not, in men, a reflection of a change of hormonal balance, and are probably attributable to changes in blood pressure and emotional upset and tension.
Some men can become so self-obsessed that they become severely depressed or, alternatively, completely revamp their lives, when no such drastic alteration was needed. This can have a disturbing effect, not only on the man, but also on his family, friends and colleagues.
Treatment and outlook
There are no drugs to treat menopausal symptoms, but in severe cases, anxiety reducing drugs may be effective.
Of far more importance is the realization for a man that ageing is not the end of everything. Time and thought should be spent on coming to terms with this, and with achievements and failures. Planning for the future will give the man something to look forward to.
Marriages are sometimes at their most vulnerable when the partners are middle-aged, and both partners may feel resentful at needing to understand and be understood by the other. However, often all that is needed is for the couple to talk about their frustrations, depressions and anxieties and recognize that they both need reassurance about their attractiveness and sexual abilities.
The man who successfully weathers the male menopause, either without experiencing symptoms or learning to cope adequately with them, generally acquires a precious degree of self acceptance and closeness to his partner that many may envy. His sexual life will by no means have faded entirely, for many men continue to enjoy love-making until well into old age. He will have come to terms with his anxieties, thereby gaining a contentment which will stand him in good stead as he grows older.
Coping with male menopause
• If your physical symptoms seem to arise from a medical cause, see your doctor immediately.
• Don't dwell on your past: try to concentrate on an enriched future.
• Keep yourself fit with a well-balanced diet and regular exercise.
• Don’t pretend that you are younger than you are by adopting a trendy hairstyle or clothing: this only draws attention to your real age.
• If anxiety becomes overwhelming, either see your doctor, who may prescribe anti-depressant drugs; or take up yoga or meditation.
• Speak to your partner about any sexual problems. Don’t let the situation ride till the point where communication becomes impossible. If troubles persist seek advice from your doctor or a psychosexual therapist.
Taken from The Marshall Cavendish A – Z GUIDE IN WEEKLY PARTS - DOCTOR’S ANSWERS – FOR ALL YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR FAMILY’S HEALTH - PART 41, Male menopause, Page 1113 - 1114.
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