Mental Health: Irritable Male Syndrome (cont.)

MODERATOR:
Are you sure this shouldn't be called Typical Male Syndrome? (Sorry, your male moderator couldn't resist)

DIAMOND:
There really are humorous aspects that can be typical. There is a question, "How can you tell if a male has IMS?" and the answer is, if you ask, "Can you please pass me the salt," and he replies, "Take, take, take, that's all you ever do!"

It's so baffling to the people that live with the men because it seems to be happening without any seeming cause. And that's what we try to do through the quiz and questionnaire and the research, is to help people understand what's going on so we can treat it and help save the millions of relationships that this problem is destroying.

MEMBER QUESTION:
What are the nine types of IMS you mentioned?

DIAMOND:
Again, I recommend that you go to the web site and take the quiz to identify them. Here are some examples:

  • One is more irritable. The fuming, the frustration that gets turned inward. The guy that's at slow boil.
  • A second type is more aggressive. The men might blow up without provocation and start yelling, or they may become physically violent.
  • A third common type is withdrawal. That man seems to not want to interact in his important relationships. He seems to disappear, and there's a question of, where did the man that I love disappear to? Where has my best friend gone to?

So I would, again, recommend that people check out for themselves which type they may have in their lives, so you can recognize the various options available for help.

MEMBER QUESTION:
So how does a man come to recognize that it's not the boss, the highway, or the White House that's driving him, when he's denying his own contribution?

DIAMOND:
Men tend to learn about this slowly over time.

  • The first way men often learn about it is they begin to recognize that even though it may appear that the problem is outside themselves, their reaction seems to be overly drawn. He seems to be too angry for the situation.
  • Step two is that he begins to see that regardless of the cause, the relationships that are important to him are suffering.
  • Thirdly, he begins to see that there is something that can account for these problems without him feeling even worse about himself. People say that when they take the test, they find out they're not crazy, and it helps them accept that it's something real.
  • And finally, when they recognize there are so many things they can do to make things better, they're more willing to accept that there's a problem.

MODERATOR:
This question is a good example of what you just mentioned about overreacting.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I get angry so easily, in traffic, when something I'm trying to put together doesn't work, when I burn toast! I wasn't always like this. I'm in my mid-30s and don't have any particular life problems, but something has definitely changed in me. Is this a sign of IMS and what can I do about it?

DIAMOND:
Yes. What we know is that any time a man starts having these added kinds of irritable responses, when that has not been typical of him before, we suspect IMS. We then follow that up by having the man, or person that cares about him, take the quiz that gives us more detailed information, and it also begins to help us see what we can do to improve things.

What people can do, depending on what their particular issues are, can range anywhere from changing diet to shifting exercise programs, to stress reduction and relaxation practices, to checking hormone levels. And I do a great deal of counseling in my own practice in my office here in Northern California, by phone, and by email to help guide men and their partners through the steps of healing.

"We don't need to go back to some kind of idealized, pseudo manly persona in order to be manly. What we do need is a clearer sense of purpose in our lives."

MEMBER QUESTION:
You said one of the factors in IMS was loss of male identity. Could you explain what you mean by that? Surely you don't mean that men should have to go back to being Ward Cleaver or Matt Dillon in order to be real men?

DIAMOND:
No indeed. We don't need to go back to some kind of idealized, pseudo manly persona in order to be manly. What we do need is a clearer sense of purpose in our lives, a sense of direction of what it means to be a man at this time in the human experiment on the planet; these are difficult times to be a man. And finally, we need a greater degree of support and appreciation of manhood in all its various manifestations.

I've found that the traditional men's support groups, which started in many cases in the late 1800s -- the elks clubs, lions clubs, etc., where men could come together to talk, joke, and just be together, weren't originally clubs to make money. But those have changed now. Not only have they lost their support aspect, they've become more business oriented. And, of course, they now allow women members. So we need places where men can be in group situations with other males. I've been in a men's group that's been meeting for 25 years now. And I believe it's one of the absolutely essential elements of support that men need today.

MEMBER QUESTION:
It seems part and parcel of a much larger problem - we're not adapting quickly enough to our rapidly changing societal environment, perhaps?

DIAMOND:
Yes, I think that's a perceptive observation, that we are moving into a world where things are changing much more rapidly than the human psyche is able to adapt. And in many ways, we're creating an environmental catastrophe by the way we're using our natural resources. And clearly, unless we change the way we utilize our resources, humans are going to have an increasingly stressful and difficult time living on the planet over the next 20 to 30 years.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I believe my husband of 23 years is going through something like this, with lack of interest in everything that he once liked. He is unsure if and what is making him unhappy or what can be done to make himself happy, and not sure if after 23 years he is in love with me. What can I do if he is unwilling to seek professional help? He seems depressed and uninterested in everything that once made him happy. He has devoted all his energy to his job instead. Are there vitamins, etc. that I can give him to help him?

DIAMOND:
I get literally thousands of letters and emails from women that experienced these common elements:
  • Number one, my husband has changed.
  • Number two, he seems much more unhappy than he's ever been before.
  • Number three, he tells me that he loves me, but he's not in love with me anymore.
  • And four, he doesn't know what to do.

For starters, what I tell women is that you have to be willing to get some help for yourself to know how to deal with these issues. You have to know when and how to be supportive of him; you need to know how to best take care of yourself; you need to know when to insist that he come with you to get help, and when to leave the decision to him. These are the kinds of issues I work with people every day to help answer and solve these kinds of problems.

MEMBER QUESTION:
What kinds of diet changes are you talking about as possible treatment for IMS?

DIAMOND:
There is an important need to be able to make some strategic decisions about the level at which a man may need help. For instance, when a man is acting very depressed and saying he doesn't feel that life has much to offer, or he's saying he feels that there's nothing here in this relationship, that's not the time to talk about diet or nutrition. That's the time to get involved with a professional therapist to deal with more possible depression that could be life threatening.

That's why it's important to not try to diagnose yourself or hope it works out by itself. These issues need professional understanding and guidance.

Having said that, there are many things we can do with diet, both things that we should be eating to help, and things we should not be eating that contribute to IMS. For instance, we know that one of the causes of IMS is a low testosterone level. We also know that the more weight a man puts on, which is a problem for many of us in society, the lower his testosterone level will become. So anything a man can do to lose those inches around his waist, not only helps him look better, feel better, and live longer, it will help eliminate the IMS.

MEMBER QUESTION:
If I went to my family doctor with your book in hand and said I think I have this, would he take me seriously?

DIAMOND:
If he's smart he will. What I found when wrote my book, Male Menopause , which has been translated into 20 foreign languages and is a national bestseller, was that initially doctors were reluctant to take the information seriously. Now, increasingly, doctors understand these issues, and many are open to treat them.

For the most part, until doctors actually read the book and understand it, they may be reluctant to be supportive of their patients who recognize the problem and want to do something about it. That's why I try to link people with physicians in their area that might be responsive to treating these kinds of problems.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Who do you see first, your family doctor or psychotherapist?

DIAMOND:
I always recommend people have a relationship with their family doctor, because many of the aspects of these problems can be psychologically based. I also recommend that people have a regular psychotherapist that they go to periodically, because many aspects of life have a psychological base.

Ideally, there would be one clinician we could go to that's trained in all aspects of men's health. Just as women go to see a gynecologist, I would like to see a time when males have a doctor that speaks to the unique needs that men have. And perhaps we'd call him a guy necologist. There actually is a medical specialty that's called andrology and a specialty called andrologist. But it's more common in Europe than in the United States.

"I get literally hundreds of letters a day, mostly from wives and girlfriends that say, 'This is him. How did you know? Have you been listening in on our private conversations?'"

MEMBER QUESTION:
What is the effect of alcohol/smoking on the possibility of getting IMS, or the worsening of it if you have it?

DIAMOND:
Alcohol, smoking, medications, drugs of different kinds, can contribute to IMS in a number of ways. As I mentioned, they can affect hormone levels, they can affect the biochemistry in the brain, they can affect our stress levels, and they can also contribute to IMS or exacerbate it in people that have it. We know, for instance, that people who drink too much can become more irritable and angry, and in some cases, more violent.

MODERATOR:
What kind of feedback are you getting from wives and girlfriends about your book?

DIAMOND:
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Twenty four hours after the book came out, it got to No. 5 on the Amazon bestseller list. It's in its second printing after being out for two weeks.

I get literally hundreds of letters a day, mostly from wives and girlfriends that say, "This is him. How did you know? Have you been listening in on our private conversations?" And once having gotten the book and reading it and taking action, I get letters saying, "Thank God I got this in time, because this has saved our marriage."

Unfortunately, I also get letters from people who say, "I wish I'd gotten this book five years ago. It may have saved our marriage had I known these things." That's why I'm so committed to getting this message out, and get people to go to the web site to not only find out if you have it, but I have a free newsletter that people can sign up for to keep you posted to various issues related to IMS. Again, that's www.theirritablemale.com.

MEMBER QUESTION:
It seems impossible for parents to prepare children for a future that is so unknown. What advice would you give parents that might help them pave a more flexible road for their children to travel?

DIAMOND:
I think there are two models that we have in this country about raising children. One is a nurturing, caring, supportive model, and the other is a stricter model.

What we've learned in research over the years is that a strict disciplinary model will push people to obedience, but will lead boys, particularly, over time toward a more angry and aggressive position in the world. The nurturing model will lead to more caring, more interactive nurturing way of being with wives, girlfriends, and children when they have children. Hopefully, parents can move towards a nurturing model for parenting.

MODERATOR:
We are almost out of time. Before we wrap things up for today, do you have any final words for us, Jed?

DIAMOND:
I really encourage people to write in, if you want to contact me. You can do that through the web site, and I'd enjoy hearing from you.

MODERATOR:
Our thanks to Jed Diamond, MSW, for joining us. For more information, please read his newest book, The Irritable Male Syndrome .

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