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Guys on ‘periods’?

When a woman gets cranky and moody, the first thought that comes to mind is she could be at that time of the month. But men also go through irritable male syndrome that bears some comparison to hormonal fluctuations experienced during female menstruation

Grace Wachira @yaa_grace

He gets moody and irritable. Is he on periods? You wonder. Well, many are the times that women think that they are the only ones who experience mood swings. The truth is men too, just like women have shifts in their mood structures. This is called Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS).

It aims to explain the frustration, stress, anxiety and hypersensitivity and feelings of loss of male identity that men can experience sometimes. “Interestingly, it bears some comparison to hormonal fluctuations experienced during female menstruation, but this is not to say that they are by any means the same.

IMS can be attributed to men experiencing a drop in testosterone, the hormone that gives them their mojo,” Julie Githiri-Goko, a psychodynamic, psychotherapist and psychosexual therapist explains. Statistics for IMS are difficult to establish as the research tends to be more focused in the West.

This isn’t to mean that this phenomenon doesn’t occur this side of the continent. Testosterone is present in all men, which means IMS is experienced by all men. Men’s IMS can happen at any time.

In the morning testosterone levels will peak. However, in the course of the day, the testosterone levels drop. Julie says that in the body, a certain amount of testosterone gets converted to oestrogen.

“Both men and women have oestrogen and testosterone in their bodies. When men put on weight, the fat cells are more active in converting testosterone into oestrogen. The more oestrogen men have and the less testosterone they have, the more irritable they become and the less sense of their manly strength,” she expounds.

While hormones are thought to be the only way to destabilise men, poor stress management, change in diet and prescribed medication are factors that might cause a dip in testosterone levels.

When these bouts of mood swings kick in, take note of personal changes in mood and feelings. “These are occurrences that may have a pattern during the course of every month. Learn your hormonal cycle.

Learn how to get endorphins moving through exercise,” Julie says. Talking to your significant other or visiting a doctor may help. “Stereotypically, men tend to be more macho, which can make it hard for them to be vulnerable.

So, when a man starts displaying symptoms of IMS such as anger or stress, he might just retreat and not talk about his feelings. But these are the times to talk about the internal fluctuations to mood swings,” she notes.

While women easily meet with their fellow women and let things off their chests, the same cannot be said for men. As men are going through IMS, it is encouraged that they get an open forum for men to disclose their insecurities in a safe environment with other men.

“For years, women have routinely met to talk through issues and have shared concerns and personal worries, this is something men don’t necessarily do unless it involves a relaxant such as alcohol.

These kind of discussions help men feel stable at that moment, but worsen his state later,” she cites. While IMS may appear a new phenomena, it’s not uncommon for men to have fluctuations in hormones.

Teenagers, both girls and boys go through puberty hormones fluctuations. Later on, as women experience menopause, men may experience male menopause, known as andropause.

“In Andropause, which starts from around age 40, testosterone levels drop by one per cent per year. Some of the symptoms can include fatigue and loss of interest in sex,” she says. To avoid being caught off guard, Julie recommends that men become more aware of their bodies.

“This will increase your feelings of empowerment as opposed to making you feel weak as a man. Culturally, African men cannot express their challenges and difficulties without it impinging on their masculinity. It is time we allow this to change and for men to explore their feelings,” Julie says.

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