Does a male menopause really exist? And if it does, what does it look like? We got answers from an expert on the topic, psychotherapist Noel McDermott
Male menopause isn’t a medical condition itself, but it does describe age-related symptoms often caused by physical, lifestyle or psychological problems. Here psychotherapist Noel McDermott looks at the life transitions that take place during male middle age.
Older men in their late 40s and early 50s are usually affected, with many developing erectile dysfunction, loss of sex drive, depression and other emotional and physical symptoms usually linked to declining testosterone levels and ageing.
What makes male and female menopause different?
Both male menopause and female menopause relate to changes in reproductive health and reproductive status, but male menopause does not have the same level of biological transition.
Perimenopause is when women see most physical changes with the body reducing the production of oestrogen and what happens when that drops. However, In men there is no equivalent hormonal process as testosterone levels don’t drop in the same way.
There is neither the defined medical changes nor the specific time and age that defines female menopause. Nevertheless, male menopause or andropause aggregates a number of important life transitions that take place during male middle age.
Read more: How to support your partner during menopause
What happens during male menopause?
During this time of a man’s life, other changes are noticeable such as mood swings, reduced ability to exercise, muscle loss, changes in body shape—fat redistribution such as pot belly and "man boobs", concentration, and memory issues. Some of these developments may be down to mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, or a result of stress and therefore actually have nothing to do with male menopause.
In terms of body shape changes and loss of muscle mass whilst this is true of older age, it’s not necessarily the case for middle-aged men. In fact, it’s highly recommended that middle-aged and older men engage in load-bearing exercise using weight or calisthenic-based activities such as yoga.
Strength-based exercise in later life is a very positive thing to do as it reduces problems with bones and joints in particular. Many men may lose interest in weights if they don’t see commensurate muscle growth leading to a vicious cycle of reduced resistance work. Developing greater insight into how these forms of workouts contribute more widely to health and wellbeing can help bridge the motivation gap.
Erectile dysfunction and male menopause
Erectile dysfunction (ED) and diminished sexual function can cause a significant amount of psychological distress for many males.
Some of the midlife changes men go through are linked to reproductive health and many can experience issues around erectile dysfunction, something which can also be affected by lifestyle.
As a rule, many men don’t get support from their doctors as they don’t like asking for help and find it psychologically distressing. In the UK recently removed the medication for ED from prescription to over-the-counter, mostly to stop the risky buying of the medications online. Changes to your lifestyle by eating better, exercising, cutting down on alcohol and giving up smoking and psychological therapy can help with ED and lower libido.
Men traditionally shy away from psychological support or any activities that provide support, however spending time with your mates at work or play is in fact psychological or supportive. As men go through these life transitions it is important that they make time to normalise feelings and emotions and reach out to friends and loved ones for support. These changes can interfere with everyday life and overall happiness, so it's important to find the underlying cause and try to resolve it.
How should male menopause be treated?
Without a doubt, the best therapy in life is the company and support of other humans that we care about and who care about us. The herd is where we feel safe and where we get the biggest boosts in terms of our health and wellbeing.
Simply being in the company of those we like when we are troubled will reduce our stress responses to our troubles. For men this is often the best approach, activity-based support works better for men, and they will open up to each other during these contacts normalising the changes they are going through. Also, talking with your partner about how you feel will help, use this opportunity to help them understand how you feel and what they can do to support you.
Noel McDermott (above) is a Psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care, and education. He has created unique, mental health services in the independent sector. Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual.
Read more: How to cope with erectile problems
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