Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS)

Yes, Irritable Male Syndrome is a real thing. Although every woman out there has known for a long time that it was real, it is now finally officially being recognized as a health/behavioral issue.

I am doing research and building content for a presentation on male hormones and insulin resistance, and find this whole topic was a big eye-opener for me. It seems that IMS can be seen as a type of precursor to depression, or even a male version of depression.

The one size fits all approach that is unfortunately often used in medicine and health can often do some real harm. Depression is a perfect example. To classify and identify depression for both men and women, we only use one standardized protocol. Why would we do this, especially for anything that has both a hormonal and behavioral component? It is after all well known that men and women are distinctly different in this respect.

From a cultural perspective, depression is approached as a woman thing. There are unfortunately still many that feel that it is not masculine to feel or be depressed. Using current standardized protocols, it appears as if women are statistically twice as likely to have depression. According to two Danish studies, however, if you add irritability and anger criteria to the protocol, the ratio evens out to 1 to 1.

If it is considered that depression is the number one cause of disability globally and that it claims more years of life than war, cancer, and AIDs combined, and we combine this with depression’s significant involvement in other health and behavioral issues, depression may just turn out to be the biggest killer on earth! It is therefore pretty clear that this issue needs to be given much more attention. (Book: Noonday Demon).

How did we miss this big discrepancy? I think the main reason is that the symptoms were simply blown off as stress. “When men experience depression, it is more likely to appear as a loss of concentration, anger outbursts, withdrawal, and sleep disruption, and identified as stress-related and not depression.” Rebecca Voelker, “Depression: A Somber Issue for Women.”

If we look at depression in this way, we make it a woman thing, and this results in it becoming less masculine for men to speak about it. When men then do speak up, we miss it and call it to stress instead. This is not good if we consider the disability issue and that men’s suicide rates outnumber women in every age group ranging from 3:1 (5 to 14 years old) to 15:1 (over 85). CDC

A shortlist of IMS criteria is given below:

  • Grumpy
  • Angry
  • Gloomy
  • Impatient
  • Tense
  • Hostile
  • Lonely
  • Stressed at Home
  • Annoyed
  • Touchy
  • Stressed at Work
  • Overworked
  • Unloved
  • Jealous

If a man regularly displays 6 or more of these behaviors, they might definitely want to give it more attention. Oh, and men, to get some true perspective, you might want to ask your wife or a close female friend to answer these about YOU. And yes, I personally qualified and for me, it was a powerful new motivation to learn more.

I find all of this fascinating. Let me know what you think.

We can do better!