Everyone is challenged by the arrival of this novel Coronavirus in the world. There’s much we still don’t know. But some things are clear: (1) Everyone is living with some degree of anxiety and fear. (2) When men are anxious and afraid, they often become irritable and angry. (3) Untreated male anger is one of the key reasons relationships fall apart. (4) We need more practitioners trained to address these issues.
Coaches, therapists, marriage and family counselors, and other healers and helpers, are on the front-line dealing with the stresses that impact people’s physical, emotional, and relationship health, but are often unprepared to deal with the increasing rage that many men are expressing these days.
In my best-selling books, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression and Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from The Irritable Male Syndrome, I detail the kinds of problems that are becoming increasingly prevalent in the world today and how we can more effectively address them.
One of the most difficult issues to deal with is male anger. Both men and women get angry, but I’ve found that Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS) can undermine even a healthy and loving relationship. The good news is that IMS can be understood and treated. Here’s what you need to know.
1. IMS is very common.
Dr. Gerald Lincoln, who coined, demonstrated that IMS was common in all male mammals and own research showed that it 60-70% of men experienced IMS, particularly as they got older.
2. Hormonal fluctuations and decreasing testosterone increases IMS symptoms
All men lose testosterone as we age. However, for most men testosterone remains within healthy limits and does not cause problems. However, many men’s testosterone levels drop too far and the results are increased irritability, anger, and depression.
3. There are common symptoms which health-care providers often misdiagnose.
I see hear from many men, and their partners, who experience the following symptoms, but don’t understand what is going on:
- Hypersensitivity: Little things will set him off. He can go from Mr. Nice to Mr. Mean in the blink of an eye
- Anxiety: He worries a lot and often finds problems and blames others for his unhappiness.
- Frustration: He has a short fuse and it doesn’t take much to tie him in knots.
- Anger: His anger can be a silence, slow burn, to dirty looks and name calling, to physical acting out and abuse.
4. Low testosterone is only one of five common causes of IMS.
In my research I found there were four other common causes of IMS that needed to be addressed, including the following:
- Changes in brain chemistry, often associated with a diet too high in protein and too low in healthy carbohydrates.
- Chronic stress causes men to become more irritable and angry, often without recognizing the underlying cause.
- Living in a world out of balance with climate change, economic dislocations, loss of biodiversity, and now the arrival of the novel Corona virus causes us all to feel more anxious, frightened, irritable and angry.
- Male roles are changing rapidly. We are asked to be more caring and sensitive, but also more assertive and successful at work.
5. Male irritability and anger are both contributing factors to male depression and also are common, but often unrecognized, symptoms of depression.
When men take out their irritability and anger on others, they feel bad about themselves and it often contributes to depression. Also, depressed men are often more irritable and angrier, but we don’t often recognize these as symptoms of depression. So, too many men remain undiagnosed and untreated.
6. Doctors, psychologists, and other health-care professionals are often not trained to deal with these issues.
I never learned about these issues in my graduate training or PhD program. In fact, I experienced the problems in my own life, but didn’t recognize it until it almost ended my marriage and I finally received help. Many therapists, counselors, coaches, and healers have similar blind spots.
When I reflect on what we can learn from the Coronavirus and how it has impacted our lives, it seems to be asking us to “take a time out” and reflect on our lives and our relationships. It’s clear that our relationships with ourselves, each other, and the world are out of balance and need repair. It’s asking us to look seriously at our career and what we feel called upon to do as we move into the future. What’s calling you?
I look forward to hearing from you. Take care.
P.S. Our world is calling us to take action to create our own better future. Helping men and the families who love them is a core priority. Beginning Monday, I will be accepting applications for the Diamond Certification Program. It’s for healers of all kinds—counselors, coaches, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, teachers, trainers, etc.—who feel called to expand your career so that you can earn more, help more, stress less, and feel more secure personally and professionally. If you’re curious, you can learn more here.
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