First it is a reassessment of where you have been in life followed by a change in where you are going.
Second it is a physical change. Your body is changing and the male hormone – testosterone – that makes you male is not being produced at the levels you formerly knew. This change is frequently called “andropause” or "male menopause".
Third, it is an emotional change. There is nothing to be ashamed about undergoing emotional change. Many men in midlife transition experience deep depression yet we demand we "be strong" and many men fail to get help through this time of change. Neither do we care to speak about how we are feeling. This emotional change however, is very deep seated and very real. A man that has experienced such change is often radically transformed into being more of a man than he has ever been before.
LETS TALK ABOUT SEX!
There is so much written today about woman's midlife changes surrounding menopause but how about men? Do men undergo similar changes in their bodies? Recent studies released by Therapist - Terrence Real and Author – Jed Diamond would say “yes”.
Man's changes are much more subtle in that physical change stretches over a period of time. The male hormone – testosterone is “all about sex, baby” and has been the driving influence for much of his life all the way up to midlife.
At midlife a man is coming to grips with the fact that his youthful vigor is very simply no longer there as in his earlier years. Testosterone production has been tapering off all those years through his twenties and then thirties and while his mind is telling him that the action should be there when he feels like having sex the body isn’t as cooperative; or even the reverse may be true.
Lets Talk about MIDLIFE CRISIS
A man in midlife crisis is tired. He is tired of his tired body, he is tired of keeping up with demands upon him, and he is tired of the demands on his time. He has had it with increasing pressures at work. He's like a hamster, caught in his cage, running on his wheel, he has to keep running or he will lose his balance...
The midlife man is in transition. He looks back at life up until now and measures it against his remaining life. He reassesses his goals and finds them seemingly out of reach, his accomplishments and finds them wanting in the balance. When he determines that life is “like a box of chocolates” but his chocolate has been “laxative” instead, he becomes primed for depression and a midlife crisis.
Male depression is significantly different from female depression. You don’t often see what could be considered usual signs but you see it in the effect it produces. The man in midlife is supposed to be strong and to him – depression is evidence of weakness. Instead of getting help the midlife man begins to “self-medicate” his condition with a variety of “feel-good” antidotes. When he masks all his feelings of depression the result is that his condition at best is often misunderstood and at its worst – misdiagnosed. This man is in midlife crisis!
Looking back over his life the MLC man recalls happier moments and happier times. He often begins to grasp for these moments and attempt to reintroduce them into his life as “feel good antidotes” to his depression. He may lengthen his hair, buy a new and much younger wardrobe, trade in the minivan for a sports car, enter the party life, and even have an affair. These things are done to “self-medicate” his depression. Although he appears to be "having a good time" his reality is much different - what is seen is the façade and often he will create this fantasy life in secret.
Wives of men in midlife crisis suffer traumatically during this phase of transition by not understanding him or the changes he is making. If his “MLC” leads to an affair – many are hurt painfully in his wake. The incidence of divorce increase at midlife.
Equally misunderstood about MLC is that it is a transition. A temporary state that at it's best lasts only a few months; while at its worst could last a decade. Survival is critical for the MLC man, his spouse and family. The men's forum has open discussion on the phases of midlife and of your personal crisis.
Understanding Midlife Crisis really means to understand the Male Menopause.
MALE MENOPAUSE / ANDROPAUSE/MIDLIFE MALE DEPRESSION
The term “male menopause” is really a misnomer; we know this, yet for the sake of simplicity and the use of common terms to communicate understanding we will keep the term and permit ‘researchers’ of this topic to embrace understanding as to why. Another popular word for this is “andropause” which also is a misnomer. During a 2006 convention in Amsterdam the real “term” for this condition came under review. Dr. A Morales of Canada gave the following proposal - Men, as they age, often develop symptoms of increased fatty girth, decreased muscle mass and erectile dysfunction along with other negative bodily changes.
For many men, it is clear that these changes parallel decreases in serum testosterone levels. Hence, the syndrome has been called variously “Andropause”, “Androgen Decline in the Aging Male (ADAM)” or “Late Onset Hypogonadism (LOH)” or by other terms.
Now, Dr. A. Morales of Canada and several other colleagues from throughout the world propose to unify the name of the syndrome as Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome.
The authors present compelling arguments for the acceptance of this name. They prefer the use of testosterone rather than androgen, since it is the active and measured agent.
They also point out that, although the process of TDS is more common in midlife or older men, it is not restricted to that age group. It can be linked descriptively as necessary to other diseases through the use of dual terminology, e.g. TDS in Diabetics. They therefore urge acceptance of this term as a means of standardizing the nomenclature for future use.
We at MIDLIFE-TRANSITION.COM however are motivated much differently; we aim to communicate “understanding” to the populace without splitting hairs over the descriptive terms. Lets just call it “male menopause” or ‘andropause’ for now and kick in the proper terms later on.
ANDROPAUSE- what is it?
With a casual look in the dictionary you probably wouldn’t find it. So what is it? Well, the medical dictionary calls andropause “An age-related decline in serum testosterone levels in older men to below the normal range in young men that is associated with a clinical syndrome (i.e., symptoms and signs) consistent with androgen (testosterone) deficiency".
Don’t let this definition scare you though; decreasing levels of testosterone production in the male body is normal to aging. The drop off in testosterone production begins as early as your college years. It normally occurs so gradually that a man in his twenties through thirties will seldom even notice. This decline however becomes more important to a man as he reaches midlife.
With recent generations of men experiencing a much longer life span than the generations prior the midlife issues that we face today are common to men between the ages of 34 to 60, give or take a year or two. Andropause (also called “male menopause) is one such issue that requires our attention.
Author Jed Diamond, in his book Male Menopause says “the most common problem associated with male menopause is depression which is closely related to impotence and problems with male sexuality.”
It is expected that “approximately 40% of men in their 40s, 50s and 60s will experience some degree of difficulty in attaining and sustaining erections, lethargy, depression, increased irritability, and mood swings that characterize male menopause.”
The symptoms of depression in men remain more often unrecognized. The menalive website reports that there are several reasons for this:
A. The symptoms of male depression are different than the classic symptoms we think of as depression.
B. Men deny they have problems because they are supposed to "be strong".
C. Men deny they have a problem with their sexuality and don't understand the relationship with depression.
D. The symptom cluster of male depression is not well known so family members, physicians, and mental health professionals fail to recognize it.
Male depression has devastating consequences;as indicated in Jed Diamond's book Male Menopause:
80% of all suicides in the US are men.
The male suicide rate at midlife is three times higher; for men over 65, seven times higher
The history of depression makes the risk of suicide seventy-eight times greater (Sweden)
20 million American will experience depression sometimes in their lifetime
60-80% of depressed adults never get professional help
It can take up to ten years and three health professionals to properly diagnose this disorder
80-90% of people seeking help get relief from their symptoms.
"We see them as bad boys rather than sad boys"
Harvard psychologist William Pollack, Ph.D insists that depression is vastly under-diagnosed in men. “When the body count is taken, depression may be as common among men as it is among women, although current dogma holds that depression favors women two to one.” Dr. Pollack and others contend that culture goes to work early on boys to suppress their real rate of suffering. "Boys are trained in ways that make it likely they get depression later. If it doesn't destroy their relationships sooner, it shows up by midlife. Midlife crisis is a euphemism for male-based depression."
Terence Real, MSW, of the Family Institute of Cambridge reports concerning male and female depression that there are many men who experience the "classic" signs of depression, too. But there is a difference even in them, they hide it. Their shame at having feelings inconsistent with the male role silences them. They suffer a compound depression--on top of their now-hidden depression they are depressed about feeling depressed.
Even more men exhibit what Terence Real calls covert depression. "You don't see the depression itself but the defensive maneuverings men use to evade or assuage it," says Real.
The Signs include:
Self-medication. First and foremost is drinking, but also abuse of other drugs.
Risk-taking, including compulsive gambling, womanizing, and acts of bravado that show up as high rates of accidental death. These are "desperate acts" that both numb the pain and show the world "I'm a real man" by denial of vulnerability. "We see them as bad boys rather than sad boys."
Radical isolation. Men withdraw from relationships, from their wives.
Lashing out. This can run the gamut from increased irritability to domestic violence.
Women internalize depression and tend to blame themselves; men tend to externalize distress and blame others. Men move into action--and distraction.
To sum things up, men tend to mask their depression by external actions that we use to numb the pain we feel inside and in order that we not disclose ourselves to the world. This self-medication tends to work at forcing the depressed feelings “under ground”. When the self medicating stops the depression is still there. This self medicating is commonly called “Midlife Crisis”.
Differences between Male and Female depression
Men are more likely to act out their inner turmoil while women are more likely to turn their feelings inward. This list from Jed Diamond's book Male Menopause illustrates these differences.
Feel others are to blame
Feel anxious and scared
Feel suspicious and guarded
Avoids conflicts at all costs
Feel sad, apathetic, and worthless
Feel angry, irritable, and ego inflated
Always tries to be nice
Overtly or covertly hostile
Withdraws when feeling hurt
Attacks when feeling hurt
Has trouble with self respect
Demands respect from other
Feels they were born to fail
Feels the world set them up to fail
Slowed down and nervous
Restless and agitated
Compulsive time keeper
Sleeps too much
Sleeps too little
Trouble setting boundaries
Needs control at all costs
Feels guilty for what they do
Feels ashamed for who they are
Uncomfortable receiving praise
Frustrated if not praised enough
Finds it easy to talk about weaknesses and doubts
Terrified to talk about weaknesses and doubts
Strong fear of success
Strong fear of failure
Needs to "blend in" to feel safe
Needs to be "top dog" to feel safe
Uses food, friends, and "love" to self-medicate
Uses alcohol, TV, sports, and sex to self medicate
Believe their problems could be solved only if they could be a better (spouse, co-worker, parent, friend)
Believe their problems could be solved only if their (spouse, co-worker, parent, friend) would treat them better