Is it a crisis?
Is it fact or fiction?
Go and Google “How to cope with Menopause” and you will find pages and pages of resources to help you, groups on Facebook, and forums. Try and do the same for “Andropause”. The word might not even be in your vocabulary as something that even exists.
The fact is, from the age of around 40, possibly earlier, the testosterone levels in men reduces by around 1% a year†. This is a gradual decline, as opposed to the much swifter impact experienced by women in menopause.
It’s kind of like the story of two frogs. The first frog is put in a saucepan of water, and gradually, slowly, the temperature of the water is increased. The changes are so slight, the frog fails to notice, and ends up dying from the hot temperature. Conversely, had the frog jumped into the hot water, it would immediately jump out, knowing it was not safe.
Like the slowly increasing water temperature, the slow decreases in testosterone are hardly noticed, but, over time, they begin to have impacts.
But the midlife “crisis” – what impact do hormones play?
It’s not all that clear but it’s good to be aware of what’s going on, and, importantly, what you can do about it.
Here are some of the cited changes to men in mid-life (generally from the 40s to the 50s).
- Loss of libido (sex drive)
- Depression characterised by low moods, feelings of sadness and lethargy
- Erectile dysfunction (impotence)
Some men may also be affected by:
Stiffness in the muscles and joints, night sweats, dry skin, hair loss, weight gain or a loss of ability to recover quickly from injuries.
In some cases, the impacts can be positive, as it creates a sense of urgency. In these cases, men are driven to keep on being active, sometimes even more active than they were before.
But for many, the impacts are debilitating, and as a gender, men traditionally keep their feelings to themselves.
So why does it matter?
Based on the Office of National Statistics in the UK, since 2010, men aged 45 to 64 years have had the highest age-specific suicide rates. In 2020, the rate in this group was 20 deaths per 100,000. Is there a link between men struggling to come to terms with changes that happen to them as they get older and them deciding they can’t cope with that?
What are some of the triggers?
It’s not specifically linked to any one thing. It could be a sense of disappointment with their career. Or the fact that hairs seem to spring up in your ears, nostrils and eyebrows or, the more difficult it is to keep weight down. It could be something as seemingly trivial as a milestone birthday.
And, what about it being a symptom of societal norms? Social media puts a lot of emphasis on youthfulness, the role of men in relationships, and even in society as a whole.
Could this lead to feelings of disappointment?
“I’m just not where I expected I would be.”
So what to do?
The Midlife Men Mindset focuses on 5 key areas:
Mindfulness / Mindset
Energy / Exercise
- Talking things through with others can be really beneficial. The Mid Life Men Facebook group is a good place to start, or look up some of the content on www.mid-life.men. There’s also good support through something like Andy’s Man Club – www.andysmanclub.co.uk.
- Sex might be changing, and not just for you, but also your partner. Talk about what’s important to both you, and your partner. And if things are beginning to sag a bit, or your libido is dropping, there are lots of ways that can be fixed.
- Too often we compromise our personal lives and relationships. Then, later in life, we look back and ask, why did I work so hard?
What about treatments?
Note this is not a GP written article, but it is something you should talk to your GP about.
There’s an opportunity here. You can create a new you, an exciting second chapter, that is full of fulfilment and freedom. The key is to decide that your dissatisfaction is giving you a signal.
But to want to change, you will have to make a change. And on the other side of that change, there’s a fresh challenge, and new adventures. Most importantly, don’t suffer in silence. The fact that you were curious enough to read this article suggests you have a few things going on in your life. Ask for help, and carry on being curious.
Explore every avenue.