Research shows males suffer form of PMS

Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 10:47 p.m.
Killer mood swings. Hormones gone haywire. Hair-trigger tempers. Uncontrollable crying. Bloating.
For eons, women have suffered the inconvenience, the indignation and the pain of premenstrual syndrome - PMS. They've put up with the jokes, the mocking, the misunderstanding.
And no matter how much they tried to explain what they were feeling, men just didn't get it.
Until, maybe, now.
Scientists studying herds of lusty rams in Scotland and a psychotherapist surveying modern man in America have come up with a startling conclusion, one that may have women dancing for joy.
Men get PMS-ish, too. Millions of men.
"It's payback time," says Jed Diamond, a California psychotherapist for the past 40 years and author of seven books, including the groundbreaking "Male Menopause." "Women aren't the only ones who have to deal with this."
This is Irritable Male Syndrome, a condition that transforms normally loving, caring men into absolute monsters.
IMS was coined by Dr. Gerald Lincoln of the Center for Reproductive Biology in Edinburgh, Scotland, who studied herds of rams and found they became nervous, irritable and depressed when their testosterone levels were reduced. Other research has shown the same is true of humans.
But through interviews with hundreds of patients, a survey of nearly 10,000 males ranging in age from 10 to 70, and his own personal demons, Diamond took it one step further. He maintains it's not just hormones, but biochemical changes, stress and loss of male identity that bring on IMS in humans.
Or so he claims in his latest book, "The Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing the 4 Key Causes of Male Depression and Aggression" (Rodale).
According to Diamond, if you're a guy between puberty and senility, there's a 30 percent chance you are already feeling the effects of IMS.
That translates to 30 million American males.
While women may be snickering, this is no joke. Serious cases of IMS can lead to verbal abuse, physical violence, chronic depression, even suicide. Everyone around the IMS man suffers: co-workers, family members, but especially women, who tend to take the brunt of abuse.
"Men tend to act out their pain," Diamond says. "They become angry, direct it on women close to them. They blame, they shame, they tell them they have the problem."
As usual, women are the first to know if something is wrong.
"I feel like I have to walk on eggshells when I'm around him," one woman told Diamond.
"I never know when I'm going to say something that will set him off," said another.
"Nothing I do pleases him."
For his part, the man may either withdraw or pounce. He believes the problem is yours, not his, and can't understand why you're picking on him so much.
But is he just having a bad day or is it IMS? The key is whether there's been a dramatic change and how long it lasts.
"If it's intense, if it's chronic, if it has a strong negative impact on a person's functioning, we say this is something that needs to be attended to," Diamond says. "Fortunately, there's a lot that can be done about it."
Diamond knows this the hard way. Even before he knew what IMS was, he says he had it. One of the most fascinating and revealing parts of his book is where he details his own problems with his wife, Carlin. Like any good therapist, he took notes.
"She tells me I'm being angry. Yeah, I guess I'm angry. Who wouldn't be, with what I am forced to put up with?" he wrote. "When I try to talk to her about it, she turns silent or walks away. She acts like she's afraid of me. Is she nuts? I've never hit her. I've never even threatened her. . . . Why can't she see that I love her? All I want to do is be close again.''
And his wife took notes, too. "He's angry, accusing, argumentative and blaming one moment, and the next moment he is buying me flowers and cards, and leaving me loving notes. He'll change in an hour from looking daggers at me to being all smiles and enthusiasm."
Diamond says this is classic IMS.
Like PMS, IMS can be treated. And like serious PMS, it takes more than a hug and a bowl of ice cream.
Diamond required therapy, marriage counseling and medication. But many men can find relief the same way women suffering from PMS do: with proper diet, exercise, rest and by cutting back on things like alcohol, caffeine and sweets.
"Diet is important," Diamond says. But if you're on the latest diet fad of high protein and low carbs, you're not going to like what he suggests: lots of complex carbs such as potatoes, grains, vegetables and fruits.
"If you don't eat good carbs, you're going to lower your seratonin levels - the feel-good chemical for the brain - and you're going to get depressed and you'll want to eat more. You'll put on weight again and you'll feel lousy."
Diamond says the toughest part of IMS is convincing men to get help. There are two ways to do this.
For some men, "If you keep the book and all the material away from them, he'll start getting curious and want to check it out when you're not looking," Diamond says.
"The second approach is very direct. Tell him, 'The truth is, our marriage is in trouble. I know I'm unhappy. I suspect you are. We need to get some help.'
"My wife had to use the direct approach. She had to say, 'We're going down the tubes.' "

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