The Irritable Male Syndrome: A
Multi-Dimensional Problem in Life - 2
Definition of the Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS): A
state of hypersensitivity, anxiety, frustration,
and anger that occurs in males and is associated
with biochemical changes, hormonal fluctuations,
stress, and loss of male identity.
Let me share with you what went into this
particular definition. Working with males (and
those who live with them) that are experiencing IMS
I have found there are four core symptoms that
underlie many others.
The first is hypersensitivity.
The women who live these men say things
- I feel like I have to walk on egg-shells
when Im around him.
- I never know when Im going to say
something that will set him off.
- Hes like time bomb ready to explode
but I never know when.
- Nothing I do pleases him.
- When I try and do nice things, he pushes me
- Hell change in an eye-blink. One
minute hes warm and friendly. The next
hes cold and mean.
The men dont often recognize their own
hypersensitivity. Rather their perception is that
they are fine but everyone else is going out of
their way to irritate them. The guys say things
- Quit bothering me.
- You know I dont like that. Why do you
keep doing it?
- Leave me alone.
- No, nothings wrong. Im fine.
Quit asking me questions.
- The kids always
negative). The kids never
.(do the right
- Why dont you ever
. Fill in the
want sex, do what I want to do, do
something with your life, think before you open
your mouth, do things the right way.
- You damn
.Fill in the blank
bitch, etc. As IMS progresses the words get more
- They dont say anything. They
increasingly withdraw into a numbing
One concept I have found helpful is the notion
that many of us are emotionally
sunburned, but others dont know it. We
might think of a man who is extremely sunburned and
gets a loving hug from his wife. He cries out in
anger and pain. He assumes she knows hes
sunburned so if she grabs him she must
be trying to hurt him. She has no idea he is
sunburned and cant understand why he reacts
angrily to her loving touch. You can see how this
can lead a couple down a road of escalating
The second core emotion is anxiety.
Anxiety is a state of apprehension, uncertainty,
and fear resulting from the anticipation of a
realistic or fantasized threatening event or
situation. As you will see as you delve more deeply
into the book, IMS men live in constant worry and
fear. There are many real threats that they are
dealing with in their livessexual changes,
job insecurities, relationship problems. There are
also many uncertainties that lead men to ruminate
and fantasize about future problems.
These kind of worries usually take the form of
what ifs. What if I lose my job? What
if I cant find a job? What if she leaves me?
What if I cant find someone to love me? What
if I have to go to war? What if something happens
to my wife or children? What if my parents die?
What if I get sick and cant take care of
things? The list goes on and on.
The third core emotion is
Princeton Universitys WordNet offers two
definitions that can help us understand this aspect
1: the feeling that accompanies an experience of
being thwarted in attaining your goals. Synonym is
2: a feeling of annoyance at being hindered or
criticized; The dictionary offers an enlightening
example to illustrate the use of the word
constant complaints were the main source of his
IMS men feel blocked in attaining what they want
and need in life. They often dont even know
what they need. When they do know, they often feel
theres no way they can get it. They often
feel defeated in the things they try and do to
improve their lives. The men feel frustrated in
their relationships with family, friends, and on
the job. The world is changing and they dont
know where, how, or if they fit in.
Author Susan Faludi captures this frustration in
her book Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man.
The frustration is expressed in the question that
is at the center of her study of American males.
If, as men are so often told, they are the
dominant sex, why do so many of them feel
dominated, done in by the world?
The frustration, that is often hidden and
unrecognized, is a key element of IMS.
The forth core emotion is anger.
Anger can be simply defined as a strong feeling
of displeasure or hostility. Yet anger is a complex
emotion. Outwardly expressed it can lead to
aggression and violence. When it is turned inward
it can lead to depression and suicide. Anger can be
direct and obvious or it can be subtle and covert.
Anger can be loud or quiet. It can be expressed as
hateful words, hurtful actions, or in stony
For many men, anger is the only emotion they
have learned to express. Growing up male we are
taught to avoid anything that is seen as the least
bit feminine. We are taught that men do
while women feel. As a result men are
taught to keep all emotions under wrap. We cannot
show we are hurt, afraid, worried, or panicked. The
only feeling that is sometimes allowed many men is
anger. When men begin going through IMS, it is
often anger that is the primary emotion.
As we explore IMS in more depth, be aware that
we are talking about a problem that isnt
easily categorized or circumscribed. It is slippery
and illusive. It can wreak havoc in the lives of
men and those who love them and remain hidden from
scrutiny. I know. IMS nearly destroyed me and my
family. Next week Ill share my own
experiences with IMS.
* * *
Wealth can't buy health, but health can buy
wealth. - Henry David Thoreau
is the internationally best-selling author of seven
books including Male
translated into 17 foreign languages and his
latest book, The
Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing. The 4 Key Causes
of Depression and
Aggression. For over
38 years he has been a leader in the field of men's
health. He is a member of the International
Scientific Board of the World Congress on
Mens Health and has been on the Board of
Advisors of the Mens Health Network since its
founding in 1992. His work has been featured in
major newspapers throughout the United States
including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall
Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA
Today. He has been featured on more than 1,000
radio and T.V. programs including The View with
Barbara Walters, Good Morning America, Inside
Edition, CBS, NBC, and Fox News, To Tell the Truth,
Extra, Leeza, Geraldo, and Joan Rivers. He also did
a nationally televised special on Male Menopause
for PBS. He looks forward to your feedback.
You can visit his website at www.menalive.com
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