“The masculine energy was about survival. The male was the hunter who risked his life and had to be in the fight-flight mode.”
By Alex P. Vidal
“Is there such thing as male menopause, sir?” asked Lovelyn, mass communication student at Iloilo St. Paul University, inside the editorial room of Sun.Star, a daily newspaper I once edited.
“Female menopause yes, but male menopause I haven’t heard of that,” I honestly replied to Lovelyn. “Since I am a newsman and not a doctor, we might as well consult the experts on the subject matter: the doctors themselves.”
Days later, I found an article that could help provide the answer to Lovelyn’s question: Dr. Tito Garrido’s article about male menopause.
Garrido admitted that most Filipino males would not admit they also have menopause. The mere mention of the very idea that men experience a form of menopausal change will still draw amusement and laughter, he said.
“But this concept has been around as early as 1950s and it has recently enjoyed more attention and credibility,” Garrido explained in his column “At Your Service” at the The Philippine Post dated July 14, 1999.
Garrido defined male menopause as “a crisis of confidence identified in the middle aged men, comparable with menopause in women, but thought to be caused by psychological factors such as fear of aging.”
The doctor explained further: “Undoubtedly, a part of the controversy as to whether there is indeed such a thing, stems from the misleading use of the term menopause. Derived from the Greek word ‘menses,’ it refers to the cessation of a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle. ‘Andropause,’ which relies on the Greek work for a man, Andro, is the most commonly accepted term, defined as the natural cessation of the sexual function of older men.”
Garrido explained that some authors see it more broadly as “a biological an biochemical condition that has psychological, physical and emotional components.” Viropause/andropause is a naturally occurring psychological state that occurs in men’s middle years, producing feeling of unhappiness and undermining men’s sense of self worth, identity, and competence, stressed Garrido.
PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SIDES
The doctor said endocrinologists have pointed out that in men, there is nothing as traumatic as in the case of women–there is no one period, no striking change to indicate a drop in hormonal levels. However, research indicates that men to experience this phenomenon, gradually producing less and less of the male sex hormone, testosterone, as they age. In most cases, this progressive decline occurs from age 20 to 80 years.
These various hormonally-induced physical and behavioral changes is now generally perceived to be the underpinning of this male menopause, or andropause, he explained.
“But this is only part of the equation,” Garrido wrote, “for there are also profound emotional aspects as well. It is at this transitional stage of life that a psychological stock-taking, often triggered by biological changes, usually occurs. The reflection on one’s life can also be triggered by other physical factors such as an illness like high blood pressure or heart attack, receding hairline, greying hair, or some forms of sexual dysfunction.”
He further stressed: “Other less tangible precipitating factors can include retirement or financial stress, or becoming a grandfather for instance. This process can then lead to stress and unhappiness, or what is more commonly referred at as a mid-life crisis.” If a man discovers that he can’t attain his goals and then discovers that his body isn’t as reliable and as strong as it used to be, the effects of male menopause are compounded.”
He warned that most men do indeed manage this transition well, but for those that do not, they often start experimenting with life, making major life-altering changes. “This is where the classic stereotype of the middle-aged man dumping his wife in favor of his twentysomething secretary comes into play,” Garrido emphasized. “It is a phenomenon that is described in psychological terms as ‘fusion with younger body’ in a futile effort to regain his lost youth.”
In severe cases in which a man experiences abnormally low testosterone levels, hormone replacement therapy maybe the answer, but many medical practitioners see this only as a last resort, Garrido observed.
“In some cases, simply minimizing psychological and physical stress, reducing alcohol intake and stopping smoking for instance, may help,” he suggested. “In short, attending to the needs of the physical body is healthy, the others aspects fall into line.”
On the psychological side, acceptance of aging is crucial–adopt the attitude that you’re not getting older, you’re getting better, he volunteered. “Value your wisdom over physical prowess and re-evaluate your goals and what you already have and try and bring them closer together,” Garrido asserted. “And most of all, accept that the dreams of your youth were probably unrealistic, rework these dreams so that they may continue to inspire you, but in a more realistic context.”
Garrido warned: “Andropause does not take place in a vacuum. While the male is coping with these changes, the spouse is undergoing even more dramatic changes with her own menopause. The good doctor says that if both partners do not realize what is happening and make adjustments to life and thought, the crisis of middle age need not be that much of a crisis.”