What is the male menopause and is it making me moody?
Pop culture usually associates testosterone with being angry, but in rare cases, a deficiency of the hormone actually makes men more irritable.
A common misconception is that too much testosterone makes you angry. Don’t get angry, but it’s the other way around – a low testosterone level is likely to cause irritability. While the term ‘male menopause’ is used for the condition, this phrase is a bit misleading – there isn’t usually a sudden drop in testosterone in middle age like there is for oestrogen in women.
Testosterone levels do fall with age, but the decline is gradual – less than 2 per cent a year from about the age of 30 – and it doesn’t usually cause any issues.
Rarely, testosterone can drop to a level that causes symptoms like tiredness, decreased sex drive, problems maintaining an erection, and irritability. But it’s not that common. In 2010, the European Male Ageing Study (EMAS) found that testosterone deficiency affected about 2 per cent of men aged 40 to 79, and about 5 per cent of men aged 70 to 79.
True testosterone deficiency is rare, but is more likely in men who are overweight and/or have chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. Specific genetic problems with the testes can also cause it, but these are exceptionally uncommon.
So, if you’re feeling a bit grumpy, it’s definitely not due to too much testosterone, but it is also unlikely to be a ‘male menopause’. Lifestyle factors like poor sleep, alcohol and smoking, or mental health problems like stress, depression or anxiety, are more likely to be the culprit.
Dr Nish Manek is a GP in London. She completed her medical degree at Imperial College and was runner-up in the University of London Gold Medal. Manek has also developed teaching courses for Oxford Medical School, and has penned articles for The Guardian and Pulse magazine.