Why Does Stress Cause More Depression in Men Than in Women?

Sex and gender differences are central to our lives. We all think about them, struggle with them, and seek to better understand them. From Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady who lamented “Why can’t a woman be more like a man” to Sigmund Freud who wondered “What do women really want?” to our nursery rhymes which taught us to believe that “Little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice,” while “Little boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy-dogs tails” to Charles Boyer who proclaimed Vive La Différence!

There is an exciting new field emerging that offers new insights into the age-old questions, “Are men and women really all that different?” In a world that still limits the lives of women in significant ways, it’s not surprising that many feminists have argued that the differences between men and women are superficial and more the result of our sexist attitudes than real differences in the ways our brains and bodies are built.

However, an emerging new field called “gender-specific medicine” recognizes that sexism still exists and must be eliminated if women and men are going to reach their full potential, but there are real differences between the sexes that need to be understood and respected.

One of the leaders in this field is Marianne J. Legato M.D. In her book, Eve’s Rib:  The New Science of Gender-Specific Medicine, she says, “Everywhere we look, the two sexes are startlingly and unexpectedly different not only in their internal function but in the way they experience illness.” Dr. Legato is a cardiologist who was one of the first clinicians to recognize that heart disease presents differently in men and women. Men feel a crushing pain in their chest, while many women experience fleeting pain in the upper abdomen or back, nausea, shortness of breath, and sweating. [Read more…]

Preventing the Next Orlando Massacre: A Modest, Radical Proposal

3010722547_8710ca1b3b_zI’m still reeling with the shock of yet another mass murder in the U.S. As we learn more about what happened in Orlando, like many of you I want to do something to prevent the next tragedy. Many people will offer ideas and solutions and I’d like to share my own. I call this a modest proposal since this is a complex problem and there are no simple solutions. No matter what is done, it isn’t going to stop senseless killing.  On the other hand, I think there is much we can do to make our country less violent. But if we’re going to become a more peaceful, less violent, country, we need to try approaches that may seem radical to some.

We’ve all seen the headlines and know the basic facts. As reported by the Los Angeles Times: An act of terror and an act of hate: The aftermath of America’s worst mass shooting. “The United States suffered the worst mass shooting in its modern history when 50 people were killed and 53 injured in Orlando, Fla., after a gunman stormed into a packed gay nightclub. The gunman was killed by a SWAT team after taking hostages at Pulse, a popular gay club. He was preliminarily identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen.”

The Times offers this summary of the most deadly shootings in the U.S. in recent years:

If we’re going to prevent the next attack we need to look more deeply at some hard truths. First, mass murder is an almost exclusively male phenomenon (male:female ratio 24:1). We have to look more closely at what we can do to better understand male violence so we can reduce the risk of a man (usually a man under the age of 30) reaching a point where he wants to kill others.

There is a new journal, Violence & Gender that can offer us articles and insights based on the latest scientific studies by experts in the field. The Editor-in-Chief is Mary Ellen O’Toole, Ph.D., a social scientist, former FBI-agent and profiler. “I spent my career studying the criminal violent mind,” says Dr. O’Toole, “and now gratuitous violence is at an all-time high. This violence is well-planned, lethal, and extremely callous. The offenders are nearly always male. Does gender really make a difference in the commission of violent crime? It’s time for a journal to take on this question.”
[Read more…]

The Hidden Causes of the Paris Killings And What We Can Do to Prevent Future Violence

Paris killingsOnce again we are shocked, sickened, and frightened as we come to grips with another mass killing. We want to do something to feel safe again and often we are told we must “fight fire with fire.”  One headline read: France vows to punish ISIS for fatal Paris attacks. We can all empathize with those who were killed and feel supportive of the citizens of Paris. We can also recognize the rage we feel towards those who are responsible for the killings.

But in order to prevent future acts of mass violence, we have to better understand who did the killing and why. There are no simple answers and, as always, it will take time to get all the facts about what went on. But here are some things we do know:

  1. Those who did the killing were young men.
  2. Each of the men had lost the will to live.

According to a November 16, 2015 article in NY Magazine, “What We Know About the Paris Attackers,” “Authorities believe that ISIS-linked extremists were behind the brutal attacks that killed 129 people and injured another 352 on Friday night in Paris, and details about the attackers and their possible accomplices are continuing to emerge.”

It may be simpler to just lump all the attackers together and call them “terrorists,” but if we want to understand them and prevent future violence it’s important to see them as real human beings. As I look at their names and ages, I wonder what their lives were like. How did they reach a point where they gave up the will to live and decided to kill others and die themselves?

Here’s what the NY Magazine writers Chas Danner and Margaret Hartmann say about the men: [Read more…]

Stop Male Stress and Become Healthier, Wealthier, and Wiser in 2013

Stop male stress and get healthy, wealthy, and wiseFor many of us 2012 has been a difficult year, male stress continues to rise.  Most of us will make some kind of New Year’s Resolution and focus our attention on improving our lives in 2013.  I’ve found there are three areas we would like to improve.

1.  Our health

Most of us would like to become healthier—lose some weight, get in shape, sleep more soundly, have less stress

2.  Our wealth

We don’t need billions to be wealthy, just be able to make ends meet, support our families now and in the future, and have a little in reserve for emergencies.

3.  Our wisdom

Let’s be honest, most of us would like the wisdom to have more joyful  relationships with our spouse, our children, our friends, and our neighbors.

For more than 40 years I have been helping men and women improve their health, increase their wealth, and learn the secret wisdom of successful relationships that last a lifetime.  In 2013 I’m offering two new programs for those who are ready to take their lives to the next level and become successful in all three areas.

First, I’m starting a new program for men and women:  1-On-1 With Dr. Jed.

You will have the opportunity to work with me in person, by phone, or by e-mail to receive the benefit of my years of experience to improve the areas of your life that are most important to you.  There are a limited number of openings, so please let me know right away if you’re interested.

Second, I’m starting a men’s health on-line “gym” for guys from all over the world.  You’ll get to work out with me and other world-class trainers to strengthen the “muscles” that matter the most.  You guessed it, the ones that will improve your health, your wealth, and your wisdom.  Are you a man who’s ready to have it all?  Do you know a man who needs support to engage?  Would  you like to learn more?

Contact me for details.  There’s no time like….well, like now!

E-mail:  Jed@MenAlive.com  Call me:  707 459-5505

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From Here to Eternity: Stopping Male Stress and the Epidemic of Suicides

I have a personal, as well as professional, interest in male depression and suicide.  It began with my father who was born in Jacksonville, Florida December 17, 1906.  He was one of eight children whose parents had been born in Eastern Europe and had come to the United States in the late 1800s.  From what I heard growing up, he was emotionally sensitive, artistic and talented.  He wrote stories, poetry, and put on little plays for the family.

Unlike most of his brothers and sisters who either went into business or married business men, when he was 18 my father went to New York to become an actor.  At first things looked bright.  New York in the 1920s was full of glitter and glitz, a great place to be for a young man seeking fame and fortune.  But that ended in 1929 with the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

It was in New York that he met my mother and they married on her birthday, October 5, 1934 after a somewhat stormy courtship.  Economically things were difficult, but they were together and ready to weather the storm.  When all money ran out they would invite friends and acquaintances to their small apartment and my father would put on a show—readings from Shakespeare, his own poetry, or short stories.  The price of admission was a can of food.

But as the economic situation worsened so did his mood.  He would snap at my mother.  Small things irritated him.  How she cooked, cleaned their apartment, or made the bed became points of discord.  Recalling the times, my mother told me, “He was always on edge.  I couldn’t seem to do anything right.  No matter how much I tried to support him and let him know I cared, he still got mad at me.”

There were increasingly heated arguments and fights.  He would accuse her of being interested in other men and “sleeping around.”  She would proclaim her innocence and feel hurt.  They would make up, make love, and everything would seem all right.  And they would be all right, until the next time.  There was always a next time. 

My mother was always able to find work as a secretary.  She had excellent skills and even in bad times people needed her talents and experience.  However, there weren’t a lot of people looking for my father’s skills and talents.  Not feeling comfortable at home, my father spent more and more time away.  “He’s here, then he’s gone,” my mother would say.  “Sometimes he wouldn’t come home until early the next morning.”

His brothers tried to convince them to come home to Florida and sell insurance like they were doing.  My father laughed.  “I’d rather die first.”   It was a prophetic outburst.  He nearly did die.  Most of what I know about his life I learned from my mother and the journals that he kept in the last three years before he tried to kill himself.

Kay Redfield Jamison, an expert on mood disorders, uses an analogy from the animal kingdom to describe the difference ways men and women react to the stresses of life that can lead to depression and suicide.  “Young male elephants go out and they are quite solitary,” she observed. “The only times males get together is during the breeding period in an adversarial role. They’re not talking about anything, they’re competing.

“Conversely, the female elephants are drawn together and are constantly communicating with each other.  Female elephants have a system set up if one is in distress,” she continues, “and they are more likely to be there to serve and help one another.  Like male elephants in an adversarial role, human men have an ‘irritability’ that is ‘part and parcel’ of depression,” she says.  “It’s one of the diagnostic criteria for depression and mania, more common than not,” she explained. “Emotions get so ratcheted up, it’s often we see men with short-tempered fuses. It makes depression difficult for others to be around.”

This was certainly true of my father.  He had a long history of irritability, anger, and depression, and male stress but it was the crashing economy that sent him over the edge.  Here were the last journal entries before he tried to kill himself:

“June 4th: 

               Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work,  Yes, it’s enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale and sicken.

 “August 15th:

              Faster, faster, faster, I walk.  I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family.  I try, try, try, try, try.  I always try and never stop.

“November 8th:

              A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out.  Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.  All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education. 

             I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying.  Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

Six days after his November 8th entry, my father tried to kill himself.  Though he survived physically, emotionally he was never again the same.  For nearly 40 years I’ve treated more and more men who are facing similar stresses to those my father experienced.  The economic conditions and social dislocations that contributed to his feelings of shame and hopelessness continue to weigh heavily on men today.

Suicide is Predominantly a Male Response to Stress

Although suicide impacts women as well as men, it is predominantly a male response to overwhelming stress.  In my book, Male vs. Female Depression: Why Men Act Out and Women Act In I reported on a major research study that concluded “Women seek help—men die.” The study found that 75% of those who sought professional help at a suicide prevention program were female. Conversely 75% of those who committed suicide in the same year were male.

These findings are corroborated by men’s health expert, Will Courtenay, Ph.D. in his book, Dying to be Men: Psychosocial, Environmental, and Biobehavioral Directions in Promoting the Health of Men and Boys (April, 2011, Routledge). Courtenay reports the following suicide and death rates (per 100,000 U.S. population) from the National Center for Disease Control, for males and females in various age groups:

We see that the suicide rate for young men is more than 4 times the rate for young women and the suicide rate for after retirement is 6 to 17 times the rate for women of the same age. Clearly men are at great risk and as populations age throughout the world, more men are likely to give up hope and kill themselves.

Age Group

Male Rate

Female Rate

Male/Female Ratio

15-19

10.9

2.7

4.0

20-24

21.4

4.0

5.4

25-29

19.5

4.7

4.2

30-34

18.3

5.2

3.5

35-44

23.9

6.8

3.5

45-54

25.8

8.8

2.9

55-64

21.4

7.0

3.8

65-74

21.5

3.4

6.3

75-84

27.3

3.9

7.0

85+

38.6

2.2

17.5

 

The Mancession

But many men are now losing their jobs before retirement.  A recent editorial in the British Journal of Psychiatry indicates that depression rates in men are likely to increase due to the socioeconomic changes going on in the world. The study’s principle author Boadie Dunlop, M.D., from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta writes, “Compared to women, many men attach a great importance to their roles as providers and protectors of their families. Failure to fulfill the role of breadwinner is associated with greater depression and marital conflict.”

Research shows that since the beginning of the recession in 2007, roughly 75 percent of the jobs lost in the United States were held by men. On the other hand, women are increasingly becoming the primary household earners with 22 percent of wives earning more than their husbands in 2007, versus only 4 percent in 1970. Unfortunately, there is little reason for anyone to believe that traditional male jobs will return in significant numbers even if the economy fully recovers.  As depression increases, so too will suicide.

Getting Help and Support

The International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) has designated September 10, 2012, World Suicide Prevention Day.  On their site you can get good information on what people are doing all over the world to prevent suicide and you can learn what you can do to support their activities.  In support of these activities I’m offering  my new book, MenAlive: Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, which details my own experiences helping people deal with depression in their lives.  For everyone who orders a book by September 10, 2012, I will donate 50% of the profits to IASP.  For everyone who orders anytime during the month of September, I’ll donate 30% of the profits to IASP.

Working together we can make a difference.  If you’d like to be part of our campaign to save the lives of a million men, and to learn how to stop male stress you can learn more HERE.

What has been your experience with male suicide?  What resources do you have to share?  Together we heal.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/helzerman/1234587061/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Men and Stress – Is Your Job Driving You Over the Edge?

We know that depression is on the rise all over the world and men are 4 to 18 times (depending on age) more likely to commit suicide than are women.  People report that job stresses are a major factor that can lead to depression and increased suicide risk.  We know that men and stress can be a lethal mix.  What are the professions that put you at highest risk?  According to a recent report from Business Insider, based on statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health the top ten jobs where you’re most likely to kill yourself are:

#10  Real Estate Sales

Real estate agents are 1.38 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#9  Potters and “hand-molders”

Hand molders are 1.39 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#8  Urban planners

Urban planners are 1.43 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#7  Supervisors of heavy construction equipment

Supervisors of heavy construction equipment are 1.46 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#6  Chiropractors

Chiropractors are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#5  Finance workers

Finance workers are 1.51 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#4  Veterinarians

Veterinarians are 1.54 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#3  Dentists

Dentists are 1.67 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

#2  Physicians

Physicians are 1.87 times more likely to commit suicide average.

#1 Marine Engineers

Marine engineers are 1.89 times more likely to commit suicide than average.

Other high risk professions include:  Pharmacists, Farm Managers, and Lawyers.  What do all these “high suicide” professions have in common?  I’d suggest that most of them involve people who must deal with other people’s problems in situations where they don’t get a lot of positive feedback and appreciation.  When’s the last time you thanked your dentist or gave him a hug after he finished drilling and filling?

Of course, being employed can be stressful, but being unemployed can be even more stressful.  According to an article in The Washington Independent, “The unemployed commit suicide at a rate two or three times the national average, researchers estimate. And in many cases, the longer the spell of unemployment, the higher the likelihood of suicide.”

So, if you’re employed, what are the things that are the most stressful and make you feel depressed?  If you’re unemployed, what makes you feel the worst about yourself?

Maybe by sharing our experiences, we can help each other get through these difficult times.

For more information suicide prevention and men’s health, look for my new book MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools.

Another post that you may find value in is 3 Little Known Stressors that are Killing Men and the Women Who Love Them.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/badjonni/403366211/lightbox/

Boomer Men, Stress, Depression, Anger and Suicide

In a recent interview with Brent Green, author of Generation Reinvention: How Boomers Today Are Changing Business, Marketing, Aging and the Future, he and I provide an in-depth, up-to-date look at the work I’ve been doing to help men, and the women to love them, to live well throughout our lives.  Specifically we get into detail about baby boomer men and stress, male depression, male anger, and suicide.

You’ll learn about what motivated me to write my recent book, MenAlive: Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, and why I’ve committed myself to helping save the lives of a million males over the next three years. This is a unique opportunity to join me in exploring some of the most important issues we face in our lives today.

Click here to listen:  Boomer Men and Stress

Enjoy the interview and thanks to WeEarth Global Radio Network.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulcross/5819125499/sizes/z/in/photostream/

 

 

Men and Stress: Saving Your Sanity and the Only Brain You’ll Ever Have

Although we have known for some time that stress can cause damage to the heart, the gastrointestinal tract, and other parts of the body, we have recently learned that stress can actually damage the brain.  J. Douglas Bremner, M.D., is Director of Mental Health Research at the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center, and is editor of Trauma, Memory, and Dissociation and Stress Disorder.  In Bremner’s book Does Stress Damage the Brain? he explains, “Research in only the past decade or so has shown that extreme stress has effects on the brain that last throughout the lifespan.”

As a result many of those emotional distresses that we have, in the past, viewed as purely psychological, may be the result of physical damage to the brain.  “A group of psychiatric disorders related to stress, what I call trauma-spectrum disorders,” says Bremner, “could share in common a basis in brain abnormalities that are caused by stress.”

Bremner continues saying that “Trauma-spectrum disorders are those that are known to be linked to stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders, borderline personality disorders, adjustment disorder, depression, and anxiety.”  I would include the Irritable Male Syndrome as another one of these trauma-spectrum disorders.

Trauma-spectrum Disorders and Gender:  Why Women Cry and Men Run Away 

One of Dr. Bremner’s experiments helps us understand the difference between the way men and women experience these disorders.  He gathered a group of former depression patients.  With their permission, he gave them a beverage that was spiked with an amino acid that blocks the brain’s ability to absorb serotonin, the neurotransmitter that allows us to feel upbeat and happy.

Using the new brain scan techniques he took pictures of the subject’s brains to see if he could pinpoint the areas that were associated with depression. If we knew the areas of the brain associated with depression, he reasoned then we could come up with better medications and treatment approaches.  In looking at the color brain scans he was able to show that a loss of serotonin affects all three major areas of the brain.

What I found even more fascinating were the gender specific differences in the way men and women reacted to the potion that blocked the effects of the serotonin.  Typical of the males was John, a middle-aged businessman who had fully recovered from a bout of depression, thanks to a combination of psychotherapy and Prozac. Within minutes of drinking the brew, however, “He wanted to escape to a bar across the street,” recalls Bremner. “He didn’t express sadness … he didn’t really express anything. He just wanted to go to Larry’s Lounge.”  Contrast John’s response with that of female subjects like Sue, a mother of two in her mid-thirties. After taking the cocktail, “She began to cry and express her sadness over the loss of her father two years ago,” recalls Bremmer. “She was overwhelmed by her emotions.”

So we see a very real contrast in the ways men and women respond to a loss of the brain chemicals that keep our emotions in a healthy balance.  Men tend to withdraw and go for the alcohol to prevent us from feeling our pain.  Women tend to share their emotions with others.  I have found that chronic irritability is one of the principal ways men withdraw, rather than dealing directly with our feelings.

 Men and Stress:  What’s a Man to Do?

Men and stress can be a killer combination.  We can make decisions that help eliminate or decrease the stress response in life by once again paying attention to the physical, emotional, and chemical components of our health. Physical stressors include accidents, physical inactivity, and changes in temperature. Chemical stressors include sugar, high fat foods, cigarettes, alcohol, and toxic work or environment. Emotional stressors include fear, anger, guilt, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

When we get out of balance with our lives, many of us overload on all aspects of our stress capacity, stopping our regular exercise regimen, eating poorly, and navigating family get-togethers or loneliness. Come up with a plan for how you can circumvent illness by planning ahead.

Make sure you are able to identify when your stress levels are high, and have some ways of interrupting the process. An increased heart rate, sweat, tense muscles, irritability, moodiness and dilated pupils are clear signs of fight or flight and an increased stress response.

When you notice these signs stop what you’re doing and check in with yourself for at least five minutes. Check in and see if HALT is a problem.  These letters stand for hungry, angry, lonely, tired.  These are some of the more common ways that stress manifests.  Ways to re-set the system are going for a brisk walk, taking a few deep breaths, visualizing yourself somewhere refreshing, relaxing tight muscles, and shifting your perception to a different space. This does not have to be a long task. Just check in and re-set every hour until you get the hang of it and feel some shift in your overall tension pattern.

You can practice using the energy healing tools I describe in my book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing ToolsLearn about Earthing, Heart Coherence, Attachment Love, and Emotional Freedom Techniques (Also known as EFT or Tapping).  These simple tools combat stress in men and the women who love them.  You can get your brain back in balance and allow you to more effectively deal with the ups and downs of life without becoming overwhelmed or stressed out.

Please share your story or experience.

Together we heal.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalshotgun/454380458/


Male Menopause and Energy Medicine: Healing the Stresses of Mid-Life Men

When my book Male Menopause was first published in 1997, most people had never heard of “male menopause,” also known by the more scientific term “andropause.” But I knew the impact on family members who loved these men. Common symptoms of male menopause, including erectile dysfunction, loss of sexual desire, irritability, weight gain, and low energy, impact the men as well as their families. More men and women are recognizing that male menopause is real. It affects all men as they move through their forties (though it can start as early as thirty or as late as fifty-five). We can now do a lot to prevent and treat the problems associated with this major change of life.

While many in the mainstream medical community still question whether men go through a hormonally based change of life, increasing numbers of health care professionals are convinced as they study the research.

  • Marc R. Blackman, MD, former chief of endocrinology and metabolism at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, says, “The male menopause is a real phenomenon, and it does similar things to men as menopause does to women, although less commonly and to a lesser extent.”
  • Ronald Klatz, MD, DO, president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine says, “One of the best-kept secrets is that men go through a male form of menopause called andropause.”
  • Robert S. Tan, MD, fellow of the American Geriatrics Society and pioneer researcher, says, “The andropause is the time in a man’s life when the hormones naturally decline. Mosby’s Medical Dictionary defines the andropause as “a change of life for males that may be expressed in terms of career change, divorce, or reordering of life. It is associated with a decline in androgen levels that occur in men during their late forties or early fifties.”
  • Theresa Crenshaw, MD, expert on male and female hormones and author of The Alchemy of Love and Lust, says, “In the case of male menopause, we are still in the Dark Ages. Men have fewer guideposts to help them today than women had a generation ago. Only recently have we begun to understand the biochemistry of these events, tilting the scales toward a physiological explanation.”
  • Author Gail Sheehy says, “If menopause is the silent passage, male menopause is the unspeakable passage. It is fraught with secrecy, shame, and denial. It is much more fundamental than the ending of the fertile period of a woman’s life, because it strikes at the core of what it is to be a man.”

My colleague, Malcolm Carruthers, MD, one of the world’s experts on the male change of life captures the essence of what men go through: “Andropause is a critical health concern for men and the women who love them. It’s often insidious onset can be at any time from the age of thirty onward, though typically it is in the fifties. One of the reasons it’s often missed is that it is usually more gradual in onset than the menopause in the female, although it is more severe in its long-term consequences. It is a crisis of vitality just as much as virility, even though it’s most obvious sign is loss both of interest in sex and of erectile power.”

Energy Medicine at Mid-life

In my recent book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, I describe four simple tools you can learn to use to relieve stress during the male mid-life:

  • Attachment Love
  • Heart Coherence
  • Earthing
  • Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT or Tapping)

For more complete details on these tools please read the Four Energy Healing Secrets Your Doctor Hopes You’ll Never Learn.

In the meantime, here’s a simple Attachment Love Technique.   Close your eyes and take a number of deep breaths. Slowly let them out. Remind yourself that you are dependent on your partner and your partner is dependent on you to meet your needs for safety, security, and love. Recall a memory in which you felt deep love and affection for your partner. Imagine that you enclose them in your arms and whisper in their ear, “I love you deeply, and I am here for you.” Now recall a time when your partner reached out to you when you needed them. Imagine your partner enclosing you in their arms and whispering in your ear, “I love you deeply, and I am here for you.”

Let yourself feel the warmth and gratitude of feeling cared for and loved. If you don’t have a partner, imagine a partner you might like to have and feel yourself being held and holding a partner. Or think of a time in your life when you felt love for someone else. It could be an old lover or friend or even a child. Imagine holding them, seeing them, and feeling them. Or think of a time when you were loved, cared for, and protected. Let yourself be filled with the light of unconditional love.

Another energy healing tool that I often use is the HeartMath quick coherence technique. Close your eyes and take a number of deep breathes and let yourself relax. Focus your attention on the area around your heart. Breathe deeply but normally and feel as if your breath is coming in and going out through your heart area. As you maintain your heart focus and heart breathing, activate a positive feeling. Remember a time when you felt strong and sure of yourself, a time when your partner or someone important in your life let you know what a good man you were. Hold that thought as you continue to imagine your breath coming in and out of your heart area.

I’m always amazed that shifting my internal energy from a state of anger, agitation, hurt, or shame to one of joy, peace, and self-acceptance can turn things around when they seem out of control. Midlife, like adolescence, is a difficult time for most of us. Using these energy healing tools can make our midlife passage smoother and more joyful.

If you found this post to be of value let me recommend Male Menopause and How It Impacts the Family.  You can also sign up to receive my comprehensive eBook on Male Menopause.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/haroldoferrary/

Jekyll and Hyde, Irritable Males, and Attachment Love: What Men, and the Women Who Love Them, Need to Know


Before I wrote my book, The Irritable Male Syndrome, I thought I might call it The Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome, since men often seem to change rapidly from “Mr. Nice to Mr. Mean.”  The book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886 and has become a mainstay of stage and screen throughout the world.  It seems to speak to something in the human psyche, particularly the male mind.  The story is about Dr. Henry Jekyll who is pursuing his life-long quest to separate the two natures of man to get at the essence of good and evil.

Refused help by his peers and superiors, he begins experiments on himself with his formula. He meets with success, and shocking results.  The evil nature of Dr. Jekyll surfaces as a separate identity: Edward Hyde. Hyde begins murdering the members of the Board of Governors who previously refused assistance to Jekyll’s cause. Throughout the story Jekyll fights in vain to keep his darker half under control.

We often see this kind of transformation in how men are in their love relations.  In a blog post “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now,” Helena Madsen reports a woman’s experience with the man in her life:

“I had a revelation today. During my son’s graduation ceremony at his high school, my husband came up to me and squatted down to share a story with me. Without thinking I ran my hand over his hair and down his arm. I’m still in love with this guy. He can be very nice. He can be very sweet. I married him because of this. This is why I find his behavior so baffling. I’ve known this guy just shy of 25 years. That is a long time. The meanness, the temper tantrums, the spitefulness is all new. I’ve never seen this in him before. Living with someone for 25 years means this isn’t behavior that has been hidden away. It is brand spanking new. It is why I’ve been blindsided with it. I so didn’t see this coming. It also makes the whole idea of divorce so messy. If he was always nasty this would be a no-brainer. I would up and leave in a heartbeat. But he swings hot and cold. One day he is super nice to me; takes good care of me and even gives me hugs. The next day he is slamming doors and telling me he wants out. I am so very confused.”

In The Irritable Male Syndrome:  Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Aggression and Depression, I describe a number of key symptoms of IMS, including hypersensitivity.

The women who live with these men say things like the following:

  • I feel like I have to walk on eggshells when I’m around him.
  • I never know when I’m going to say something that will set him off.
  • He’s like a time bomb ready to explode but I never know when.
  • Nothing I do pleases him.

The men don’t 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 like:

  • Quit bothering me.
  • Leave me alone.
  • No, nothing’s wrong.  I’m fine. 
  • Or they don’t say anything.  They increasingly withdraw into a numbing silence.

One concept I have found helpful is the notion that many of us are “emotionally sunburned,” but our partners don’t 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 he’s sunburned so if she “grabs” him she must be trying to hurt him.  She has no idea he is sunburned and can’t understand why he reacts angrily to her loving touch.  You can see how this can lead a couple down a road of escalating confusion.

Why Do Men Suddenly Become Hypersensitive and Irritable?  Could It Be We Don’t Feel Attached?

Here’s a letter I received recently:  “Last month a man came home from work with my husband’s face but he did not act at all like the man I married.  I’ve known this man for 30 years, married 22 of them and have never met this guy before.  Angry, nasty, and cruel are just a few words to describe him.  He used to be the most upbeat, happy person I knew.  Now he’s gone from Mr. Nice to Mr. Mean.  In spite of how he treats me I still love my husband and want to save our marriage.  Please, can you help me?

Both the man and the woman are baffled.  What’s going on here?  The answer may lie in ways in which we feel a loss of connection with our partner.  We all struggle with vulnerable feelings in love whether we want to admit it or not. It’s inevitable that we will hurt each other with careless words or selfish actions. While these occasions sting, the pain is often fleeting and we get over it quickly.

But according to Dr. Sue Johnson, founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, “Countless studies on infant and adult attachment suggest that our close encounters with loved ones are where most of us attain and learn to hold on to our emotional balance.”  We are all sensitive to being rejected or abandoned by a loved one.  And almost all of us have at least one hypersensitivity – a raw spot in our emotional skin- that is tender to the touch, easily rubbed, and deeply painful.  When this spot gets rubbed often enough, it can bleed all over our relationship.

When our need for attachment and connection is repeatedly neglected, ignored or dismissed, it results in two potential raw spots: feeling emotionally deprived or deserted/abandoned.  It may not be obvious to us, but when a man becomes irritable and angry or hostile and blaming or withdrawn and cold-hearted, it is often because he feels a disconnection from his partner.  He feels rejected or not cared for.  Of course, his hostile reaction often drives his partner farther away, which makes him even more fearful of loss.  It’s easy to get caught up in the blame game.  He blames her and she blames him.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

So how do you identify your raw spot?  Here’s what psychotherapist Helena Madsen recommends:

Think about a time in your marriage when you got suddenly thrown off balance, when a small response or lack of response suddenly seemed to change your sense of safety or connection with your spouse, or when you got totally caught up in reacting in a way that you knew would spiral you into your usual dysfunctional pattern of relating. Maybe you are aware of a moment when you found yourself reacting very angrily or numbing out.

Let’s unpack the “Jekyll and Hyde, Irritable Male” sensitivity:

What was happening in the relationship?  What was the trigger that created a sense of emotional disconnection for you?  What was your general feeling in the split second before you reacted and got mad or numb?  What did your spouse specifically do or say that sparked this response?  As you think of a moment when your own raw spot is rubbed, what happens to your body?  You might feel spacey, detached, hot, breathless, tight in the chest, very small, empty, shaky, tearful, cold, on fire.

What does your brain decide about the meaning of all this?  What do you say to yourself when this happens?  What did you do then?  How do you move into action?

See if you can tie in all these elements together by filling in the blanks below:

In this incident, the trigger for my raw feeling was _________.  On the surface, I probably showed _____________.  But deep down, I just felt (pick one of the basic negative emotions, sadness, anger, shame, fear).  What I longed for was ___________.  The main message I got about our bond, about me or my love was _________________.

I’ve found in my own work that recognizing our need for emotional support does not mean we’re acting like children.  In fact, these needs for emotional support are important throughout our lives, not just when we are children.

I’d like to hear from you.  Have you noticed yourself or someone you love going from “nice” to “mean?”  Can you slow down and recognize the feelings of fear and how you react to them?  When we can share these universal emotions rather than blaming ourselves or our partners we can once again become friends and allies and sort things out together.

Photo Credit: maxREM Creative Commons