Is male menopause real? Catchy as it sounds, “male menopause” is actually a misnomer. Men do not go through the same experiences as women during menopause. Any parallels that are implied aren’t actually there. The more accurate term for men experiencing hormonal changes—typically between the ages of 40 and 60—is andropause.
Andropause occurs when the body’s production of testosterone decreases. This drop in testosterone levels is, however, not sudden and drastic like what typically happens during menopause. Rather, testosterone production typically sees a steady decrease from age 30 onwards.
Statistically, more than half of men aged 60 to 70 would have experienced andropause and its accompanying symptoms. These symptoms are often subtle, given the gradual decline in testosterone levels. Still, they are noticeable. Common ones include lower cognitive functioning and energy levels, reduced muscle mass, increased mood volatility, greater chances of depressive moods and lower libido.
To be fair, the jury is still out on whether these symptoms are a direct result of just reduced testosterone production or if ageing and other lifestyle choices also have a part to play. Nevertheless, there are very real effects of lower testosterone levels in older men.
Mood changes, in particular, feature very strongly in andropause. It may be tempting to write someone off as a “crabby” or “grumpy” old guy and chalk it up to a natural part of ageing. But the gruffness that we see may be an indication of depressive symptoms. Know this: depression presents itself variedly according to the individual. A person may be more irritable than usual. They display anger more quickly than in the past or lose interest in daily activities altogether. These are all symptoms of depression—the condition is much more than just “being blue”.
For many, the symptoms that come with andropause can be a big blow to their self-esteem and sense of self. What compounds the issue is how andropause can be a tricky topic to navigate. Especially with all the misconceptions surrounding it. Being a source of support for someone experiencing andropause is similar to that for someone with a chronic illness or disorder. In that a great deal of patience, understanding and tact is necessary. Hence, respecting someone’s need for space and reluctance to speak can be just as important as letting them know about the consistent support that they have.
The good news about andropause is that many of its symptoms can be better managed with healthier lifestyle choices. By extension, support for an individual with andropause can also come in the form of modelling healthier habits yourself. Whether as a caregiver, a family member or a friend, this includes working out more regularly, making better food choices, as well as cutting down on smoking and drinking. These are are the typical yet oh-so-important things we know but choose to ignore. Participating more actively in social activities can also help with mood regulation, as well as to combat any lowered self-esteem.
As a parting note, having clarity in whatever we might be struggling with will almost always help with how we cope with it. Providing resources for medical and mental health professions can also be a very valuable helpline for those struggling to make sense of what they might be going through.