Are you male, approaching 50 and not feeling quite yourself? Could it be male menopause symptoms? Or is it more midlife crisis?
Between the age of 40 and 50, women enter that period in midlife where it’s popular to show signs of perimenopause or to even start feeling menopausal. But what about men? Do men go through menopause too? Or does a Y chromosome exclude them from this part of aging?
Enter andropause – otherwise known as menopause for men.
So, what is male menopause?
It’s complicated. Not every man will experience it for a start. And midlife changes in men tend to be more subtle than in women. This leads many to question whether a male equivalent has any substantial grounding at all. There’s even suggestion that the menopause for men is nothing more than a myth. This means male menopause symptoms can often be shrugged off as a midlife crisis.
But, in reality, whatever you label it, lots of men experience a range of physical and mental changes as they grow older.
Symptoms of male menopause
- Erectile dysfunction
- Reduced sex drive
- Loss of body hair
- Mood swings
- Feelings of irritability
- Reduction of muscle mass
- Low self-confidence
- Feeling lethargic
- Concentration problems
- Poor short-term memory
- Increase in body fat
- Gynecomastia (“man boobs”)
What causes male menopause?
Andropause, or male menopause, is commonly connected to decreasing levels of testosterone (the male sex hormone) as a result of aging. You may also see it called testosterone deficiency, late onset hypogonadism (LOH) or androgen decline in the aging male (ADAM).1 But whatever the name, it’s normal and common for a man’s testosterone levels to drop as they get older.
This decline in hormones is gradual and steady. In fact, it’s estimated that testosterone decreases at a rate of less than 2% a year from around the age of 30 to 40.2 The impact this hormone imbalance has on each individual male can vary considerably. Some men have lower than average testosterone levels, without experiencing any adverse symptoms.
So, going back to the lead question – what is male menopause? Now, that’s not 100% definitive. But generally, doctors agree that it’s not all down to hormone changes. An age-related decline in testosterone alone is unlikely to cause all the symptoms connected to male menopause.3
What else could it be?
Often physical, lifestyle or psychological problems are a bigger contributor to the symptoms of male menopause. For instance, feeling stressed because of work or relationship problems can affect your libido and cause sleeping problems. Drinking too much and not exercising can make you feel lethargic and reduce your muscle mass. Analysing your life at the halfway stage (or ‘a midlife crisis’) can make you feel irritable and you may experience a period of depression if you feel you’ve not achieved as much as you’d have hoped to have by this point in your life.
What’s the difference between the male and female experience of menopause?
Many people make the mistake of thinking that the male menopause is related to the female menopause. This isn’t the case.
There are some similarities in the common menopause symptoms of men and women as they advance through middle age. For example, reduced sex drive, an increase in body fat and mood swings can be common in both. But there are also lots of differences too. Hot flashes in men are far less common for instance. And whereas men continue to produce sperm and procreate well into their older years, a woman’s reproduction cycle ends with menopause.
Male menopause v female menopause
|Male menopause||Female menopause|
|Gradual reduction in testosterone.||End of ovulation leads to a sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone.|
|Sperm production continues. Males can reproduce into older age.||Menopause marks the end of the female reproduction cycle.|
|Not all men show signs of male menopause.||All females experience menopause.|
|Signs of menopause emerge slowly and subtly.||Menopause symptoms can be sudden and intense.|
What next? Is there a male menopause treatment?
If you’re in your late forties or early fifties and you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction and a loss of sex drive, coupled with depression it could be that you’re going through the male menopause. This can impact on your day-to-day life and relationships, so it’s important that you take action so you can get on with enjoying life once again.
If you’re displaying one or more male menopause symptoms, the first stop is to make an appointment to see your GP. They will ask you a series of questions and take a blood test.
Based on their findings, they’ll be able to recommend a number of different male menopause treatments. They might suggest cognitive behavioural therapy or medication. The treatments they recommend will depend on what symptoms you have and what’s causing them.
But general wellness advice will support any treatments too. So, follow advice to eat a healthy, balanced diet, exercise regularly, cut down on alcohol and give up smoking.
Last updated: 10 July 2020
2 As above
3 As above