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Irritable Male Syndrome: High on Stress

Bring your irritable man back to life this Valentine's Day.

WebMD Feature

Harold, age 44, has a not-so-typical Valentines Day dilemma. It's not that he doesn't know what to get for his wife, it's that he doesn't want to get her anything!

"I love my wife [and] I know she expects something nice for Valentine's Day -- candy, flowers, or a romantic card -- but I hate to go through the motions when I just don't feel much passion," he says.

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Nodding your head in agreement or sympathy?

You or your partner may be experiencing irritable male syndrome (IMS), which is marked by plummeting levels of the hormone testosterone while under stress. As a result, men may feel withdrawn, frustrated, anxious, sad, and/or lack interest or enthusiasm in just about everything - including you!

Cupid Is Stupid

And often IMS can be more noticeable around holidays like Valentine's Day.

"The problem with Valentine's Day for men who are experiencing IMS is they know they should feel loving and romantic, but they just don't," says Jed Diamond, author of several books including the forthcoming Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing the Four Key Causes of Male Depression and Aggression.

For men, Diamond says, "this very confusing because they don't know what's going on inside them."

Women also feel the effects of IMS on Valentine's Day, says Diamond, a clinical psychotherapist and director of MenAlive, a health center in northern California. "You start thinking about when you first met and the romance was still there, and now your man isn't terribly romantic and it seems like everything about you bothers him," he says. "This can be devastating."

But you are not alone.

IMS is highly common and affects many aspects of life -- 365 days of the year, according to a new study of 10,000 men. Specifically, 46% of men say that they are often or almost always stressed and 55% say they often or almost always have a strong fear of failure. Moreover, 62% have a strong desire to get away from it all, and 40% say they are rarely or never sexually satisfied. The full study results will appear in Diamond's upcoming book.

Use It or Lose It

This Valentine's Day, "couples can either go through the motions and pretend that nothing is wrong, or they can use this holiday of love to re-examine their relationship and see if IMS may be leading them down the wrong path," he says.

"Generally, the first step is to reaffirm that you care about each other," he says. And then say something like 'tell me what you are really feeling and what you are needing because love doesn't flow the way it did or should,' he suggests. Or say, 'Look, I do love you, but something is going on that we need to talk about.'

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