Mood swings in men (irritable male syndrome): Causes, symptoms, and prevention

mood swings in menIrritability and mood swings in men are common symptoms of andropause and may be referred to as irritable male syndrome (IMS). IMS can be caused by high cortisol levels and may cause men to act out or become depressed. To learn more about this condition, including its connection to low testosterone, symptoms, causes, and treatment, continue reading below.

Irritable male syndrome and low testosterone: What’s the connection?

As men age, their bodies produce less testosterone. Approximately 40 percent of men over the age of 45 have below normal levels of testosterone, but can this effect their moods and result in irritable male syndrome? Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, founder and director of Men’s Health Boston medical clinic commented on the potential connection, stating, “Men with low testosterone find that their emotional reserves are lower. They have a shorter fuse. In popular culture, people link male anger with high testosterone, but as a rule we see it more in men with low testosterone – most commonly when levels are dropping. That’s when men get cranky.”


Other experts disagree that low testosterone is the main cause of irritable male syndrome, and instead posit that low testosterone may be a symptom of another condition that could contribute to mood swings. Dr. Alvin Matsumoto explained this point of view, stating, “I think there are a lot of things going on when you get older. If you’re androgen deficient and you’re experiencing a low sex drive, will you be irritable? Yes!” Whether IMS is caused by low testosterone or they are just side effects that occur together, experts agree that the way to feel better is to maintain your overall health.

Symptoms of mood swings in men

Irritable male syndrome may cause symptoms including depression, low self-confidence, difficulty concentrating, reduced energy, and issues sleeping, as well as irritability. Those with IMS may also find it more difficult to lose weight and have a harder time recovering after exercise as well as experience erectile dysfunction and a lower sex drive.

Additional symptoms of men with irritable male syndrome include:

  • Anger
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Impatience
  • Feeling anti-social
  • Sarcasm
  • Feelings of depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tension
  • Hostility
  • Being argumentative
  • Being unloving
  • Frustration
  • Being withdrawn
  • Being demanding
  • Defensiveness
  • Sadness
  • Dissatisfaction

What can cause mood swings in men?

Decreased testosterone levels may make men more susceptible to mood swings, though the hormone decreases steadily and over a long period of time. There are other potential causes of mood swings in men that may be more likely if the mood swings are severe or being experienced by men under 30. In these cases, they may be caused by mental health issues such as bipolar disorder and depression.

Common causes include:

ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder): People afflicted by this condition can be distracted and frustrated easily and often. They often feel inadequate and are unable to cope with depression, resulting in erratic moods.

Borderline personality disorder (BPS): Characterized by the inability to maintain a stable relationship due to patients’ turbulent emotions about themselves and others. A history of suicide attempts may be present.

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED): Individuals can experience extreme, uncontrollable anger and are capable of great violence. They don’t necessarily mean to inflict harm but do so anyway.

Substance abuse: Alcohol and/or drug abuse can lead to unexpected mood swings. People’s addiction may make them behave erratically as their cravings often guide their behavior.

Stress: Continuous stress can leave you feeling like no one understands you and your problems. Without proper relief it can build up over time, leading to mood swings.

Head injury: Suffering from an acute injury to the head that results in brain damage can affect the parts of the brain that govern personality and mood.

Chemical imbalances: The brain utilizes many different chemicals called neurotransmitters, including serotonin, GABA, dopamine, and norepinephrine. When neurotransmitter production is disrupted, it may lead to mood swings, depression, or excessive anxiety.

Irritable male syndrome: Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose irritable male syndrome, your doctor may order a blood test to examine your testosterone levels. From these levels, they may determine whether you are experiencing a hormone imbalance that is capable of impacting your mood. Your doctor may also check for signs of other medical conditions that can cause mood swings or explain other associated symptoms. For example, diabetes may explain erectile dysfunction that is making you feel irritable and frustrated.

If your irritable male syndrome is found to be connected to low testosterone levels, your doctor may recommend testosterone replacement therapy. This treatment involves receiving regular injections of a synthetic hormone that can help restore vitality as well as alleviate other symptoms associated with low testosterone levels. Your doctor may also suggest that you work to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet that avoids items high in fat, sugars, and alcohol.

Tips for improving low mood


To better manage your symptoms and improve your mood, it is important to recognize the changes in your mood and obtain a diagnosis from your doctor. To better and help stabilize your mood, you may want to learn to identify your mood swings and take the time to calm down and diffuse the situation. Also, practice stress-reducing activities such as meditation and yoga, and exercise regularly as physical activity can help promote the expression of endorphins and alleviate feelings of anger and depression. As previously mentioned, make dietary changes and avoid foods that contain excess fats and sugars, and limit your alcohol intake. Finally, seek counseling if your mood swings are impacting your daily life in order to better learn how to cope with them.

Male mood swings can occur with age just like female ones, and may even be a symptom of andropause known as irritable male syndrome. IMS may affect your daily life and impact your relationships, so if you are experiencing mood fluctuations that are not normal it is best to seek the advice of a doctor. Depending on the cause of your mood swings, he or she may recommend testosterone therapy, lifestyle changes, or counselling to help you cope with and alleviate your symptoms.

Related: 7 Ways to boost testosterone levels naturally

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.


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