It seems that the more the lines separating the genders are blurred, the further apart we find that men and women really are. It is almost cliché now to point out that much of medical care has traditionally been geared for men and that, until say 40 years or so ago, women were considered to be little more than men with breasts and no penises in the medical community. Much has changed, fortunately, and women’s health is now regarded a separate issue from Harvard medical studies to the community clinics.
Quite the opposite has been the case in psychiatry, according to Jed Diamond in his new book The Irritable Male Syndrome. That’s IMS, for short. If that seems a little close to PMS to be a coincidence for you, you’re on the right track. His previous book was called Male Menopause.
Diamond makes it clear, though, that he feels completely comfortable claiming these uniquely female phenomena for men. Hormones and life changes have as strong an effect on men as they do women while society and evolution require men to suppress them. He consciously relies on generalities to make his case for IMS. He also claims to be a victim of it himself as well as a therapist with experience in treating other men that suffer from it.
He divides the book into three parts. Part one is devoted to arguing that IMS exists. Diamond heaps on anecdotal as well as some statistical evidence of this syndrome. He also describes how it is a two part problem manifesting itself both in and outside of the sufferer. Both destructive abusers and silently suffering suicide victims can have IMS.
In part two, after satisfying himself that he has convinced the reader that IMS is a unique problem worthy of its own category, he gives the basis for it. He describes how men’s role have been declining for years now as women are claiming more equal footing politically, economically, and even privately in the home. He discusses the eventual removal of men as necessary elements of society, even going as far as discussing the idea that men will someday be made biologically irrelevant by technology. By the way, this is not an idea unique to nor invented by Diamond. These encroaching threats, along with the cultural repression of men’s basic needs to work out their aggressive tendencies and/or just get away from their problems, create the perfect stew pot for IMS. Stir in some sexual frustration and hormonal changes and you have an irritable male.
Part three offers ways to try to deal with the problem. There is nothing particularly ground breaking here. He suggests that taking care of you body, mind and spirit will help and that extreme cases should seek professional help. Diamond acknowledges that many of the suggestions made here might be unfamiliar to a therapists and he educates the reader in ways to educate their doctor.
He closes with some particularly strange passages where he suggests that finding a place, a physical and geographical location, may be the best solution to all of life’s problems.
This book is an easy read. Diamond has a gentle, self-effacing style about him without seeming obsequious. For that reason, I would suggest it to a man that thinks he might have problems. I don’t know if I buy IMS as a “thing” or, if it is, what good can be gained from labeling it which appears to be Diamond’s main purpose in this book. It seems self evident that some men would get clinically depressed in a way different from women and any therapist probably already knows this.