Bias disclosure: I generally do not like pop psychology/self-help books. Therefore, you probably should not be surprised that The Irritable Male Syndrome did not change my mind about the genre.
I happened to see a blurb about The Irritable Male Syndrome in a magazine at about the time my family uniformly was reporting my irritability was at all-time levels. As a result, on a whim I picked the book up on our next trip through the local chain bookstore. It is emblematic of how I view the genre.
Jed Diamond made a name for himself with the book Male Menopause. Irritable Male Syndrome (“IMS”) seems to be more of the same, except applicable to a much broader age range. Diamond first outlines what he considers IMS to be. My condensed interpretation: if females have PMS, then males probably have IMS, which often manifests itself from a male-oriented predisposition to both depression and aggression. Moreover, to show that this just isn’t what is often called a “mid-life crisis,” Diamond takes pains to point out it can strike any male from puberty on.
Diamond has the reader take a test that it seems would naturally lead to the conclusion that a significant number of the men taking it have IMS. Scoring just 26 out of a possible 150 points means you have “[s]ome indications of IMS” and may need help. Scoring 50 points means “IMS is likely, and it is advisable to seek help.” A score above 75 means “IMS is definitely present, and getting help is most important.” Now it seems to me that that scoring 50 percent or less on a test means you failed, not that you passed with flying colors.
Regardless, between using examples of those whose lives and/or marriages have been turned around by their discovery that they or their spouse had IMS and analysis of various factors Diamond believes contributes to the syndrome, Diamond makes suggestions on how to cope with it. Not surprisingly, he suggests that men suffering IMS need to make changes in the physical, psychological and emotional aspects of their lives. I guess that means there aren’t a lot of areas that don’t need work. While Diamond’s comments regarding the role hormonal levels may play in this syndrome may very well be accurate, most of what he says consists of common sense ideas you would perhaps come across if you simply take the time to think about the situation.
Moreover, like so many works of this nature, the layers of good information and advice become lost in psychobabble. Take this paragraph on how men can deal with IMS by strengthening their “spirit”:
We can listen to our inner voices, to the direction of our personal daimons. We can keep our passion for this wonderful dance of life alive and feel the joy of living at a time of great problems and also great opportunities. We can also learn from our elders, from those who are a bit farther along the path of creating identifies based on healing ourselves, healing others, and healing the planet.
Healing the planet? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize my irritability was contributing to its destruction. I do know that if I wasn’t an irritable male before picking up and reading yet another piece of the pop psychology that floods our bookstores, I sure as hell was after reading more than 200 pages to come to conclusions like that.