Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Do men have moods?

 In response to questions posed by Sudha Umashankar from Hindu Metroplus:

Do you think men have moods?

All humans sometimes get into moods, that is “bad moods”. When people are in bad moods, they may feel doubt or anger towards themselves or others.  Any number of external and internal factors can trigger one getting into “a mood”.  External factors may include foods that one eats, the weather, things that one does, ways that people treat one, and other things that may happen to one.  Internal factors may include discomfort in one’s body, and memories and thoughts that come up from inside one.

Men certainly get into moods. In my experience as counsellor, I find that men get very upset and sad mostly when they are facing some problem in their relationships or career, or if they are suffering from some mental illness.

Is it unusual for a person to become moody? When does it get to be a concern ?

It is not unusual to get upset if life gives us something to be unhappy about. If a person loses his job for example, it is natural to be upset and this reaction is absolutely “normal”.  One might worry if a person who experiences a loss of a job does not experience a bad mood! 

“Mood Swings” however are a different matter.  The term, Mood Swing, refers to a condition in which one may be ecstatically joyous one moment, and then very angry or sad the next moment.  That is, the person alternates between soaring and crashing, often without much external changes of conditions.  A person in such a state loses perspective in each case, and gets carried away with the emotion of the moment.  If this condition persists, it may be diagnosed as a mental illness known as Bi-Polar disorder. Treatment may involve Talk Therapy and/or Medication.  Getting early diagnosis and treatment for this condition can bring a lot of relief for the afflicted individual, as well as for family and friends.

What do men get moody about? Work, marriage, other things? Compared to women  especially.

In my practice, I find that younger men are often very anxious and upset when it comes to relationships. Courtship and marriage are particularly stressful.  When a relationship does not work out as desired, I find that young men often do become desperate and lose perspective.

On the other hand, I find that men in their 40s and 50s are more anxious when it comes to job, career, and finances.  This also has to do with how well they feel they are providing for their families. Thoughts about retirement often bring a great deal of stress, and get men in their 60s very emotional if they have not been able to prepare for their retirement well.

Does it become difficult for the spouse or other family members to handle them because men don't like to talk about what's bothering them ?

It is true that many men find it more difficult to express what they feel to a spouse or family member.  This is because of the conditioning that happens to men over many years.  Many men think it is a sign of weakness to express their emotions, especially emotions like sadness, disappointments, anxiety, and fear.

On the other hand, I find that men who come for professional counselling are often much more verbal and able to discuss their emotions than many other men.  This may be the case because men who choose to go to a counsellor may be more willing and able to articulate their feelings in the first place.  It may also be that they have faith that the professional is not going to judge them, but rather the counsellor is going to be able to help them if they give the counsellor a clear picture of what is going on.

How are men’s moods best handled?

Men’s anxious or depressed moods, like women’s, should never be treated lightly.  Generally, it will only be counter-productive to say to a person in a bad mood, “Snap out of it,” or “Pull yourself together”.

What a friend or family member should do is to say to the person, “It seems like you might be in a bad mood.  Are you?”  If the answer is, “Yes,” one can ask, “Would you like to tell me what is the matter?”  Then one should listen carefully and empathetically.  Perhaps after hearing the full story, one might ask the person if he or she might have any idea of how to improve the situation, or one might even suggest possible ways to improve things.

One needs to be patient with someone who is in a bad mood.  It usually takes a person a good deal of time to work him or herself out of a bad mood, and it is useless to try to rush this recovery process. 

In today’s times there is a lot more stress, and a lot less family support, in most people’s lives than there was in the past.  Most of us are not living in the midst of large extended families.  Most of us are not working in the same professions our parents and grandparents worked in.  Discussing problematic situations with family and friends when one feels a little low can be fine. However, if one feels that it might cause discomfort to family and friends to hear one’s anxieties, then looking for a professional counsellor is a good solution.

Counselling has very much come of age today, unlike even ten years ago.  Today many people do not go for help only when everything is falling apart.  Instead, now many people wisely begin to seek help even before a problem becomes full-blown.  Investment in terms of time and money to seek emotional support, and to get a “reality check” about decision-making can pay rich dividends in the way one carries on daily life activities.

Do women get moody at certain times of the month? Is this hormone related? Is that not the case with men ?

Women’s moods are definitely affected by their monthly menstrual cycles. The hormonal changes that accompany this cycle in a woman’s body causes varying amounts of stress and depression, and can indeed cause her to be more emotional at certain times of the month. A majority of women are affected with these emotions in varying degrees in what is commonly known as the Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS). 

Similar emotions, again with a biological hormonal basis, also sometimes occur in women soon after the birth of a child.  A majority of women have varying degrees of Post-Partum Depression, depending on the support system that is available to them. This can put a lot of pressure on the marital relationship. Discussing and seeking help for this possible condition even before childbirth can help all involved.

Men are known to experience various moods as adolescents, based on hormonal changes, but this begins to settle in their 20s.  It is not yet scientifically determined whether or not men go though monthly physical mood-altering cycles in any way similar to what women experience with their menstrual cycles.

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