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What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You about Male Hormonal Cycles

A man rides a bicycle through an office.
 

Let’s face it: Every woman on the planet knows about hormonal cycles. They’re difficult to ignore. Most men, on the other hand, are taught from the time they are born that being manly means denying anything in us that might be viewed as “feminine.” I still remember the taunts when I was a kid. “What’s the matter with you, Diamond, you throw like a girl.” Or, “Look, he’s going to cry, just like a little girl.”

It’s no wonder guys grow up convinced that we’re not “hormonal.” But is that true? Many of us know intellectually that we have hormones. We know we’ve got testosterone. Many of us have a vague idea that we also have estrogen coursing through our bloodstream—a fact we’d like to ignore. Hormonal cycles? That sounds too “fem” for many of us to even contemplate.

Midlife Hormonal Changes

I first began to recognize that there might be more going on inside me when I began doing research on andropause, or male menopause, in the early 1990s. I was seeing changes going on with midlife men at my health clinic that seemed similar to what I saw with women going through menopause. Many of the men were having “night sweats” and “hot flashes.” Others were on an emotional rollercoaster, up one minute and down the next. Some were having unexplained joint pain, and others were having problems becoming aroused or having intercourse.

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I began interviewing midlife men and women to find out what they were experiencing. Most of the men thought the idea that they were “hormonal” was ridiculous. Most of the women had a different view. “Well, it’s about time you guys finally figured out you’re hormonal,” one woman told me. Eventually, I interviewed more than 1,000 men and women, and 30,000 filled out a questionnaire I developed. The results were published in my books, Male Menopause, in 1997, and Surviving Male Menopause: A Guide for Women and Men, in 2000.

Do Men Have Hormonal Cycles?

Although most of us now accept that women and men have “male” and “female” hormones, it is more difficult to accept that men also have hormonal cycles. According to endocrinologist Dr. Estelle Ramey, professor at Georgetown University Medical School, “The evidence of them may be less dramatic, but the monthly changes are no less real.” But if men do have hormonal cycles, why don’t they recognize or talk about them? Dr. Ramey believes it is because men respond to their cycles in a way that is a function of their “culturally acquired self-image. They deny them.” This denial is the main reason she believes the largely male scientific and medical communities have taken so long to recognize hormonal cycles in men.

Winifred Cutler is one of the world’s leading experts on hormonal cycles. She has published more than 35 scientific papers, is co-inventor on five patents, and has authored eight books, including Love Cycles: The Science of Intimacy. “Now it is known that men show a hormonal rhythm,” she says. “A rhythm I call the hormonal symphony of men.”

A cycle might last a few minutes, a day, a week, a month, a season, a year, or a lifetime. When we go to sleep, our testosterone levels rise hour by hour until, by the time we awaken, they are at their highest (morning erections, anyone?). By the early and late morning, our levels typically level off and begin to decline. By late afternoon, our testosterone is usually at its lowest ebb. No wonder it’s more difficult for me to get up for the “afternoon delight” my wife thinks is wonderful, while I’m more interested in a morning romp.

Men’s hormones cycle throughout the year. In studies conducted in the United States, France, and Australia, it was found that men secrete their highest levels of sex hormones in October and their lowest levels in April. There was a 16% increase in testosterone levels from April to October and a 22% decline from October to April. Interestingly, although Australia, for example, is in its springtime when France and the United States are in their autumn, men in all three parts of the world showed a similar pattern of peaks in October and valleys in April.

Men also have monthly hormonal cycles, though there are some interesting differences and similarities between women’s and men’s cycles. Women’s monthly cycles are more predictable and synchronous. Women who live in close proximity find that their monthly cycles begin to align. Men’s cycles seem to be more unpredictable and individual. A study of young men showed that the majority had a discernible cycle of testosterone with repeating rises and falls, but each man who did show a cycle had a cycle unique to himself.

“Testosterone levels oscillate every 15 to 20 minutes in men, and also follow daily, seasonal, and annual rhythms,” says Theresa L. Crenshaw, author of The Alchemy of Love and Lust. “The morning highs, daily fluctuations, and seasonal cycles whip men around. Think about the moment-to-moment impact of testosterone levels firing and spiking all over the place during the day and what this must be doing to a man’s temperament. Men who so strongly need to feel in control are in fact in much less control than they realize. No wonder they can be so, well, testy!”

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I suspect that we’d all be better off if we recognized that men, like women, have our own challenges dealing with our hormones. The great philosophers tell us to “know thyself.” Knowing and accepting our hormonal cycles may be the most important knowing we can have about what it means to be a man.

© Copyright 2012 by Jed Diamond, PhD, LCSW, therapist in Willits, CA. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments
  • vry October 9th, 2012 at 12:37 PM #1

    I have heard a lot more people talking a little more openly about this issue recently than I would have ever heard of before, amybe 20 years ago or so.

    But I still think that a lot of men will be hesitant to talk about it ebcause they know that this will lead to a lot of eye rolling from the women in their lives.

    Sometimes it is easier by far to just keep it to yourself than listen to someone telling you that it’s all in your head.

  • Jed Diamond October 9th, 2012 at 1:57 PM #2

    I tell guys, “forget about the eye rolls from people who don’t understand. This is information that can improve your health, make your sex life more exciting and fun, and prolong your life.” Believe me, its worth a few eye rolls.

  • Benny October 9th, 2012 at 3:07 PM #3

    I did experience these same kinds of hormonal fluctuations a few years ago, but had no idea who to even talk to. My doctor acted like I was crazy and so did my wife so I felt a little helpless. If this is something that is actually happening, then why aren’t there more science based materials talking about this? I mean, maybe so many of us wouldn’t be going around feeling totally crazy if there was more information available for us to consult.

  • anderson October 9th, 2012 at 4:01 PM #4

    never heard about male hormonal cycles before.but an interesting thing to know.if we do have hormonal cycles then why is it that we are still not showing mood swings and other issues that plague women?is there a difference or is it that they are reading too much into the natural changes in hormonal levels?

  • Jed Diamond October 9th, 2012 at 9:26 PM #5

    Anderson, Clearly not all women experience mood swings when their hormones begin to change and neither do all men. But a significant number of both women and men do experience mood swings. Some people have them and they are less severe than others, and some people cover them over by using alcohol, overworking, in finding other ways of escape. I’ve found that both men and women can learn more about our hormonal cycles and how they impact our lives.

  • DALE October 9th, 2012 at 11:28 PM #6

    So feeling groggy and ‘different’ in your late 40s is not something unusual? How I wish my doc reassured me with this! I have experienced many things that have been discussed with regard to male hormonal levels and I’m happy to know it is completely natural and nothing that affects just me. Not too many men I have spoken to know or even observe this and I was left bewildered when my doc couldn’t give an accurate reason.

    This definitely needs more exposure,this issue. There not being wide awareness can be a very big blow for those of us that experience its effects on a bigger scale!

  • Julian October 10th, 2012 at 3:01 PM #7

    The one thing that I woukd like to contribute is that perhaps more doctors do not talk about this because they themselves are not so well informed to know that this could be a real issue. For so many years the medical community has only focused on viewing the hormonal issues of women and they have neglected to follow up on the evidence that this is something that many men have to live with through. For once, the needs of men have been overlooked by medicine and have been relegated to the back burner. Now we are more open to having this conversations that these hormonal fluctuations could indeed be something that is plaguing many male patients, but we are rarely equipped with suggestions and changes that men can make to help them regain their old vitality and health.

  • Reenie October 10th, 2012 at 5:27 PM #8

    Are you serious?
    Now they are jumping on this bandwagon too?
    Don’t they already have Viagra to solve this issue?
    Why do men always gotta be acting like they have something more affecting them than we do?
    I am all for the sensitive man but I’m not into this at all.

  • Ronnie B October 11th, 2012 at 4:16 AM #9

    Do you think that this could be what all of these mid-life crises that we usually associate with men of a certain age could be all about? I mean if the hormones are throwing them into a tailspin, then this could be a cause to pinpoint that right there.

  • Tram Nguyen April 27th, 2013 at 10:33 AM #10

    To Jed Diamond:
    I’m a student journalist who’s writing a column on male hormonal cycles.
    Could you please give me the exact names of the studies that you mentioned in this article? (You said there are studies in United States, France, and Australia, what are those studies and who conducted those studies?)
    About the monthly cycle, I’ve read on the Internet that men experience internal flow of blood from certain glands. But to my knowledge, glands do not have blood to produce. So could you please explain to me if that is true, and if not, then what actually happens to the monthly hormonal cycle in men?

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