How to cheer up a grumpy old man
Is your partner suffering from grumpy old man syndrome? Get to the bottom of his grumpiness with our expert guide
Men are notoriously bad at communicating how they’re feeling and are very prone to bottling things up and shutting us out when they’re a bit down. It’s easy to shrug off their grumpiness as just another mood, but sometimes there might be more going on behind the scenes than you might think. “From a young age, boys are taught to be ‘brave’,” says Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at AXA PPP healthcare. “Men have always played the role of protectors and showing emotion is often considered a sign of weakness. This can lead to men hiding their emotions which can trigger negative thoughts, distress and anxiety and make things worse.” Nagging at him for being grumpy won’t help but if he doesn’t seem himself, look out for some signs to help you understand what’s really going on, so you can help him manage his moods.
IS HE ANXIOUS?
“Anxiety doesn’t necessarily have a trigger or a focus. It’s a fear of a future event which may or may not happen,” says Dr Winwood. “If you’re anxious you may have unrealistic, uncontrollable and intrusive thoughts that something untoward might happen.” When he’s feeling anxious your partner might be irritable, restless, he may struggle to sleep or want to sleep a lot. Physically he might become short of breath, sweaty or dizzy.
IS HE STRESSED?
“Stress and anxiety are often talked about interchangeably, but they are different,” says Dr Winwood. “Stress has a trigger and making a change to remove it can take away the stress. For example, if an important event is coming up, you might begin to feel stressed about it. But once that event is over, the stress also goes away.” If he’s stressed your partner might be grumpy or irritable, he may get angry easily and have a short temper. He may have problems with digestion, struggle to sleep or suffer from headaches and fatigue.
IS HE DEPRESSED?
Depression affects one in five men over the age of 65. But, sadly, the stigma surrounding men’s mental health prevents many of them from
seeking help. “While women tend to express their emotional pain through symptoms associated with anxiety, like becoming upset or panicky, men are more likely to ‘act out’ repressed feelings, becoming irritable and angry,” says Dr Winwood. “This is partly driven by an inability to open up about their feelings, for fear their masculinity will be questioned.” When a man is struggling with depression, he may become angry, irritable and aggressive. Or he could be totally flat and struggle to show or feel positive emotions. He might lose his appetite, lack energy and either struggle to sleep or sleep too much. He might adopt unhealthy habits, such as turning to alcohol or smoking. And he could experience headaches, digestive issues and discomfort.
IS HE HORMONAL?
Men can be at the mercy of their hormones too. “As men age, they experience a change in hormone production and a progressive reduction in testosterone,” says Dr Winwood. “This can have an impact on their mood, physical health and sex drive – symptoms of a process recently coined the ‘Manopause’. “These bodily changes usually happen between the ages of 40 and 55, but can last until men are in their 60s. They tend to be accompanied by changes in attitudes and mood, too. A healthy diet and regular exercise could help to balance out his hormones, so try adopting some healthy habits together. While your partner may experience one, or all, of the problems, everyone is different. He may conceal certain behaviours or feelings, or not even realise he’s acting out of character. Thankfully there are lots of simple ways you can help, perhaps without him even realising it.