Are Hot Flashes in Men Anxiety-Related?

Dawn Ferera
Updated on July 14, 2021

You’re a man that’s generally healthy. But then one day, all of a sudden, you feel as if your skin is on fire. You’re sweating as if it’s 100 degrees and you can feel your skin reddening. Your first thought might be that you’re experiencing hot flashes, commonly associated with women going through menopause. But is it possible for men to have hot flashes? If so, are they related to physical or psychological factors? Being that hot flashes resemble some of the symptoms of panic attacks, some men may assume they are caused by anxiety, but are they right?

Hot flashes in men

What Is a Hot Flash?

A hot flash is a sudden, intense feeling of heat, not caused by anything in the environment. Hot flashes are a direct result of internal processes that trigger a reaction in the body.

Symptoms of a hot flash can include:

  • Sudden, intense feeling of warmth that spreads through your chest, neck, and face
  • Blotchy reddening of the skin
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Sweating, sometimes profusely, especially on the upper body
  • Chills as the intensity subsides
  • Anxiety

Women most often experience hot flashes as a result of the significant hormonal fluctuations related to the menopausal process.[1] Men, on the other hand, don’t experience hormonal fluctuations in the same way women do.

During midlife, men experience what’s known as “androgen decline in the aging male” or ADAM. It’s a gradual reduction in hormones and does not itself result in the types of hormone-related symptoms (like hot flashes) seen in women. In fact, testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, drops only about 1-2% per year after age 30 in healthy men. That slow decline is considered normal and generally not the source of their hot flashes.[2]

Why Do Men Experience Hot Flashes?

What does happen during male midlife is a cluster of changes that when considered as a whole seem to predispose men to experience symptoms. When men experience hot flashes, it is likely due to very specific circumstances or lifestyle issues. The most common of these issues are:

  • Androgen Deprivation Therapy
  • Psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, or stress
  • Lifestyle factors such as obesity, sleep disturbances, alcohol use

Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT)

ADT is a common treatment for men with prostate cancer. Among it’s most common side effects are hot flashes. Approximately 80% of men who undergo ADT report experiencing hot flashes.[3]

In the absence of ADT therapy, the cause of hot flashes seems to be related to psychological and lifestyle factors rather than hormones.

Psychological and Lifestyle Factors

Along with the normal midlife ADAM, men tend to experience a number of other changes during midlife:

  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Reduced ability to exercise as strenuously as they once did
  • Fat redistribution, such as developing a large belly or breasts (gynecomastia)
  • Cardiovascular issues such as high cholesterol, heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Lower energy
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Poor concentration and short-term memory

But are these changes related to the hot flashes experienced by some me? Not exactly.

It is around this time that men tend to experience what’s sometimes referred to as a “midlife crisis.” Essentially, they recognize they’ve come to midlife and are evaluating where they are personally and professionally. Midlife is a time of dealing with things like relationship issues, career changes or retirement, caring for aging parents, and other stressors. Taken together, these physical and psychological factors can create feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.

It is well known that anxiety and stress in particular have been linked to a number of physical symptoms that strongly resemble hot flashes:

  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Flushing
  • Chills
  • Tingling sensations

It is very possible that men who feel the “hot flash” may be experiencing the physical symptoms of anxiety or high stress associated with this time of life. In fact, there is a specific type of anxiety known as midlife anxiety. This type of anxiety is not due to hormonal fluctuations but rather a result of dealing with the issues that surface during midlife.[4]

Other possible factors that have been linked to these menopausal-like symptoms in men include:

  • Poor sleep
  • Poor diet
  • Not exercising regularly
  • Over-use of alcohol
  • Smoking

So while there is a lot happening in a man’s life at midlife, significant hormonal fluctuations does not appear to be one of them. Rather, it appears that how male midlife is managed seems to have significant impact on how it is experienced.[5]

What Can Be Done to Treat Male Hot Flashes?

The short answer is: a lot! Many of the factors associated with male midlife and those thought to contribute to the experience of hot flashes are manageable.

Manage Your Lifestyle

Focus on the “Big 3” – diet, exercise, and sleep. These factors are key to maintaining good health. Each of them is also positively correlated with stress/anxiety reduction and improved mood.

Manage Your Emotional Well-Being

Make time to take care of you and relax and recharge. Allocate time for friends and family. If you’re struggling with a problem, talk it out with a trusted friend. If you find that your problems are overwhelming or keeping you from enjoying life in the way you want to, reach out for professional help.

Sometimes, talking to someone who can be objective can help you see things in a whole new way. A therapist can teach you skills to cope with your anxiety and depression. Reducing your levels of anxiety and depression may help to alleviate your experience of hot flashes. If you prefer to avoid the expense and time-commitment often involved in working with a therapist, you may be an excellent candidate for trying out online therapy, which is more affordable, discrete and time efficient.

Consult With Your Doctor

If you find that your symptoms are increasingly bothersome, even with your lifestyle changes, reach out to your healthcare provider or doctor. Even though you may not be dealing with hormonal issues, your symptoms are real. There are effective treatments for reducing your symptoms as well as for treating the anxiety and depression that may underlie those symptoms.

Final Thoughts

One of the hardest things to do is ask for help, but you’re not alone. While you’re unlikely to get a diagnosis of “male menopause,” you will find that your doctor understands what you mean and will be able to offer you options to reduce those bothersome symptoms. You don’t have to sweat it alone.


References

  1. Hot flashes – Symptoms and causes. (2020, April 24). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hot-flashes/symptoms-causes/syc-20352790
  2. Wu, F. C., Tajar, A., Pye, S. R., Silman, A. J., Finn, J. D., O’Neill, T. W., Bartfai, G., Casanueva, F., Forti, G., Giwercman, A., Huhtaniemi, I. T., Kula, K., Punab, M., Boonen, S., Vanderschueren, D., & European Male Aging Study Group (2008). Hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis disruptions in older men are differentially linked to age and modifiable risk factors: the European Male Aging StudyThe Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism93(7), 2737–2745. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2007-1972
  3. Casey, R. G., Corcoran, N. M., & Goldenberg, S. L. (2012). Quality of life issues in men undergoing androgen deprivation therapy: a reviewAsian journal of andrology14(2), 226–231. https://doi.org/10.1038/aja.2011.108
  4. Beutel, M. E., Glaesmer, H., Wiltink, J., Marian, H., & Brähler, E. (2010). Life satisfaction, anxiety, depression and resilience across the life span of menThe aging male : the official journal of the International Society for the Study of the Aging Male13(1), 32–39. https://doi.org/10.3109/13685530903296698
  5. Watkins, E. S. (2007). The Medicalisation of Male Menopause in America. Social History of Medicine, 20(2), 369–388. https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hkm039
Dawn Ferera

Dawn Ferrara is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a doctor of Psychology with additional certification in the telemental health field. She is passionate about helping people find solutions that work and believes that every person has the power to be successful. Her practice is in South Louisiana.