In Japanese, "kogen-byo" is connective tissue disease (previously referred to as collagen disease), and used to describe systemic autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
But Japanese males may also be suffering from an outbreak of a new disease, and Shukan Taishu (June 17) thinks it is on to something. It has changed the first syllable from "ko" to "sai," thereby altering the name to "saigen-byo," meaning diseases caused by the stresses and strains of being wed to a "monster" wife.
This condition, reports the magazine, may be spreading rapidly.
"I couldn't figure out what was causing it," moaned Mr A, a 45-year-old mid-level manager at a construction company. "I don't smoke or drink alcohol, and on weekends I go to the gym to keep in shape. But from the end of last year, around the time I knocked off work, I'd feel pains in the area of my temples, and while riding the train home, I'd develop a rapid heartbeat.
"My wife, as I see it, is an extreme perfectionist," Mr A complained. "Even the most trivial thing has to be done just right or she quietly fumes over it. For example, if I leave particles of food uneaten in my lunch box, she'll silently dump it into the trash, and then ask me, 'Was there something you didn't like?'"
"In spring of this year, when my train arrived at the station near our house, I suddenly got cold sweats, and in my mind's eye I saw the frosty expression on my wife's face. 'Eh?' I said, startled, and then began to feel dizzy. I thought I was going to fall onto the tracks, when another commuter grabbed me and pulled me to safety." It could have been a disaster."
"The more husbands devote themselves to their jobs, the greater pride they feel," explains Yoichi Shimomura, a veteran company doctor with long experience in mental health counseling. "The more a wife refuses to recognize this, the greater stress the husband feels."
"Many men also suffer from menopause when they reach their 40s or 50s," remarks Michiko Yonekura, a psychiatrist at a medical facility staffed entirely by young female physicians, called the "Joy Total Clinic." "This is caused by a decline in the secretion of testosterone, leading to hormonal imbalances. In this case, they might suffer from vertigo or palpitations, as well as loss of sex drive and erectile dysfunction."
According to Yonekura, the condition makes itself felt after children grow up and couples become "empty nesters," or upon retirement, when spouses begin to spend more time together. Of course, some wives come up with the female counterpart of this disease, "fugen-byo" ("fu" means husband).
"Men should learn to develop a 'playful mind,'" advises Shimomura. "I can't go so far as to recommend they go out and cheat on their wives, but by having a crush on somebody or playing with remotely controlled models, and so on, they are made to feel young again.
"It's also important to show extra deference to the wife's parents, as this develops a sense of gratitude on her part," Shimomura adds. "Even though spouses get on each other's nerves, there are also ways by which they can develop better tolerance."
To see if you might be suffering from "saigen-byo," Shukan Taishu has provided a checklist of 10 items. Answer "yes" to between 1 and 4, and you need to be on your guard. If the score's between 5 and 7, the chances of having it are pretty good. And if the score is between 8 and 10, a completely medical and psychological checkup is recommended.
- I'm something of a perfectionist
- I have trouble falling asleep
- I suffer from unexplained episodes of sweating, vertigo or palpitations
- I help as much as possible with household chores
- Our children are financially independent and married
- I'm often at home since I have already retired
- I exhibit more fatigue than does my wife
- We never engage in marital spats
- As a married couple we seem to understand each other without the need to speak
- My wife suffers from menopause-related problems