Cold weather and male “shrinkage”
September 24, 2008 9:35 PM   Subscribe

Is there any way to reduce male “shrinkage” in cold weather? (possibly NSFW)

As soon as the weather dips below 15 degrees Celsius, this happens to me. It lasts all fall/winter long and I’m beginning to suspect it’s partly to blame for my cranky, wintertime moods.

The reasoning: I think that when my balls are drawn right up against my body, and my penis shrinks to a third of its usual size - my brain mistakes this as being caused by some sort of external, stressful situation - thus I’m more irritated, high-strung, and annoyed than I would be in a warmer season where everything down there is hanging much better.

I think my body temperature does tend to be low, and I can’t tolerate the cold as well as most people. My toes, fingers and nose sometimes get cold as well when I get this “shrinkage” factor. I’m in my mid-30s, I eat well, exercise and am average weight for my height - though I did smoke for about 4 years in my early 20s. I mostly wear briefs and jeans/khakis during the winter. I’ve tried doubling up on the briefs, but that just looked weird.

I’m wondering what I could do (short of moving to the Caribbean) that would make me feel a bit more comfortable during the winter. Any suggestions (however weird) appreciated!
posted by quantum eclecticist to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Chemical hand warmers in a jockstrap perhaps?
posted by demon666 at 9:48 PM on September 24, 2008

Wool underwear with cotton lining. and/or wool long underwear. This will keep your legs and your junk warmer than just briefs and jeans/khakis.
posted by fructose at 9:53 PM on September 24, 2008

Long underwear!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:54 PM on September 24, 2008

Try wearing a hat and gloves to retain more body heat. Possibly try thermal underwear - REI and other camping stores probably have some that are warm without being bulky.
posted by zippy at 9:55 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cold-weather penis shrinkage has, as far as I'm aware, never been linked to irritability, whereas seasonal affective disorder has. Or maybe the reduced levels of vitamin D in winter are affecting your mood and you could try taking a supplement? These would probably be the things to address before jumping to conclusions about your penis's winter form.
posted by xchmp at 10:03 PM on September 24, 2008 [8 favorites]

Get some of the new-fangled thermal underwear - the stuff designed for arctic camping. It's very thin, lightweight and keeps moisture away. It'll keep your stuff nice and toasty. But the root cause probably has nothing to do with your junk and everything to do with something SAD-related. IANAD, but I find that B12 and 5htp help with winter irritability.

On preview, what xchmp says.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:07 PM on September 24, 2008

thus I’m more irritated, high-strung, and annoyed than I would be in a warmer season where everything down there is hanging much better

IANAD. Do you think it's possible that the two are just totally unrelated? Perhaps you have SAD. I just don't see what the connection could be between your shrinkage and your other problems, which seem more, you know, psychological in nature.

Or you could try long underwear. And wear a warm coat, hat and gloves when you're outside. But my money is on your shrinkage being completely unrelated to everything else.

On preview, what xchmp said.
posted by number9dream at 10:08 PM on September 24, 2008

Jeez, if I'm not about to get busy with a woman then I'm always pleased when there is this kind of shrinkage. It's all tucked away so that there isn't much to get out of place or smooshed, which requires adjustment.

I'm also wondering if you have really made an accurate connection between shrinkage and mood. I've never heard of that in my life.
posted by kosmonaut at 10:14 PM on September 24, 2008

Wear a hat, silk and wool blend Knee socks, thin but warm.
posted by hortense at 10:15 PM on September 24, 2008

Get a fluffer ;)

Seriously tho, why not move? If you're cranky in the winter, it's probably related to the seasonal depression.
posted by axltea at 10:41 PM on September 24, 2008

my brain mistakes this as being caused by some sort of external, stressful situation - thus I’m more irritated, high-strung, and annoyed than I would be in a warmer season

I can't say that my brain ever thinks about such things. Are you sure it's not just coincidence that you notice it when you do?
posted by rhizome at 11:03 PM on September 24, 2008

OK, OK, I'll give the standard Ask MeFi answer: you need a doc to check your thyroid (intolerance to cold can be a symptom of thyroid trouble), after which you can discuss seasonal affective issues and possible lightbox therapy.

I think you'd like staring into the lightbox for a bit every morning a lot better than you'd like walking around with a jockstrap full of hand warmers under your thermal underwear and the fuzzy slipper on your junk, honestly.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:32 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Man to man, you're thinking about your penis way too much. Yeah, it shrinks when it's cold. It's supposed to do that! Stop worrying about it; that's not your problem.

Beyond the medical advice, common wisdom about penis obsession says you have a confidence problem. Maybe your mood change is more due to your situation in life: mid 30's w/o fulfilling accomplishments?
posted by sbutler at 1:03 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Flannel-lined jeans?
posted by Houstonian at 2:57 AM on September 25, 2008

Maybe your mood change is more due to your situation in life: mid 30's w/o fulfilling accomplishments?

Whoa. Is that answer based on more information than is actually in the question?!

Anyway, the Bull Durham answer: if you think you're suffering shrinkage because of the cold weather, or the daylight, or the missing cigarettes... then you ARE.

It should be easy to narrow down to a mental/physical issue. Just work/sleep in a room that's heated to about 80 degrees for a week... in the middle of winter. And see what happens.
posted by rokusan at 3:35 AM on September 25, 2008

sbutler, ouch! Still though, might be onto something at least general in the confidence department, if not the full monte. Seriously, ouch! OP, if your shrinkage causes your bad moods, I don't think it's because of anything physical, such as some kind of ball-to-pelvis proximity ratio or constricted flesh or testicle temperature or something. You may be irritated at being smaller, which does suck, but that's beatable mentally as others have mentioned. Make peace with your gear because you will not be able to change its behavior (at least not this behavior). Put on some Whitney Houston and learn to love yourself. Because children are our future. Wait, I meant because it's the greatest love of all.
posted by Askr at 6:45 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

It happens because you're a male human. It's not a problem, except because you perceive it as a problem.

Most of the rest of the 2 billion+ of us on this planet ignore it when it happens. Relax. If you can't relax, consider discussing it with a therapist.

Not trying to ridicule you - honestly, I'm not - but it's just not a medical problem when your body functions properly.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:00 AM on September 25, 2008

Wear a hat. It will keep your head warm.

Really. You lose a lot of heat through your head. Your body wants to keep your brain happy, so it sends blood from the extremities to the head when you are cold. By extremity we mean what you think we mean. Your head (so to speak).

I would get one like Jayne's on the Firefly episode "The Package" (IIRC). It's real cunning, IMO, but it's your choice.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 7:02 AM on September 25, 2008

Best answer: First, I'm pretty sure that the people saying that it's something like SAD that's causing your mood shifts, and not your penis shrinking, are correct. Your penis shrinking from cold, and your penis retracting from stress, have different causes — your body is not confused about why it is retracting your little guy.

Second, I have found that this is not related to outside temperature, but to my inside temperature. So I can be in a really warm room, but feeling chilled, and everything will retract. Or I can be outdoors on a winter day, but bundled up and really warm, and it's all hanging out.

The point being, you will solve this either by moving to a tropical or semi-tropical area, or by starting to wear warmer hats, thicker coats, long underwear, and really getting your metabolism going. If your hands and toes are warm, your penis is probably visible.

But yeah, I think you are overthinking a really normal process, and ascribing to it things (like mood changes) that it doesn't have the power to do.
posted by Forktine at 7:15 AM on September 25, 2008

I thought that overheated testicles lowered sperm counts, hence the warning about laptops and tight undies. So if you plan on having kids, maybe colder is better.
posted by desjardins at 8:20 AM on September 25, 2008

maybe a woolen sock worn Red Hot Chili Pepper style?
posted by matteo at 9:19 AM on September 25, 2008

Why not just do more exercise when it gets colder? You'll improve circulation and warm up your body, which can't hurt, and it's also a known way to combat seasonal affective disorder, which is probably the real problem with your mood. Try to find a way to get some sunshine or go to a warmer climate for a week or so at the dead of the winter if you can -- that can't hurt either.
posted by mikeh at 9:21 AM on September 25, 2008

You totally need to get your thyroid checked.
posted by HotToddy at 12:57 PM on September 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers (and laughs!). :) I should have edited this question before posting it - I said *partly* "to blame for my cranky, wintertime moods". The winter gets me down in general, the shrinkage issue is just another thing in a list of things (like shoveling snow, lower light levels, Christmas shopping, and so on) that can make winter annoying.

I think what I was attempting to say was that this particular issue makes me feel physically uncomfortable - and when I'm uncomfortable I can be a bit crabby. I shouldn't have implied causation or that "shrinkage" was the central issue. After 11pm I can get a bit dramatic, thinking up all kinds of wacky things. I should really stay away from the internets at that hour.

It is a normal reaction to cold - I get that. The issue for me, is that once I get cold, I seem to stay cold for longer than I should, so the penis/fingers/toes/nose stay cold for a long time - sometimes for a large chunk of the day. I probably shouldn't be feeling cold like this, so I'm going to get my thyroid checked, as some of you have suggested.

I've tried long underwear, but just cotton - didn't seem to help - thermal makes a lot of sense, or wool with cotton lining. That I will do right away - the chemical warmer in the jockstrap I'm skipping!

As for sbutler - he may be referring to this question by another member that I listed as a favorite. Sure, my mid-30s probably feel more like what most people's mid-20s felt like. I'm only just now getting started on a career - instead of working at yet another random McJob. And I'm not the most confident guy - but I've come a long way in a few short years. Growing up gay in a backwater and the self-hatred resulting from that does have a way of affecting your self-esteem and confidence that can linger for years, and can subsequently influence the choices you make. So I don't have a list of typical accomplishments that a "typical" mid-30s male might have - that's okay. Except for the winter which I tend to dread a bit - I'm pretty happy with my life right now, and where it's going. The penis obsession might just be a side effect of the gayness.
posted by quantum eclecticist at 3:15 PM on September 25, 2008

You might ask your doc about Raynaud's syndrome, too-- do your hands get dead white and cold in any sort of chill?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:15 PM on September 25, 2008

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