Facing up to a manly issue

It was the worst period of his life, suffering from testosterone deficiency (TD) for almost four years. The condition is also known by the medical term hypogonadism.

But local TV actor Bernard Tan insists that the condition does not mean that he had, or currently has, the sexual disorder, erectile dysfunction (ED).

The 49-year-old, who is currently single, told The New Paper: "TD encompasses so much more than that!

"The fact is, I do not have ED. But everyone automatically assumes that if you have TD, you must have ED.

"For the lay person, the word 'testosterone' inevitably leads to the topic of sex, which is still very much a taboo subject in Singapore."


Tan, who starred in the recently-concluded Channel 5 action drama Point Of Entry 2, added: "There are 24 hours in a day - a man will spend perhaps an hour at the very most on sexual activities.

"Having TD means that, among other things, you'll be constantly fatigued and lethargic and not be able to concentrate on even simple, routine tasks.

"When that happens, you can't work to earn a livelihood. In such a case, being unable to function in daily life means that sex would definitely be one of the last things on my mind."

Tan was one of the speakers at a press conference for the Urofair 2012 Asia Pacific Congress of Urological Diseases, which began yesterday and will end tomorrow.

He was candid when revealing how TD affected his personal and professional life, adding that the condition meant that his energy levels would constantly fluctuate.

"One of the most debilitating instances was when I couldn't even drive my car to work at 10 in the morning- I ended up taking a cab.

"It really takes all the confidence out of you,and that was very depressing for me.

"The weird thing was when I got home at about 9pm, I didn't feel so fatigued any more. But by then, it was almost time to go to bed.

"As you can imagine, I found myself very confused with all the unpredictability this brought."


Tan added that he later found out that such fluctuations were due to the natural ebb and flow of testosterone levels in the body during the day, and that the effects of TD would naturally follow this circadian rhythm.

He also revealed the negative impact of TD on his endurance, describing it as "the mind is willing, but the body is not there".

"When I was filming some of the physical scenes for Point Of Entry, I was already acting alongside people who were half my age.

"At times, it was madness having to keep up with them.

"I also took much longer to recover from physical exertion compared to my colleagues.

After a vigorous scene, I'd be sitting in a corner quietly, trying to regain my energy and with a look on my face that said, 'Don't talk to me!'

"I think they had to check if I was still breathing at times," he joked.


Tan stated that he was confident about coming forward in sharing his experience to increase public awareness about TD.

"Just because I'm a celebrity doesn't mean I should be shy about admitting that I have TD.

"Perhaps not many men are comfortable admitting that they have TD because of its negative connotations.

"Nevertheless, if I'm too afraid to share my story because I think that people will gossip about me, then that's very selfish of me."

Tan advises men, especially those middle- aged and older, to get checked for TD if they experience its symptoms, which also include irritability and insomnia.

"My TD went on for two or three years, and I was getting very frustrated trying to figure out what was happening to me.

"I thought I was overworked, but getting more sleep didn't help.

"At points, I was so close to understanding the condition but... I chose to think that I was just tired.

"It turns out it was just as simple as getting a blood test and having the diagnosis of TD confirmed."

Tan is currently using a medical gel containing testosterone which he evenly applies to areas of his body covered by clothes, such as his abdomen and shoulders.

According to him, the treatment has greatly improved his quality of life. He said: "I had to face the truth in the end. Look,TD does happen to men in life, like it or not.

"It's good to embrace the fact rather than run away from it."