Testosterone is a male hormone known as androgen. This hormone is responsible for many bodily functions, including sex drive, muscle strength, sperm production, body fat distribution, and bone density. Though categorized as a male hormone, women also have testosterone, but in a much lower concentration than men.
Research studies show that low testosterone in both men and women can result in physical and emotional symptoms such as depression. In this article, we will discuss the relationship between low testosterone and depression.
What Causes Low Testosterone?
To better understand the link between the two, it is important that we start by explaining what causes low testosterone (Low T). As a health condition, low testosterone is also known as hypogonadism, a condition that affects the body’s sex glands.
Men who have suffered testicular injuries are the most susceptible to primary hypogonadism. According to Healthline, this condition is often caused by mumps, high levels of iron in the blood, and cancer treatments.
Secondary hypogonadism develops when the pituitary gland fails to receive signals to produce more testosterone. Causes of such signal failure include normal aging, obesity, tuberculosis, use of opioid medication, and HIV/AIDS.
Signs and Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Low testosterone can trigger numerous changes in your emotional and physical life. The most obvious symptom is a change in sexual desire and function. It is not uncommon for men with low testosterone to experience a considerable drop in sex drive. Some people discover they are having challenges achieving and maintaining erections. Others end up suffering from infertility.
Since testosterone plays a critical role in muscle and bone strength, low T can cause muscle and bone mass loss. These changes pose a great risk of diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Although men of all ages can suffer from low testosterone, the condition is more prevalent among older adults.
The Link Between Low Testosterone and Depression
Anxiety, irritability, depression, and other mood changes are common in people with low testosterone. However, there lacks sufficient research studies to identify what causes the correlation. In modern medical practice, testosterone therapy helps boost mood in people with low T.
Although researchers are yet to point out exactly how low T causes depression, it is presumed that it has something to do with the critical role that testosterone plays in helping us feel good. This hormone increases the release of dopamine, the brain’s neurotransmitter responsible for your feelings of pleasure.
There could also be a connection between testosterone levels in the body and the function of serotonin. A drop in serotonin activity in the brain is often linked to feelings of depression. Testosterone can play a role in serotonin reuptake in the brain, enhancing its activity and your overall mood. Researchers have also theorized that testosterone may have anti-anxiety properties.
How Can You Distinguish Depression from Low T?
Due to many shared symptoms of depression and low T, diagnosis can be a bit tricky. The fact that depression, anxiety, and difficulty thinking are all normal signs of aging also poses a challenge. Common symptoms of both depression and low T include:
- Memory problems
- Sleep problems
- Low sex drive
- Trouble concentrating
Regarding physical symptoms, there is a significant difference between symptoms of depression and low T. Individuals with depression but normal testosterone levels do not experience decreased muscle mass and strength or breast swelling, which are both associated with low T.
Physical symptoms of depression are often centered around back pain and headaches.
Low Testosterone in Women
The decline in mental health due to low T is not a problem unique to the male gender. Studies have shown that women with low testosterone also experience depression. Low T in women is often diagnosed and treated in women who are postmenopausal or those experiencing perimenopause.
When Should You Seek Help?
If you are feeling blue or experiencing symptoms like a decrease in your sex drive, sudden weight gain, and other emotional and mental symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Blood work and physical examination can help determine whether your testosterone levels are normal or if you’re experiencing androgen deficiency.
There are many effective treatment options that can help restore your testosterone levels if your current levels are abnormally low. These treatment options are discussed in the section below.
Treating Low Testosterone and Depression
If your depression symptoms are related to low testosterone, improving your testosterone levels can help improve these symptoms.
Low testosterone is treatable using testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). Hormone replacement therapy is the most popular option for restoring normal testosterone levels. This is achieved using synthetic testosterone, available in many forms.
This treatment can be given through injections, skin patches, or topical gel. Your doctor will decide which delivery method is the best for your health, lifestyle, and insurance coverage. However, if your depression is not caused by low T, then TRT will not help. Nonetheless, such depression is treatable with the help of a mental health professional.
Treat Low T and Depression at My Psychiatrist
Whether your depression is caused by a hormonal issue like low testosterone, or something else, we are here to help. At My Psychiatrist, we work with board-certified psychiatrists and healthcare professionals trained in TRT and depression. We offer in-person services at our South Florida Boca Raton, Hollywood, Miami, and Oakland Park facilities. We also offer virtual mental health services. To schedule an appointment or learn more about our services, click here or call (877) 548-8089.