Is Low Testosterone Causing Your Depression?

depressed man

Depression rates in the U.S. have reached historic highs. According to a 2023 Gallup survey, 29% of American adults have been diagnosed with the mental health condition at some point in their lifetime. It’s hitting men hard.

Among men, over 1 in 5 will be diagnosed with clinical depression, which is roughly twice the rate in 2017. And more than 11% of men are currently living with depressive disorder. What’s making so many men depressed? In some cases, it may be a sign of low testosterone.

Among men, over 1 in 5 will be diagnosed with clinical depression, which is roughly twice the rate in 2017. And more than 11% of men are currently living with depressive disorder. Click To Tweet

WHAT IS TESTOSTERONE?

Testosterone, which is referred to as an androgen, is a male hormone. This important hormone fuels the development of the male brain. It is responsible for the deep voice, facial hair, muscle strength, and other traits we usually associate with being a man.

Although testosterone is considered a male hormone, it is also produced in the female body, simply in lower amounts.

In general, optimal levels of testosterone support a man’s brain health, strength, energy, motivation, and sex drive. It helps safeguard the nervous system and protects against mood disorders, cognitive decline, and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Testosterone is also thought to help prevent inflammation, which some researchers believe is why men are less likely to suffer from inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disorders such as lupus.

If testosterone levels decline, however, these protective properties are diminished.

WHAT IS LOW TESTOSTERONE?

Low testosterone, known as male hypogonadism, occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough of the hormone. Testosterone levels typically peak during the late teenage years and remain high throughout a man’s 20s. However, starting at about age 30, testosterone levels gradually decrease. Research shows that the aging process can leave some men with low testosterone levels that contribute to anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as other issues.

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF LOW TESTOSTERONE

Low testosterone (low T) levels can cause a variety of symptoms that affect a man’s quality of life. Common low testosterone symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Moodiness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Low libido
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Erection problems
  • Increased body fat
  • Decreased lean muscle mass
  • Low bone density
  • Hot flashes
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain

The symptoms of low T are most common in older men, but they can appear at any age.

COMMON CAUSES OF LOW TESTOSTERONE

Normal aging is the most common cause of low testosterone. However, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found that over the past few decades, testosterone levels are also declining in adolescent and young adult men (AYA).

Their findings suggest that approximately 1 in 5 men aged 15-39 have testosterone deficiency. The researchers expect hormone levels to continue dropping in young men, in part due to rising rates of diabetes and body mass index, poor diet, decreased exercise, marijuana use, and exposure to environmental toxins.

Concussions, which are more common in men, are another common yet often unrecognized cause of low T.

This is because head trauma can damage the pituitary gland, which is situated in a vulnerable area of the skull. When this occurs, it can impact the production of hormones, such as testosterone. This can lead to hormonal imbalances.

The brain SPECT imaging work at Amen Clinics reveals damage to the brain due to head injuries. In fact, SPECT scans show that 40% of patients at Amen Clinics have experienced a significant brain injury.

What’s surprising is that many of them don’t recall being hurt, or they think their head injury was too insignificant to mention. What these individuals don’t realize is that a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) can negatively impact hormone production and lead to mental health symptoms like depression.

Other causes of low testosterone include:

  • Testicular injury
  • Cancer treatments
  • High iron levels
  • Mumps
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Opioid medication use
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Tuberculosis

Additional factors that contribute to low testosterone include too much belly fat, high stress levels, a high-sugar diet, eating too many processed foods, low zinc levels, and excessive alcohol consumption.

IS IT DEPRESSION OR LOW T?

Research shows that depression symptoms are common in men with low T. Many of the symptoms of low T are similar to those in depression, such as low energy, lack of motivation, low sex drive, moodiness, and trouble concentrating.

Because of this, it’s critical to know if your symptoms are due to depression or low T. This is where functional brain imaging with SPECT can be so valuable.

SPECT measures blood flow and activity in the brain. It shows areas of the brain with healthy blood flow/activity, as well as those with too much or too little blood flow/activity.

On SPECT, people with depression tend to have too much activity in the deep limbic system. And people with hormonal deficiencies or head trauma often have areas of decreased blood flow. Seeing the brain patterns can help you get a more accurate diagnosis, which leads to more effective treatment.

HOW TO TREAT LOW TESTOSTERONE 

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is an effective treatment option that helps restore hormonal balance. TRT is available in many forms, including injections, topical gels, and patches. It’s important to work with your physician to determine if TRT is right for you.

Other ways to support healthy testosterone levels include:

  • Lift weights: Resistance training can boost testosterone levels naturally, according to several studies.
  • Consume adequate protein: Getting enough protein is critical for healthy testosterone production. However, a 2023 study shows that very high protein diets (>3.4g/kg/day) may decrease T levels.
  • Manage your stress: Practicing stress-management techniques promotes healthy hormone production.
  • Get your zzz’s: Adequate sleep is necessary for optimal hormonal balance. Aim for 7-8 hours per night.
  • Take nutritional supplements: To support testosterone, take vitamin D (get your level tested and optimize it if necessary), zinc (25mg a day) and DHEA (start with about 10mg and increase from there).

Keeping testosterone levels healthy can help men maintain more positive moods, greater energy levels, and increased motivation and sex drive. Ultimately, these enhance a man’s overall quality of life at any age.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

 

1 Comment »

  1. & I would love to.be evaluated. I check all the boxes for Low T, but I've suffered from anxiety, depression, ptsd, & have been on meds for years. However my ex wife thinks that I have undiagnosed bipolar & I feel she might be right !

    Comment by James a Sheehan jr — January 22, 2024 @ 1:54 PM

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