When you think of testosterone, you probably think of feats of physical strength or sexual prowess in the bedroom — and you’re not wrong. But you may not be aware that testosterone also plays a key role in your mental health, and even your emotional wellness.
If you’re dealing with low testosterone levels here in Dallas, Texas, there’s a good chance you’re focused on the physical symptoms that accompany this diagnosis. Your mental health is also at risk, however. Have you experienced any mood swings or insomnia lately? Both symptoms could be a result of low testosterone levels. Depression and anxiety also make themselves known when testosterone deficiency is present.
The good news? Treating your low testosterone levels can boost your mood and help you feel emotionally well again. Keep reading to see how you can beat the mental health symptoms that sometimes accompany testosterone deficiency.
Testosterone and the Brain
Testosterone doesn’t start in the brain, of course. It’s produced by the testicles. But testosterone has a profound effect on the brain, as well as on much of the rest of your body, including your muscle mass, sexual function, sex drive and hair growth.
When it comes to your mental health, testosterone plays a role. When you’re experiencing a testosterone deficiency, you can end up with depression in addition to other mental health and emotional symptoms.
What Causes Low Testosterone?
Testosterone deficiency has a variety of potential causes. Some medications can trigger testosterone levels to drop, including steroids and opioids. In addition, if you’ve undergone chemotherapy or radiation to treat cancer or if you’ve suffered an injury to the testicles, you may find your testosterone levels have dropped. Weight gain can also cause hormones to get out of whack. Certain disease also create a testosterone deficiency, notably mumps, as well as tuberculosis and HIV.
Most men with low testosterone levels, however, find their numbers creeping down gradually rather than as a result of a sudden injury or illness. Testosterone levels drop naturally at an average rate of 1.6% per year, starting sometime in the 30s.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Most men with a testosterone deficiency start to wonder about their hormone levels when they experience a decrease in their sexual desire and in their ability to achieve and maintain an erection. In fact, issues with sexual function are the top symptoms of low testosterone.
Other symptoms include weight gain, especially around the abdominal area, along with a concomitant loss of muscle mass. Another result of low testosterone that’s less obvious is loss of bone density, which can result in osteoporosis. In addition, many men develop heart disease or diabetes related to their testosterone deficiency.
Low Testosterone and Mental Health Issues
Testosterone deficiency can result in several significant mental health symptoms and conditions. Men may find themselves ignoring some symptoms or chalking them up to ordinary stress without any awareness that they have a physical issue at the root of the problem. Some of these mental health symptoms may also ebb and flow, giving men another reason to ignore them.
However, because the brain contains receptors for testosterone, a deficiency can result in irritability, depression, anxiety and mood swings. These symptoms in combination are sometimes called “andropause,” in comparison to menopause, which women go through in their 40s and 50s. However, the loss of testosterone comes on gradually for men, unlike the relative suddenness of menopause, meaning the symptoms can creep up on you. You can find yourself a bit depressed, a bit irritable, and not be able to point to a reason for the way you feel.
Many of these mental health conditions can stem from causes other than low testosterone, or they may have co-occurring causes. If you’ve been experiencing any of these mental health conditions, you should speak to a doctor to start to determine the cause. A test for low testosterone levels could help explain symptoms such as the following.
When the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol, anxiety can be a result. Another effect of cortisol is reduced production of testosterone in the testes, resulting in a diminished sex drive — and that symptom can exacerbate your anxiety in what seems like a never-ending cycle.
Sometimes you can tolerate everyday stress with no problems. Then suddenly, with no warning, you’re irritable or grouchy, with your mood swinging wildly and unpredictably. Low testosterone may be one of the causes of your irritability.
Fatigue and Insomnia
Many men experience fatigue because they work too hard. But testosterone deficiency can play a role here as well. Fatigue and insomnia are related to depression, often co-occurring with the larger mental health issue. Loss of energy also can lead to weight gain, since if you’re exhausted all the time, you probably can’t summon up the energy to exercise.
Other mental health issues that can occur as a result of low testosterone levels include memory problems and an inability to concentrate — not to mention the mental health aspects of a diminished sex drive. While all of these may result from other causes, if they’re occurring with any physical symptoms of testosterone deficiency, you should definitely have your hormone levels checked.
And then there’s the most common mental health issue resulting from low testosterone: depression.
Depression and Testosterone Deficiency
Testosterone is a mood-booster when it reaches the brain. When testosterone levels go up, so does the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that fights depression. And when testosterone levels drop, the chances of depression increase. Some studies have found that 56% of men who evidence borderline-low testosterone levels and experience erectile dysfunction as a result also have depression.
In many cases, men aren’t even cognizant that they’re depressed. Some men express depression as anger, so even their family members may not be able to identify depression as the cause of the behavior they’re seeing. Sometimes depressed behavior actually shows up as changes in sleeping behavior or eating habits. It can also manifest as stress or as a loss of sexual function.
The various other symptoms of testosterone deficiency can combine to make a depressed mood even worse. Losing muscle mass and gaining weight, both symptoms of low testosterone, can cause a man to be less sure of himself sexually and romantically — which can then feed into greater depression.
When men seek help for their depression without checking their testosterone levels, they may end up exacerbating their problem even further. Antidepressants are among the medications that can lower testosterone levels — in the case of antidepressants, as much as 80% — which can make symptoms of depression worse, not better.
How can you tell whether your depression is a result of testosterone deficiency? Well, the obvious way is to have your testosterone levels checked. If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, lowered sex drive and diminished muscle mass, there’s a good chance that low testosterone is involved in your depression.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy and Mental Health
The good news is that testosterone replacement therapy has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms in men with testosterone deficiency. The results are most promising for middle-aged men and for those with less severe depression.
That means that you don’t have to ignore your mental health symptoms and just tough it out. You also don’t have to head to treatment using antidepressants, which can have some serious side effects. Instead, one treatment can manage not just your mental health symptoms but also any erectile dysfunction, diminished sex drive or loss of muscle mass and strength that you’ve been experiencing.
Testosterone replacement therapy is only the answer for men who have taken lab tests that confirm low testosterone levels — but for those men, it can be a true solution to several problems at once. With testosterone replacement therapy, your testosterone levels are raised to normal through regular delivery of testosterone through any of several avenues. These include:
- Testosterone pellets: These are ideal for men who don’t want to think about their treatment. Pellets containing testosterone are implanted under the skin of the buttocks, where they dissolve over a period of up to six months, releasing testosterone gradually.
- Testosterone patches: Think of these like nicotine or airsickness patches. They attach to your arm and release testosterone gel gradually for a few days. They’re easy to apply, not messy, and non-invasive.
- Testosterone gels: The testosterone used here is pretty much the same as the gel you’d receive via a patch, only you rub the gel on yourself every few days. This delivery system isn’t a great choice for men living in a household where someone else might get hold of the gel and use it themselves.
- Testosterone injections: Yes, you can administer this testosterone delivery system yourself, once you’ve been trained by your health care provider. A shot of testosterone into your buttocks delivers the hormone for one to four weeks.
Talk to your doctor about which of these methods of testosterone treatment is most right for you. Some insurance plans may also want to weigh in on their preferred methods.
Texas Men’s Health Group Is Ready to Help
At Texas Men’s Health Group, we’re ready to help you boost your energy levels, increase your mental clarity, improve your sleep, stabilize your mental wellness — and yes, get your sex life back on track. We pride ourselves on being discreet and on delivering the top testosterone replacement therapy in Dallas, Texas.
Contact us today to explore whether your depression, irritability, mood swings or anxiety actually stem from low testosterone levels. We’ll help you find the solutions you’ve been looking for.