Depression in Men: The Low Testosterone Connection
Unfortunately, depression is one of the most common mental health conditions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 16 million adults in the United States have experienced at least one episode of major depression. Although depression is more common in women, it also occurs at significantly high levels in men.
Signs of Depression in Men
Everyone feels down or has trouble sleeping occasionally. But depression is not the same thing as an occasional blue mood. Depression can occur at any age and affect anyone regardless of income or lifestyle.
Classic signs of depression may include:
- Feelings of sadness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Concentration problems
- Sleep disturbances
Men may also have different signs of depression than women. Common signs of depression in men may include the following:
- Anger: Men that have depression are more likely to show signs of anger and hostility than women. Men may hide certain emotions, such as sadness. Instead, they may anger easily or become aggressive.
- Substance abuse: Men may not seek treatment as often as women. They are more likely to self-medicate and use drugs and alcohol to cope with depression.
- Physical issues: Depression can lead to physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach aches, and chest pain. Both men and women may develop physical symptoms. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, men are more likely to see a doctor for physical symptoms than emotional ones.
Left untreated, men with depression are at a higher risk of engaging in risky behaviors, such as dangerous driving, unsafe sex, and drug use. Men are also at a higher risk of suicide than women. Women may attempt suicide more often than men, but men are more likely to die due to suicide.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Middle age men are at the highest risk. Men tend to use more lethal means of suicide, such as a gun.
Common Causes of Depression in Men
There are several common causes of depression in men. In some instances, more than one factor may contribute to depression. The following factors may contribute to depression in men:
- Genetics: Depression appears to have a genetic link. Men that have a family history of depression, such as a parent or sibling, are at an increased risk of developing depression.
- Life circumstances: Various circumstances in life can contribute to depression in men. For example, losing a job, financial problems, and the loss of a loved one are all upsetting situations that can lead to emotional issues, such as depression.
- Illnesses: Physical diseases can sometimes cause symptoms of depression in men. Illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and traumatic brain injury may lead to symptoms of depression.
Although depression is common in men, they are less likely to seek treatment than women. Some men are hesitant to talk about their emotions and may not even recognize their symptoms as depression. For other men, they may downplay their symptoms and not want to admit they have a problem. A reluctance to seek help may greatly decrease quality of life.
The Link Between Low Testosterone and Depression
One of the most common causes of depression in men is low testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone that is produced in small amounts in women but in larger levels in men. Testosterone contributes to muscle strength, sex drive, and sperm production in men. It also has a role in mood.
In a study published in the Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology, 3,179 older men were followed for ten years. The men did not have a history of depression at baseline. The study was performed to determine if low serum testosterone levels were associated with an increased risk of depression in men.
Over the course of the ten-year study, about 4.2 percent of the men developed depression. The men that developed depression tended to be older with the average age being 77. The study also indicated that low levels of testosterone were associated with depression in older men.
In another study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers reviewed the medical records of 278 men for two years. All the men were over the age of 45 and had no diagnosis of depression when they started the study.
The study indicated that men who had low testosterone were four times more likely to develop clinical depression. The study also showed men with low testosterone also had lower rates of physical activity and higher rates of obesity.
The exact reason why low testosterone may cause depression in men is not fully understood. One theory is low testosterone may have an effect on brain chemistry including lowering levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood.
Low testosterone may also cause problems, such as decreased sex drive, fatigue, decreased mental sharpness, indecisiveness and loss of muscle mass and strength. Another theory is that these complaints may be worrisome to men and lead to depressed mood.
Testosterone levels in men can drop for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons for low testosterone is aging. As men age, their testosterone naturally starts to decrease. Other possible causes include hypogonadism, xenoestrogens in the environment, chemotherapy, radiation, genetic abnormalities, stress, kidney disease, pituitary gland dysfunction, and a side effect of certain medications.
Natural Treatment for Depression in Men
It’s important to understand that treating depression in men may take a varied approach. There is not a one size fits all treatment. It may take a combination of cognitive or behavior therapy, along with lifestyle changes, such as exercise and improving sleep habits, to ease symptoms of depression.
One approach that is helpful for men with depression and low testosterone is replacing testosterone deficiency with bioidentical testosterone. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 790 men were enrolled in a study to determine if raising testosterone levels improved mood in men with low testosterone.
Study participants were given either testosterone gel or a placebo for one year. The study indicated that increasing testosterone levels to a normal range for men between age 19 and 40 improved mood and decreased depressive symptoms.
Bioidentical testosterone treatment involves determining the correct level of hormone replacement for each individual. Each man is different. Bioidentical testosterone is customized hormone replacement therapy for a man’s unique situation.
One of the advantages of bioidentical hormones is it matches the testosterone naturally produced in a man’s body. Improving testosterone levels naturally to a normal range may improve mood and also provide additional benefits, such as increased energy, stamina, and sex drive.
Do you have low testosterone levels?
Take our symptom checker to find out if you could have a testosterone deficiency that is causing your depressed moods. Call our Wellness Consultants for a complimentary consultation at 281-698-8698. It’s time to get your life back!
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National Institute of Mental Health. Major Depression. (2017, November). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml
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Snyder, P. J., Bhasin, S., Cunningham, G. R., Matsumoto, A. M., Stephens-Shields, A. J., Cauley, J. A., & Ensrud, K. E. (2016). Effects of testosterone treatment in older men. New England Journal of Medicine, 374(7), 611-624. Retrieved from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1506119