Excess stress affects mental health and can give rise to anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depressive disorders are the most common of all psychological disorders and both have been much more prevalent due to the pandemic.
Hormones affect the brain and neurotransmitters. Hormones and neurotransmitters signal the brain and nervous system to rev up and calm down and affect mood. There are sex differences in developing mood disorders and it is no wonder why men have less anxiety and depression.
Women are more than twice as likely as males to have mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Their hormones cycle. When hormones are in flux, such as during puberty, perimenstrual, post-partum and menopause mood disorders are more common. It may be because most women have lower levels of androgens such as DHEA and testosterone.
Androgens stabilize moods. Men with low production of androgens have a significantly higher prevalence of anxiety disorders and major depressive disorders, compared to those with normal levels of androgens. Similarly, men treated with androgen-depleting drugs for prostate cancer have a greater likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder.
Could testosterone be the cure?
Testosterone Affects Mood in Men
Studies in males suggest that testosterone has protective benefits against anxiety and depression. Testosterone-replacement therapy in men with low testosterone greatly improves mood, alleviates anxiety, and mitigates symptoms of depression. Socially anxious men also display a significant drop in testosterone levels after being defeated in a competition, an effect not observed in non-anxious men.
How It is Delivered Matters!
The route of administration may be an important factor in alleviating mood swings. Injections give peaks and valleys in levels which may result in mood swings from the highs and lows. Giving testosterone through the skin is more effective in improving mood than hormone injections. There are no big swings in levels when applied to the skin, instead of peaks and valleys, you get slow, steady release and more stable moods. The majority of studies show testosterone has beneficial effects on mood in men, especially in those with lower than normal levels. Giving testosterone to men with adequate levels is not effective.
Women Can Benefit from Testosterone Too!
A substantial number of women experience a loss of sexual interest and well-being during their late reproductive years otherwise known as perimenopause. This stage can last over 10 years and typically starts in the mid 40’s but can occur earlier of later. This is the time of life when testosterone levels decrease and women become more anxious; they have mood swings, their body composition changes and they can become depressed. In fact, women with major depressive disorder or a type of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety, social phobia, or agoraphobia express lower levels of salivary testosterone, compared to emotionally healthy women.
We know testosterone affects mood in women too. Surgical removal of the ovaries where testosterone is made, increased mood disturbances such as anxiety and depression.
Treatment of women with a low dose of testosterone significantly improved ratings of depression in those experiencing a major depressive disorder! Another study in women found that a single administration of testosterone reduced anxiety. Testosterone decreases with age in both men and women. Applying testosterone through the skin in women whose testosterone had declined resulted in substantially improved mood and psychological well-being, compared to placebo-treated individuals. Testosterone therapy improves well-being, mood, and sexual function in premenopausal women with low libido and low testosterone.
The Bottom Line
Studies show that testosterone can decrease anxiety, alleviate depression and can improve mood and mental health in both women and men. It is important to have a doctor with experience in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy measure your levels since these conditions may have other causes. Reach out for a free, no obligation discovery call with Dr. Maita to see if she can help you and if you are a good fit for a functional medicine approach.