How Testosterone Affects Your Mood

We generally equate testosterone with male characteristics, such as a deep voice and facial hair. However, testosterone is responsible for a host of other body functions and may even affect a man's mood.

What is Testosterone?

Testosterone is a key hormone involved in masculine growth and development. In addition to producing male attributes, it stimulates bone growth, helps maintain bone density, and plays a role in some cognitive functions.

Low testosterone, or male hypogonadism, typically occurs as men age, although it's not an inevitable consequence of aging. A man's testosterone levels shift slowly, beginning in his late 30s and continuing into his 70s. This process is similar to declining estrogen levels in women, so we sometimes refer to hypogonadism as male menopause.

Testosterone and Mood

When a man's testosterone levels decline, it can cause hair loss, lack of concentration, weight gain, fatigue, and decreased libido. Low testosterone also affects men's psychosocial functioning, leading to depression, anxiety, irritability, reduced cognitive ability, and a loss of a sense of well being.

In studies, researchers find that, after adjusting for age, higher levels of testosterone are associated with better self-rated health. Men with lower serum (blood) testosterone concentrations, in contrast, were more likely to experience symptoms of depression. In fact, men who have the lowest levels of testosterone have a much higher prevalence of depression, even when researchers account for other co-existing conditions, such as obesity, which is also tied to depression.

Depression is more common in women than men until age 65. At that point, the incidence is comparable between the genders. Physicians suspect the decline in male hormones is behind the increased prevalence of male depression.

The typical treatment for low testosterone is hormone replacement therapy to restore blood testosterone concentrations back to the normal range. Administering testosterone improves mood and may improve responsiveness to antidepressants in men who don't respond well to depression treatment.

Physicians can administer testosterone in one of several ways.

  • Intramuscular injections
  • Transdermal patch
  • Transdermal gels
  • Tablets that dissolve in the mouth and are absorbed through the gum and cheek
  • Subcutaneous pellets implanted under the skin
  • Oral testosterone tablets or capsules

The symptoms of hypogonadism can appear in older men with normal testosterone levels and may indicate a thyroid problem. If you experiencing some of the symptoms described above, see your physician and be tested. Both conditions are treatable.


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