Most people know that testosterone is a critical part of physical wellbeing. However, a growing body of research suggests that this multifaceted hormone can also play a role in mental health in men. For example, a 2016 study on older men found that “low serum testosterone was associated with an 86% increased hazard of depression.” This study echoed earlier research, which has consistently found a strong correlation between the two, indicating a likely causal relationship. In fact, even borderline testosterone levels are associated with significantly higher rates of depression and/or depressive symptoms. This is significant not only because it may help some men uncover the roots of their depression, but because it offers a potential solution: testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). Indeed, a 2019 review and meta-analysis of 27 randomized controlled trials found that “testosterone treatment appears to be effective and efficacious in reducing depressive symptoms in men.”
If you’re struggling with depression, seek help from a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist as a first line of defense. But if you’re also experiencing symptoms of low testosterone, you may want to speak with your mental health team about the possibility of starting testosterone replacement therapy. TRT could be instrumental in your treatment plan and help you regain a sense of vitality and wellbeing.
How Testosterone Therapy Helps Treat Depression
Testosterone is a powerful hormone that’s involved in much more than just reproduction. In addition to regulating sex drive and body fat distribution, testosterone helps your body maintain bone and muscle mass and produce red blood cells. We also know that testosterone, like other sex hormones, impacts the brain in terms of both cognition and psychological wellness. More specifically, while normal levels of testosterone help promote healthy brain function, low levels may disrupt it, potentially causing or aggravating depression in some men.
While most available research points to testosterone’s antidepressant quality, researchers have not yet been able to explain the mechanism of this reaction. It’s possible that testosterone affects the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, or amygdala—the areas of the brain that change the most in those who experience severe depression. Testosterone may also impact the body’s natural production of chemicals like serotonin and cortisol, which help with mood regulation.
Regardless of the mechanism, restoring testosterone to normal levels via hormone replacement therapy could help alleviate depression as the brain to a healthy state. In fact, research suggests that TRT may even be used as monotherapy in hypogonadal men with minor depression while potentially acting as a powerful augmentation therapy for those with major depression
Other Benefits of Testosterone Replacement Therapy for Men
Aside from relieving symptoms of depression, testosterone replacement therapy also helps with a wide variety of other symptoms, many of which play an important part in overall functionality and wellness. Indeed, the benefits of TRT are impressive, well-documented, and highly impactful in the daily lives of men.
Some of these benefits may include:
- Higher energy levels
- Resolved sleep issues
- Increased physical vitality and muscle strength
- Reduction in total cholesterol
- Improved libido and sexual function
- Decreased anxiety/irritability and overall improved mood
Of course, every man is different. You may not experience all of these outcomes, and your depression may be influenced by more complex factors than low testosterone alone. However, for many men, TRT is essential for mental health, whether used alone or in combination with other treatments.
How Testosterone Replacement Therapy Works
Testosterone replacement therapy comes in a wide variety of forms. To figure out which is right for you, it’s best to speak with a board-certified practitioner who specializes in hormone replacement therapy. Your practitioner will spend time going over your symptoms and medical history in detail in order to provide you with the best possible care. They’ll perform all the necessary tests to evaluate the hormone levels in your blood, saliva, or urine as necessary.
From there, you’ll be ready to choose which preparation works best for you. Testosterone replacement therapy is offered in gels, creams, pellets, and injections—all of which have pros and cons, depending on personal circumstances and preferences. An excellent practitioner will explain the benefits of each of these preparations and help you decide which option is most appropriate for you. They’ll also determine the correct dose for your body and the treatment schedule that will be most effective for your needs.
As your treatment progresses, your hormone levels will be tested at regular intervals to ensure your body is responding well to the medication. Your practitioner will also help you monitor and reduce any side effects you may experience—which tend to be mild and go away on their own after the first few weeks. The most common side effects include oily skin, acne, decreased testicular size and sperm count, elevated red blood cell count, and mild fluid retention.
Hormone replacement therapy may be associated with more serious risks. By partnering with a highly qualified hormone health practitioner, you can make sure you’re aware of the possible risks associated with this potentially life-changing therapy.
Seeking Treatment for Depression and Low Testosterone
TRT might not be for everyone, and the exact role it plays in depression treatment depends on each individual’s unique situation. If you’re struggling with depression, it’s important to seek comprehensive care—potentially including psychotherapy, psychotropic medication, and guided self-care—from mental health experts. However, for those with low testosterone, TRT can be not only helpful, but necessary for restoring physical and psychological wellness.
Many men seek treatment for low testosterone directly from their primary care physician. While that’s a fine place to start, it’s likely that your primary doctor isn’t as knowledgeable as they could be in the field of hormone health. That’s why we always recommend going straight to the experts—like the specialists in the BodyLogicMD network.
BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioners are fully dedicated to helping men and women manage the symptoms of hormone imbalance, using a powerful combination of bioidentical hormone medications and lifestyle counseling. Critically, these hormone health experts can work in concert with your mental health team to help resolve your symptoms in a way that makes sense for you. With a comprehensive, customized treatment plan in place, you can take the next steps toward a more joyful and fulfilling life.
BodyLogicMD is a network of highly-qualified hormone health practitioners who specialize in helping men find the right treatment for the symptoms of low testosterone. BodyLogic-affiliated practitioners work with men from all walks of life and all stages of the aging process to feel their best and achieve optimal wellness. Contact a local practitioner to start your journey toward improved emotional, mental, and physical health. Or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to get a better idea of how testosterone and other hormones might be impacting your everyday life.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.