I get this question regularly, and it’s one of the big ones — can low testosterone cause depression?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear answer.
Scientists have been studying the relationship between low testosterone and depression for decades, and a clear answer has yet to emerge.
However, studies have shown that testosterone replacement therapy can relieve depression.
But Wait, How Can Low Testosterone Cause Depression?
Testosterone plays an important role in mood regulation in the body, and low levels of testosterone throw a monkey wrench in your body’s ability to regulate itself.
It’s not much of a leap to see how testosterone could play a similar role.
The problem is, if you have low testosterone, you’re suffering from more than just depression. Anxiety, weight gain, fatigue, sexual dysfunction—you may be feeling all these horrible side effects at the same time.
And each one could be related to (or be causing) your depression.
Can Low Testosterone Cause Your Depression And Your Fatigue?
While low testosterone can certainly cause fatigue, depression is another story.
Decreased testosterone levels, which contribute to your mood, can cause you to feel exhausted and drained. I generally refer to this as fatigue.
Fatigue, insomnia, and depression can create an endless cycle that is difficult to break, but it is possible.
When you’re constantly feeling tired, you may find it difficult to do anything physical. Performing those actions can make you even more exhausted, feeding into the cycle.
One way to break the cycle could be diet and exercise, and changing your diet can change your mood and may give you more energy; however, if you’re eating right, exercising, and you’re still constantly tired, even when you get quality sleep, it might be low testosterone.
And let’s be realistic—diet and exercise alone are unlikely to cure chronic depression.
Depression and Your Concentration
Depression can make concentrating on everyday tasks difficult, especially if you haven’t had any previous issues focusing and concentrating.
Combine this with fatigue, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Your concentration not only affects your life at work, school, and home, but it also affects your mood.
When you feel like you can’t perform at your best, it’s easy to feel down on yourself. Some signs of concentration issues include:
- lack of focus
- lack of physical or mental energy
- making careless mistakes
- difficulty sitting still
- difficulty thinking clearly.
Be sure to ask your medical care provider about being tested for low testosterone—difficulty concentrating is a symptom of many different disorders, and can even be a normal part of the aging process.
Depression and Your Weight
So, can low testosterone cause depression? It’s possible.
But can low testosterone cause weight gain? You bet it can.
You can read more on how low testosterone causes weight gain here, but I’ll give you a quick explanation.
In short, extra fat can generate excess estrogen in your body, leading to lower testosterone, which leads to additional weight gain.
It’s a horrible cycle, and oftentimes regulating your hormones is necessary before you can lose weight. One your hormone levels are under control, you may start to lose weight without assistance. Your exercise and diet may also become more effective.
We post frequently about how to stay physically fit and eat a well-balanced diet, and if you feel like you’ve been doing all these things but are still gaining weight, you might have low testosterone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a women—low testosterone is a problem for both sexes.
If you feel like you’ve lost interest in everyday activities, or lost interest in the things that used to excite you, or are generally feeling down, you may want to talk to your medical care provider about low testosterone.
So, Can Low Testosterone Cause Depression? Maybe. What’s More Important Is to Talk to Your Medical Care Provider
If you are considering taking antidepressants to deal with depression, are having mood swings, or are just feeling down, then you may want to talk to your medical care provider about low testosterone. You should also take a look at some depression resources.
If you think your depression is getting out of control, if you feel suicidal, or if you feel hopeless and you just need to talk, you can text trained crisis counselors here. You don’t even have to talk to them about how you’re feeling—they’re just there to talk about whatever. You can also call the national suicide hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
It’s critical to seek help immediately if you’re in crisis—don’t wait for an appointment.
For cases of clinical depression or major depressive disorder, or even bipolar depression, testosterone may not be enough. You may need counseling or antidepressants. If your depression is severe, seek help immediately.
If your depression is chronic and normal routes aren’t working, low testosterone is something to consider. Send me an email or leave me a comment and we can discuss your options.
I look forward to hearing from you.
—Augie Galindo, PA-C