- Testosterone plays an important role in your physical and mental health.
- Low testosterone (low T) is linked to mood changes like depression.
- Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has shown promise in treating depression in men with low T.
- TRT may not work for everyone, so it’s best to speak with a provider about your treatment options.
- You can test for low T in the comfort of your own home with at-home test kits available online.
Testosterone is responsible for more than your sex drive. Low testosterone (low T) is linked to depression, anxiety, and irritability. If you suspect you have low T, you can now test at home to determine if you need treatment.
What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a male sex hormone produced by both men and women. Men produce testosterone in higher concentrations than women. While testosterone is commonly linked to aggressive behavior, it’s actually a critical hormone for health and human development.
Testosterone plays an important role in many bodily functions, such as:
- Body fat distribution
- Bone growth and density
- Deepening of voice during puberty
- Muscle size and strength
- Sperm production
- Sex drive (libido)
- Testes and penis development
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Low testosterone (low T) is also known as hypogonadism. This condition can affect both your physical and emotional health. Low T can affect men across the lifespan, but it is more common in older men.
One of the first indicators of low T is a change to your sex drive. In men, this may make it more difficult to get an erection, to keep an erection, or to conceive with a partner. However, having a reduced sex drive doesn’t necessarily mean you have low T.
Common symptoms of low testosterone include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Mood changes, irritability, anxiety, or depression
- Poor memory or difficulty concentrating
- Reduced lean muscle mass or muscle weakness
- Reduced sex drive
These symptoms overlap with other mental and physical health conditions. A combination of these symptoms is more likely to be related to your testosterone levels. It’s important to speak to a provider if you experience symptoms of low T so you can determine the right diagnosis.
Does Low Testosterone Cause Depression?
People with low T commonly report anxiety, depression, and irritability. Research has shown a connection between total low testosterone levels and depressive symptoms in older men. However, additional research is needed to establish the exact link between depression symptoms and low T.
Since the symptoms of low T and depression overlap, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of depressive symptoms without further testing.
For example, both low T and depression can cause:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood changes
- Memory problems
- Reduced sex drive
- Trouble sleeping
However, the physical symptoms of low T and depression present differently. If you’re experiencing depressive symptoms in addition to symptoms like muscle weakness, you may wish to test for low T. Depression symptoms not caused by low T are most likely to be accompanied by headaches and back pain.
Does Testosterone Replacement Therapy Improve Depressive Symptoms?
Though additional research is needed to confirm the exact connection between low T and depression, researchers have explored the use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to treat depression. Your provider can help you determine if TRT is the right treatment option for your depression symptoms.
What is Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
TRT is currently approved to treat delayed male puberty, low testosterone production, and some inoperable breast cancers. It’s offered as a topical gel, subdermal pellets, patches, and via injection. The most popular options tend to be topical gels and patches.
TRT is not right for everyone and should be used exactly as directed under your provider’s care. Your provider will continually monitor your testosterone levels throughout your treatment.
What Does the Research Say About Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
Researchers have found TRT to be a promising treatment for depression in men. Most research has specifically looked at using TRT in men with hypogonadism and other forms of androgen deficiency.
A systematic review and meta-analysis found that TRT appeared to have an antidepressant effect on patients with hypogonadism or HIV infection. This review did have limitations and did not recommend applying the results to the general population. However, the researchers did recommend that providers evaluate testosterone levels in patients presenting with depression.
Another large meta-analysis aimed to determine if TRT was effective in men without hypogonadism. The researchers examined 27 randomized placebo-controlled trials and found TRT to be more effective than placebo in reducing depression symptoms. These results were most significant in participants who received higher-dosage regimens.
There are some conflicting research studies, however. For example, a review examining testosterone supplementation in older men with depression did not find enough evidence to confirm TRT as an effective treatment option. However, they did find testosterone supplementation to be significantly effective in improving several self-reported quality of life domains, such as sex drive and cognitive function.
Additional research is needed to determine the effectiveness of TRT in men with depression, regardless of their testosterone levels.
At-Home Testosterone Test Kits
If you feel down, blue, or irritable, it may be due to low T. If you suspect low T may be contributing to your symptoms, you can now test your testosterone levels at home. These tests use your saliva to test your free testosterone levels.
Simply order our testosterone home test to have it shipped to your door. Follow the easy-to-use instructions to collect and send off your sample. You will receive your results online in two to five days.
Consultations are always free, and if your results are positive, you will receive a free consultation to discuss next steps.
Shelby is a public health professional with research and field experience in sexual and reproductive health. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).