Depression is the commonest mental illness, affecting millions of people globally. It may be caused by genetic factors, conflicts, stressful life events or transitions, and loss of a loved one. However, studies have suggested that there may be a link between depression and low testosterone levels in the body.
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Is There a Link between Low Testosterone and Depression?
Depression is a psychological disorder which adversely affects an individual’s quality of life and interpersonal relationships. It is a major risk factor for suicide and substance abuse. Depression drains a person of their ability to think, flattens their mood and emotions, and drains them of drive and energy to do anything. People with depression usually note serious difficulties with sleep, home, work activities, school, and other social activities.
There are a number of risk factors for depression including genetics, conflict, life events, death or loss, and other psychological problems. However, studies have added low testosterone as a major risk factor for depression, particularly in men. In fact, several studies have revealed that low testosterone is a common cause of depression in persons who do not respond to traditional medications. A robust amount of testosterone in the body promotes good mood, confidence, and a strong libido in a man.
Stats about Depression
Depression is a global issue, with over 300 million people affected worldwide. Between 2013-2016, about 8.1% of American adults aged 20 years and older had depression in any given 2-week period and women were detected to be two times (10.4%) as likely as men (5.5%) to have had it. From 2007-2008 to 2015-2016, the prevalence of the condition remained relatively the same. It was, however, shown that the prevalence was lower among non-Hispanic Asian adults than in Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, and non-Hispanic white adults.
What are the Traditional Treatments for Depression?
There are a number of conventional treatment methods for depression such as medications and psychotherapy. A combination of both methods, however, have been found to be more effective than either of them singly used. There are other treatment options such as brain-light therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and the use of ketamine.
Therapy for Depression
Therapy for an individual who suffers from depression is aimed at helping the person identify some of those negative feelings and thoughts and replace them with positive ones. In addition, such individuals are taught about stress-relieving techniques and ways of altering their behavior to help them cope with daily life. Some examples of therapy for depression include emotion-focused therapy, problem-solving therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy.
Medications for Depression
Medicines used for treating depression are called antidepressants and may be categorized into several classes. Some of these drugs include tricyclic antidepressants such as Nortriptyline and Imipramine, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) including Fluoxetine, Citalopram, and Sertraline, and Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) including Venlafaxine and Duloxetine. These drugs, generally, act by increasing the amounts of chemical substances that stimulate the brain. Each class of antidepressants has a different safety profile and side effects, so, ensure you consult your doctor for a prescription and dosage recommendations.
Home Remedies for Depression
There are lifestyle and dietary changes that you can employ to help improve your symptoms. Some of these changes include:
- Keep a depression Journal – This helps to bring the negative feelings and thoughts to the surface so you better address them and overcome them.
- Set up a Routine – Depression typically drains you of the energy and drive to do anything, however, you should set up a routine that will keep you active despite not feeling like it.
- Self-Compassion – Self-compassion involves showing kindness and love to yourself as a way of eliminating the negative emotions and thoughts in your mind. Self-compassion also helps you to rationalize events which you had exaggerated and for which you blamed yourself.
- Challenge negative thinking – This is a critical behavioral change in treating depression. Changing negative thought patterns, such as overthinking your shortcomings and past negative experiences, and replacing them with positive ones is essential to resolving your symptoms.
- Practice Sleep Hygiene – For optimal health of your mind and body, it is recommended that adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day. Lower or more amounts of sleep can exacerbate your depressive symptoms. Sleep hygiene practices include limiting daytime naps, scheduling a regular sleep and wake-up times, and ensuring the environment is rid of potential sleep disruptors such as light, noise, and heat.
- Exercise – Exercise elevates your mood and keeps your body and mind rejuvenated. To get the most of it, engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
- Diet – Increase your intake of foods that help to fight depression. These foods include fatty fish such as mackerel, tuna, and bluefish, foods rich in antioxidants such as Beta-carotene containing foods – broccoli, carrots, spinach, and apricots, and vitamin E containing foods – nuts and seeds, wheat germ, and margarine, and protein-rich foods including tuna, chicken, and turkey, and selenium-rich foods including beans, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.
What is Low Testosterone?
Testosterone is the male sex hormone which is mainly responsible for the masculine appearance, deep voice, aggressive behavior, self-confidence, and sex drive. Testosterone is predominantly found in male and occurs in only small amounts in females.
Low testosterone or Low T can cause a number of symptoms in men (as well as women), and it may result from primary problems of the testicles or diseases affecting the parts of the brain that regulate the production of testosterone in the testicles. The normal range of testosterone in an adult male is between 300 and 1,100 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), with women having a much lower concentration. Levels of testosterone below 300 ng/dL are considered low in men. Testosterone in men usually peaks at the age of 30 after which it begins to fall gradually by 1% every year.
Signs of Low Testosterone
Low levels of testosterone in the body cause a number of symptoms including low sex drive, hair loss, fatigue, weakness, poor erection, loss of muscle mass, decreased bone mass, and infertility. However, low T can also cause emotional symptoms including depression, irritability, anxiety, mood changes, and sleep difficulty. Studies have shown, however, that depression does not affect only men. One study found that low T in women can also lead to depression. However, this is more common in post-menopausal women or women who are approaching the age of menopause.
How is Low Testosterone Diagnosed?
A testosterone test is done if your doctor suspects that your depressive symptoms may be a result of testosterone deficiency. This test is usually done at a particular time of the day –usually in the morning between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. This is because testosterone levels in the body vary with the time of the day, being highest in the morning. Before this test is scheduled, however, your doctor will ask you to discontinue certain medications which may affect the accuracy of the test.
Am I at Risk?
Testosterone production is regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland which make up the control centers of hormones in the body. Through chemical signals from these two organs, testosterone production in the testicles may be decreased or increased as required by the body. Low T can occur at any age and it can be caused by several conditions which affect the testicles, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland.
Testicular diseases which may cause low T include inherited conditions such as undescended testis, Klinefelter’s syndrome, and acquired conditions such as Mump’s orchitis, trauma to the testicles, and damage caused by cancer treatment. Conditions which may affect the regulatory functions of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland include medications such as opioid pain medications and steroids, kidney failure, tumors, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, HIV/AIDS, obesity, and physical or emotional stress.
What can I do on My Own?
If your doctor has diagnosed you of having low T, there are some changes you can make in your lifestyle and dietary habits to help boost your body testosterone levels. These include:
Diet – To boost your body’s testosterone levels, you need to reduce your intake of foods that promote an increase in your belly fat. Increase in belly fat promotes the activity of an enzyme called aromatase which converts testosterone to the female sex hormone, estrogen. Therefore, the greater the amount of belly fat you have, the more your level of testosterone reduces. In addition, increase your intake of heart-healthy foods such as fiber from whole grains, lean white meat, fresh fruits, and vegetables and reduce your intake of red meat and animal fat.
Exercise – Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise and weight training, is essential for boosting your testosterone levels. Exercise burns excess fats and keeps the heart functioning optimally, both of which boost testosterone levels.
In addition to lifestyle and dietary measures, as well as conventional treatment, there are supplements which can give your body testosterone levels a boost. One such is Tongkat Ali, a natural supplement which can cure low T.
Tongkat Ali, biologically called Eurycoma longifolia, is a herb found in Southeast Asia which is primarily used to boost male fertility. However, it is also known to boost testosterone levels significantly. Tongkat Ali has a low side-effect profile, been found to be generally safe and well-tolerated. A common side effect reported by users is trouble falling asleep which you can avoid by taking the supplement in the morning, preferably with breakfast.
Tongkat Ali extract is made by boiling and processing the Tongkat root. The dosage and concentrations of the extract differ with the brand available on the market. The concentration of Tongkat extract is usually written on the product label in a ratio. For instance, a product with a concentration of Tongkat extract of 1:50 means that 50 grams of the Tongkat Ali root was used to produce 1 gram of the extract. The dosage you will take depends on the concentration of the extract. If you have a product with the strength of the extract labeled as 1:50, the appropriate dosage is 1,000mg per serving, if the strength of the product is 1:200, the appropriate dosage is 600mg per serving.
Treatment for Low Testosterone and Depression
If your depression has been found to be caused by low testosterone level, your doctor will place you on a hormone replacement therapy. This involves treatment with synthetic testosterone at regular dosages and treatment schedules.
Testosterone is available in different forms including patches, injections, and a topical gel which the body absorbs through your skin. The skin patch is applied once every 24 hours, usually in the evening, and it releases some amount of the hormone into the skin. The oral forms are usually attached to the gum or inner cheek twice daily from where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. After applying the topical gel over the body, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly to avoid exposing others to testosterone. The injections are usually administered every seven to 14 days depending on the formulation and the degree of deficiency of testosterone.
Your doctor will place you on the treatment for a certain period, after which the treatment will be stopped. Common complications of replacement testosterone include the formation of blood clots and stroke. Rare side effects include acne, sleep apnea, and breast enlargement.
Depression is a common psychological disorder affecting millions of people around the world. It results in severe sadness, loss of interest in activities, and difficulty performing daily tasks. It may be caused by common factors such as life events, genetic predisposition, conflict, and other psychological problems. However, low testosterone remains an, often missed cause of depression. In persons with low testosterone levels and depression, treatment includes testosterone replacement therapy as well as supportive measures including dietary modifications, increased activity, and use of natural supplements such as Tongkat Ali.