When you ask the average guy about testosterone and its role in the body, the most common response is to reference merely the sexual effects of testosterone. Some also understand how testosterone plays a critical role in our anabolic (male) state—namely our ability to build muscle, shed fat, and maintain high energy levels as we age. While these and other positive physical benefits are well documented, far fewer recognize the life-altering psychological affects of having naturally healthy/high levels of testosterone as compared to low testosterone (low being defined as <350 ng/dL blood serum levels).
What is clear today is that testosterone has an incredible impact ‘upstairs’ on our mental state and general well being—affects far beyond just what we see and experience in our bodies. In fact, maintaining moderate to high testosterone levels are strongly correlated with one’s motivation & drive, mood, confidence level, and general sense of well being. Further, having low testosterone is closely linked with anxiety, irritability, and even trouble thinking.
It can be confusing at times since many of these same issues are often considered factors in the normal aging process. However, it is fascinating how increasing those with low testosterone can often reverse the symptoms of such psychological conditions. Chief among these conditions is the growing link between low testosterone and depression.
A recent 2015 study out of George Washington University revealed that even men with low or “borderline Low T” were found to have very high rates of depression or ‘depressive symptoms’ (study). While correlation is certainly not causation, there appears to be mounting studies linking the two.
Given the foregoing physical effects on those experiencing low testosterone, it should really come as no surprise the strong link with depression. In fact, it is estimated that a full half of men diagnosed with clinical depression are in fact suffering from low testosterone.
While depression is a painful, complicated, and often debilitating condition, I often wonder how many men prescribed powerful antidepressants might benefit from a hard look at their endocrine function and, namely, testosterone levels. Particularly when one considers the list of common side effects of antidepressants, I believe a detailed training & nutrition program that reestablishes proper hormonal function could help many of these men. While its seems perfectly logical that a full blood panel would always be ordered to analyze hormone and testosterone levels, that is not always the case. Further, even when 'total testosterone' may appear normal, a man's 'free testosterone' may still be far below normal range. Remember, free testosterone is the bio-available testosterone that we actually experience and, unfortunately, is far more challenging to obtain accurate blood measurement.
In a 2004 study, researchers found that during a two-year period, men diagnosed with low testosterone were four times more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression (study). These risks increase as we age due to several factors including the natural increase in Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) which tightly bonds with our bio available testosterone. Another interesting factor, proven in mice studies, is the connection between testosterone and serotonin—one of the body’s chief ‘feel good’ hormones. Studies in humans show that serotonin levels are lower in older adults with clinical depression.
"People think depression is sadness, crying or dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again." -healthyplace.com
While low testosterone is now linked with depression and other psychological conditions, simply being put on pharmaceutical testosterone is not the answer either. For starters, introducing exogenous testosterone causes the shut-off of one’s own natural production, making the choice for testosterone injections or gels often a life-long decision. Further, by allowing a doctor to prescribe ‘what is right’ for your body as opposed to naturally increasing production oneself, there are considerable risks when the dosage is not just right for you.
From a psychological perspective, having too much testosterone can be just as serious as having too little. Increased aggression, irrational decision making, and explosive anger issues are just a few of the common psychological impacts when prescribed testosterone and having not found the right balance or level for your individual physiology. There are even court cases emerging with defendants pointing to their exogenous testosterone usage as a factor in their mental state, often causing extreme cases of aggression or even violent outbursts.
Yet another serious problem with exogenous testosterone, or “Testosterone Replacement Therapy” (TRT), are the long-standing claims linking it to increased rates of prostate cancer. While this is a hotly debated topic with many claiming the links are exaggerated or even false, I feel it is too early to call. Personally, I'm awaiting more human studies addressing the prostate cancer link question before eliminating that concern.
It is all too common for a drug, any drug, to be labeled acceptable to only find—sometimes years later—a connection with all kinds of physical maladies. Such is the case with the current Abbie Testosterone Gel lawsuit where, following years of selling men on taking their gel to boost testosterone, it was proven that those taking the gel suffered a 29% higher rate of heart attack, stroke, & death among its users.
For these and other reasons, I am a HUGE advocate of learning and adopting the many effective, natural methods to raise testosterone. Between correct exercise protocols, nutrition, strength training, recovery, and supplementation, it is common for men with low testosterone to significantly increase, double or even triple their total testosterone levels.
For those serious about naturally maximizing their testosterone, the devil is in the details of how we eat, train, and supplement. To get a comprehensive, one-stop guide on everything you need, check out my Testosterone-180 & Testosterone-365 programs.
I created both to provide men with specific guidance on weight training workouts, techniques, foods & recipes, supplements, and more to help get their hormones back where they belong.