Can Stress Affect Testosterone Levels?

On: July 8, 2019
Erectile Dysfunction, sexual health, stress, testosterone levels

Doctors believe 5 out of 1,000 men live with hypogonadism. Hypogonadism is the reduction or absence of hormone secretion, specifically the male sex hormone testosterone.

In men, testosterone is produced in the testes. It’s the main male sex hormone and controls many aspects of male health, such as physical features, facial hair, muscle mass, fertility, red blood cell production, and even fat distribution.

But some aspects can heighten low testosterone levels. One of them is stress. Here’s how stress affects testosterone levels and how you can make new lifestyle choices to increase your testosterone levels.

Symptoms of Low Testosterone

Before you start targeting your stress levels, you should ensure you truly have low testosterone. There are common symptoms all men with low T experience. Here are a few of them:

Hair Loss

As mentioned previously, testosterone is responsible for many of men’s physical features, such as hair growth and facial hair. There are many causes of hair loss and testosterone is one of them.

Erectile Dysfunction

This is one of the most common low T symptom and the one most men first notice.

Low T makes it difficult to achieve and hold an erection. Testosterone stimulates the penile tissue and helps produce nitric oxide, which helps result in an erection.

Low Sex Drive

Because the testosterone isn’t contributing to the stimulating penile effects, many men experience an overall low sex drive when their testosterone levels decrease.

This becomes common as men age, though young men with low T may find their lacking sex drive alarming.

Smaller Testicles

Since testosterone is produced in the testes, another common low T side effect is smaller testicles. The testicles and scrotum may also feel softer.

Reduced Semen Production

The testosterone is also responsible for semen production, which is why testosterone has such a huge impact on male fertility. If testosterone levels are low, a man can’t produce enough semen to impregnate a woman.

Reduced Bone Mass

One of the functions of testosterone is producing and maintaining bone tissue and volume. Low T results in weaker bones, making a man more prone to bone-related injuries.


Low T causes many sleep issues, including insomnia. A man’s energy levels decrease, causing fatigue. But this fatigue won’t leave a man sleepy.

Instead, they may suffer from sleep issues such as sleep apnea and abnormal sleeping patterns.

Reduced Muscle Mass

Testosterone supports the muscles by contributing to muscle mass. This is why decreased muscle size is a major low T symptom.

Hot Flashes

Low testosterone levels and low hormonal levels can also cause hot flashes. In addition, low T levels can also cause night sweats.

Mood Swings

While increased testosterone levels can cause dangerous mood swings, such as when a man takes steroids, decreased testosterone levels can also cause mood swings.

Some common emotions experienced include irritability, lack of force, and depression.

Body Fat Increase

Because testosterone helps increase muscle mass, it helps decrease body fat.

This is one of the reasons why men experience a body fat increase and weight gain when their testosterone levels decrease. In addition, men can develop fat in odd places, such as the breasts.

How We Experience Stress

Stress is our body’s response to mental, physical, and emotional changes. Some situations are also stressful and oftentimes we feel forced into certain circumstances, which we react by stressing out and/or worrying.

Stress can either be from external factors, such as a busy day at work or financial problems. But stress can also be internal, from anxiety issues or general worrying.

We experience stress thanks to certain physical changes in our body.

Our stressors are controlled by our central nervous system. This signals hormonal releases from our adrenal glands, which is also responsible for our “fight or flight” response.

The two main stress hormones released are epinephrine (commonly known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine.

This response is further continued by additional hormonal releases, specifically cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for many of our physical symptoms, which is why you experience physical symptoms when you feel stressed.

Some of the physical symptoms caused by increased cortisol include digestive changes, increased heart rate, increased breathing, and higher energy.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress isn’t always easy to identify. Here are common signs of stress:

  • Feeling like you’re losing control
  • Are easily agitated
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Low energy
  • Avoiding others
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Chest pains
  • Tense muscles
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Low sex drive
  • Frequent sickness
  • Dry mouth
  • Shakiness
  • Constant worrying
  • Grinding teeth
  • Forgetfulness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor judgment
  • Trouble focusing
  • Low appetite
  • Pessimism
  • Desire to abuse substances
  • Procrastination
  • Twitching and fidgeting

Everyone experiences stress differently. In addition, you can also experience different anxiety disorders. Examples include general anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder.

How Stress Is Linked to Low Testosterone Levels

Stress and low T sound like two different issues. However, they’re connected by one main hormone: cortisol. Cortisol and testosterone work against each other. You can see this with some of the stress symptoms, such as low sex drive.

Why do these two hormones fight against each other? They’re both dominating hormones. Cortisol increases are designed to either escape or fight, ignoring other bodily processes.

While testosterone does have some input on these actions, such as aggression and competitiveness, testosterone also has other dominant behavioral actions, such as mating and fertility.

Those with anxiety disorders typically experience high cortisol levels. This means testosterone levels are consistently low, resulting in many health problems.

This study was done by researchers at the University of Austin. They measured saliva samples from the participants. They participated in one-on-one competitions. Afterwards, they were asked if they wanted to compete again.

Those with higher testosterone levels wanted to compete again but those with lower testosterone levels didn’t want to compete.

In addition, after measuring their saliva again, all of these participants experienced a further reduction in testosterone.

Will All Stressed Out Men Experience Low Testosterone?

Everyone will experience stress at some point, whether they have an anxiety disorder or they’re just having a bad day. But don’t think your worrying will immediately cause a decrease in testosterone.

Certain men are more prone to experiencing low testosterone. Examples include:

  • Aging men
  • Overweight men
  • Those with HIV/AIDS
  • Those with inflammatory diseases
  • Post-surgical patients
  • Certain medications

Low testosterone also has rare causes. Some include issues during puberty and genetic hypogonadism ailments.

How to Know Your Testosterone Is Low

If you’re showing signs of low testosterone and are experiencing stress, you shouldn’t immediately assume your testosterone levels are low.

Before undergoing treatment, always see your doctor and know if your testosterone levels are truly decreasing.

Your doctor will likely conduct a blood test. Normal testosterone levels fall into the range of 300 to 1,000 ng/dL. If you’re below 300, this is considered low. Anything below 150 is considered extremely low.

What About Women?

We only centered around the men in this article. What about women? While women don’t produce as much testosterone as men, women still secrete testosterone and it’s still a necessary hormone in female health and fertility.

Women with healthy testosterone levels experience more energy, moderated mood, stronger muscles, higher libido, healthy bones, and even improves their fertility.

Women should have 15–70 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl) of testosterone.

Like men, high cortisol levels are debilitating to a woman’s health. Health issues a woman with anxiety problems can face include an abnormal menstrual cycle and fertility problems.

As well as decreasing testosterone production, high cortisol levels also affect other hormones essential to a woman’s health such as progesterone and estrogen.

While women don’t need as intensive of testosterone replacement as men, women will benefit from hormone replacement therapy if they’re stressed and show any symptoms of decreased hormones.

Lifestyle Changes That Will Increase Your Testosterone and Increase Your Stress

If you believe you’re suffering from low T because of your stress levels, there are fortunately lifestyle changes you can make that will help decrease your stress and will increase your testosterone. Here are a few pieces of advice:

  • Stop smoking cigarettes
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid substances
  • Try and avoid caffeine
  • Get a full night’s rest
  • Eat healthy
  • Set goals for yourself and for your career
  • Engage in relaxing hobbies such as yoga and meditation

In addition, stop worrying about your testosterone. Feeling insecure about your manhood and your sex life will only increase your anxiety even more.

Medical Ways to Decrease Stress

If these lifestyle changes aren’t helping, you need to get serious treatment. Start with seeing a psychologist or a doctor about your stress and anxiety. You’ll likely undergo one of these treatments:

Anti-Depressant and Anti-Anxiety Medication

If your doctor or psychiatrist believes your anxiety is severe, they will prescribe medication. You’ll likely take anti-anxiety medication but anti-depressants also help relieve anxiety.

Anti-depressants slow down central nervous system activity, meaning none of the chemical releases will occur. This helps relax the patient and can even help you sleep better.

Keep in mind, low testosterone is a common side effect of anti-depressants. Always inform your doctor of your low T before taking any medication.

Anti-anxiety medications also affect the hormonal changes that occur when you feel anxiety. In addition, they also target physical symptoms associated with anxiety, such as racing heartbeat.

Therapy Methods

If you decide to not opt for medication, you can see a psychologist and undergo numerous types of therapy. Here are some of the most common ones:

Thought Challenging

This method, also called cognitive restructuring, helps you identify your negative thoughts and replace them with positive and realistic thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Most anxiety patients find success with cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy identifies negative patterns associated with anxiety. These patterns include stress-inducing thoughts and your behaviors relating to the stress.

The therapist will identify your thoughts and motives and will do exercises to change the way you think.

Exposure Therapy

This therapy method is mainly done for those with phobia disorders. If you avoid a certain action, such as flying on an airplane, your therapist will order you fly to reduce your fears.

Low Testosterone Treatments

While you help decrease your anxiety, you can also help increase your testosterone levels. Here are a few treatments to try.

Eat Testosterone-Healthy Food

A healthy diet is an essential part of decreasing anxiety.

But you can eat healthy food that helps your body moderate testosterone levels. Eat foods with essential vitamins such as zinc and vitamin D. Certain foods, such as garlic, actually help increase your testosterone.

Testosterone Supplements and Medication

There are herbal supplements available over the counter and testosterone medications that can be prescribed by your doctor. Over the counter medications are often speculated because they’re unregulated.

If you take testosterone medication prescribed by your doctor, keep in mind that many side effects come with them.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)

More men with low T are trusting TRT. You see a specialist who will work with your condition and your lifestyle.

They may recommend a myriad of different ways to replace the testosterone in your body. They can recommend pills, as a doctor can. They can also use other means of replacing testosterone such as topicals, patches, and injections.

Out of all of these methods, testosterone injections are the most common. Your injections are monitored by a professional and you don’t need to take as many medications and supplements.

Try TRT Today

There are many aspects that can lower your testosterone levels. One of them is stress.

When you’re in a stressful situation, your central nervous system releases multiple chemicals, but the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol lingers in your system.

Since cortisol is a dominating hormone, it interferes with testosterone production, resulting in health issues and even fertility and libido loss. If you’re a man with low T, you should diminish your anxiety levels.

You can also try TRT and help boost your testosterone. Contact us to see how we can help you.

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