If a man regularly becomes irritable for no apparent reason, or releases anger at the slightest provocation, or develops depressive moods previously uncharacteristic for him, he may be suffering from the hormonal imbalances caused by age-triggered andropause. As discussed earlier in this book, we call this phenomenon Irritable Male Syndrome.
It was first identified in the scientific literature in 2001, described as “a behavioral state of nervousness, irritability, lethargy and depression that occurs in adult male mammals following withdrawal of testosterone.” In the animal kingdom, Irritable Male Syndrome is characterized as a negative mood state in seasonally breeding mammals, at the end of the mating season, in which “the animals appear agitated and fearful, and the incidence of physical wounding owing to fractious inter-male fighting peaks at this time.”
In male humans, a loss of testosterone seems to activate the “fight or flight response” as well, though studies are sparse on the extent to which this hormonal deprivation initiates violence, either male on male or male on female. We can imagine, however, the possible usefulness of initiating science studies examining whether the male instigators of mass shootings, random criminal acts, and “crimes of passion” violence are, in fact, being triggered by hormonal imbalances, becoming the most extreme examples of Irritable Male Syndrome.
Some studies have found evidence of an association between testosterone imbalances and suicidal behavior in men. Ironically, evidence seems to suggest that “suicidal behavior in adolescents and young adults is associated with high testosterone levels, whereas suicidality in older men is associated with decreased testosterone secre-tion,” concluded a 2013 study.
Follow-up research done in 2016, reported that “both high and low testosterone levels may play a role in suicidal behavior in man of any age,” not just among young and old men. Though more experiments need to be conducted, this possible connection opens up an entire new realm of research into the source and triggers for not just suicides among men but all forms of hostility and aggression producing violence in the human species.
General depression is another mental health condition in men potentially connected to a hormone imbalance. As we pointed out elsewhere in this book, when a man comes to a physician showing symptoms of depression, the physician will usually prescribe an antidepressant drug, rather than check for low testosterone, which is also a trigger for depression. Drugs are what most mainstream physicians are trained to reach for first. In a 2015 study of 521 men, half of them showed clinical symptoms of andropause (with low testosterone) and among those men, symptoms of depression were much higher than among the non-andropausal men, prompting the study authors to conclude, “There is a direct association between andropause symptoms and depression.”
Still another 2015 study, this one involving 196 middle-aged and elderly men (aged forty to eighty years) also found “more severe depression symptoms associated with low testosterone.” The highest correlation of all was seen in pre-diabetic men with low testosterone, compared to healthy men.
Below are a series of natural solution options for treating the symptoms of depression, which, taken together, may provide you with a realistic practical combination of remedies to try, given your own preferences and needs, to forestall the use of pharmaceutical antidepressants as a first line of defense.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Deployment Health Clinical Center surveyed the results of fifty-two study reviews and randomized clinical trials in 2016, investigating whether mindfulness meditation training and practice is effective in treating depressive disorders and posttraumatic stress. “Mindfulness-based interventions are safe, portable, cost-effective, and can be recommended as an adjunct to standard care or self-management strategy for major depressive disorder and PTSD,” the health researchers concluded.
Norwegian psychologists surveyed twenty-three randomized controlled trials of using physical exercise as a depression treatment—nearly one thousand study participants were involved—and compared the findings of all these studies. “Exercise compared to no intervention yielded a large and significant effect size,” the scientists concluded. “Exercise had a moderate and significant effect compared to usual care [for depression].” When combined with an antidepressant medication, exercise also yielded a significant effect. Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina, writing in the International Journal of Psychiatry, went even further in extolling the virtues of vigorous exercise to treat depression. They observed that “exercise compares favorably to antidepressant medications as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression.” How frequent and intense should the exercise be to relieve symptoms of depression? Study research indicates that vigorous aerobic exercise, at least three to five times per week, at least thirty minutes per session, should help do the trick.
A flowering shrub called St. John’s wort has long been used as a natural herbal supplement for treating the symptoms of depression. Many dozens of science studies have been conducted on whether the herb is as effective as advertised. Generally, the results have been positive, though it doesn’t seem to work for everyone (but what does?). According to the National Institutes of Health, “A 2008 review of 29 international studies suggested that St. John’s wort may be better than a placebo and as effective as different standard prescription antidepressants for major depression of mild to moderate severity. St. John’s wort also appeared to have fewer side effects than standard antidepressants.”
Let thy food be thy medicine, said the ancient Greek medical philosopher Hippocrates, and that seems true for all health conditions, including moodiness and depression. Diet quality, particularly a plant-based diet, is the key to helping prevent and treat the symptoms of depression. In 2018, the Journal of Affective Disorders published a study review that compared the results on the diet and depression link from twenty-four separate studies. “Adherence to a high-quality diet [such as the Mediterranean diet] was associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms over time,” the study review concluded from the evidence.
The lower your intake of animal foods, the lower becomes your risk of depression, another survey of the scientific literature advised in 2017. Specifically, this study review cited red and processed meats, refined grains, sweets, most dairy products such as butter, and high-fat gravy as foods you need to avoid to lower the risk of depression or a recurrence of depression.12 Why do these specific foods trigger depression? The reason seems to do with the level of inflammation in the body caused by their consumption. The more often you eat these foods the more chronic inflammation you inflict on your body tissues and organs.
A steroid hormone, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is produced by the adrenal gland and plays a role in protecting brain functions, including mood stabilization. Its secretions decline with age. Science research has shown that declining DHEA levels not only play a role in depression but also result in the brain shrinkage that accompanies major depression. A 2013 study conducted at the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry, investigated which specific areas of the brain are influenced by DHEA in mitigating depression.
Patients in the study were given 400 mg of DHEA each day while undergoing fMRI scans of their brains. It was discovered that DHEA reduced activity in the amygdala and hippocampus brain areas, reducing negative emotional effects. “Our results provide initial neuroimaging evidence that DHEA may be useful as a pharmacological intervention for these conditions [negative emotions and depression],” the research team concluded.
In a review of the science study literature, Florida State University scientists concluded in 2014, that “testosterone may have protective benefits against anxiety and depression.” While they were unable to provide the “precise underlying mechanisms” for how replacing lost testosterone can have protective benefits, they speculated it may be the result of a complex interplay between brain regions, neural circuits, and cellular and molecular pathways.
A body of previous research had found, according to the International Journal of Impotence Research, striking evidence that “testosterone replacement was associated with improved mood and well-being, and reduced fatigue and irritability. Notably, in one of these clinical trials, the investigators continued to follow 123 men on testosterone replacement for three years and reported that the improvements in mood persisted.”
By Brian Clement Excerpt from MAN-opause