Review on April 03, 2009
A recent study conducted on women with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa found a link between the low testosterone associated with this condition, and a high prevalence of severe anxiety. This has wide implications for any women experiencing hormonal fluctuations, such as those going through the menopausal transition. While testosterone is generally considered to be a male hormone, produced at only 10% of the full male level in women, it still bears heavily on psychological function of both sexes.
This particular study took place with the prior realization that low testosterone in men is linked to depression, something uncovered in the 1940's. Injections of testosterone have long been a treatment for males for psychological issues. The researchers, based out of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, were interested in discovering whether or not there is a similar link with women and anxiety. As women suffering from anorexia nervosa are known to have low testosterone levels, this seemed like a logical group to research.
Of the sample group, approximately 70% of the women with anorexia nervosa were found to have anxiety, and 80% also exhibited symptoms of depression. In blood analysis, those women with the lowest levels of testosterone correspondingly exhibited the most severe symptoms of anxiety and depression.
These results hold a number of implications, firstly for anorexic women. Researchers are now looking into whether or not testosterone replacement therapy could possibly alleviate psychological side effects of this condition such as anxiety. Additionally, this holds a wider implication that if anxiety is caused by low testosterone, this same mode of treatment could be utilized for those women going through menopause as well.
More research is needed to determine what the best course of action is, though this study lays the groundwork for further studies looking into testosterone replacement therapy. This applies both to anorexic and menopausal women, and may provide relief to an even greater subsection of the population with more time and studies.
- "Low Testosterone Linked to Anxiety, Depression," The Endocrine Society: Newsroom, June 2008.
- Cromie, William J. "Testosterone Drives Away the Blues," The Harvard Gazette, January 2003.