The complex cause of anxiety disorders in men

Posted 4 weeks ago by David McManus
A breakthrough study has identified the link between brain receptors, anxiety disorders and lower levels of testosterone. [Source: Shutterstock]
A breakthrough study has identified the link between brain receptors, anxiety disorders and lower levels of testosterone. [Source: Shutterstock]

A recent study has exposed the role that sex hormones play in the development of anxiety disorders that uniquely impact men.

Key points:

  • More than one in six Australians had an anxiety disorder such as social phobia or post-traumatic stress disorder in the previous 12 months, according to head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics head of health data
  • Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Tachykinin receptor 3, commonly referred to as ‘TACR3,’ is a protein that is influenced by sex hormones in the human brain

 

Researchers have uncovered the complex way that anxiety can develop in men and have opened avenues for unique therapies, including testosterone treatments, that could improve the quality of life for individuals grappling with sexual development disorders and the associated anxiety and depression.

The study was published last month in the journal Molecular Psychiatry and detailed the link between low testosterone levels and anxiety, particularly in men with hypogonadism, a condition characterised by reduced sexual function.

The latest data from Hormones Australia estimated that as many as one in 450 – 700 men are afflicted with Klinefelter syndrome which is the leading cause of hypogonadism.

Scientists noted that these findings could allow people with hypogonadism to receive testosterone treatments to address sexual maturation and the related likelihood of an anxiety disorder.

Low testosterone levels may reduce sexual interest, lead to erectile and female sexual dysfunction, deteriorate memory and induce a loss of energy and poor concentration, as well as other symptoms.

Testosterone has a profound role in regulating mental health, having notable effects in severe psychiatric diseases like schizophrenia, mood disorders and anxiety-related conditions.

Professor Shira Knafo, head of the Molecular Cognitive Lab at Ben-Gurion University, led the research and was aided in her team’s study by two innovative tools they crafted themselves.

The first, known as ‘FORTIS,’ was designed to detect changes in receptors critical for brain communication.

They demonstrated that inhibiting TACR3, a neuron in the human brain, resulted in a sharp increase in these receptors on the cell surface, blocking the parallel process of long-term ‘synaptic strengthening.’

‘Synaptic strengthening’ is the term used to describe how the brain can reorganise its ability to function in response to new experiences, which is fundamental for adapting to new environments.

The second tool that was used was a cross-referencing a framework of neuronal connectivity within a multi-electrode array system. Researchers were able to determine the impact of TACR3 manipulations on how the brain can strengthen and weaken its ability to create and store memories.

Their findings note that understanding the intricate connection between the estrous cycle, sex hormones and TACR3 might identify new avenues for gender-targeted therapeutic approaches.

 

An estimated 600,000 Australians live with severe and persistent mental illness of which approximately 64,000 are eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

 

Not everyone who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition lives with disability and will need NDIS support. A mental health illness resulting in disability is referred to as a ‘psychosocial disability.’ This indicates that your condition has a severe impact on your life and affects your ability to perform daily activities.

In addition to shorter life expectancy, higher rates of physical conditions among people with severe mental illness can lead to higher levels of ongoing disability due to comorbidity, reduced participation in the workforce and a greater likelihood of poverty.

 

Were you quick to develop or were you a late bloomer? Let the team at Talking Disability know your thoughts on how hormones relate to psychosocial disability.

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