Low testosterone causes more than just problems with sex drive. It can also affect your mood, sleep, and energy levels, which can disrupt your quality of life and relationships.
If you want to keep your relationship healthy, a good start is to learn more about how low testosterone affects your body and how to communicate with your partner about your symptoms.
Testosterone helps support a number of bodily functions in men, including sex drive (libido), muscle strength, bone density, and sperm production.
Symptoms of low testosterone (low T) may start gradually as testosterone levels fall below normal.
Reduced sexual function
Testosterone is the key hormone responsible for a man’s sex drive. With low T, you might notice a considerable reduction in the desire for sex. You might also have fewer spontaneous erections during sleep.
In some cases, you might still desire sex but be unable to maintain an erection. This is known as erectile dysfunction.
When men with low T visit their doctors, they often report unhappiness, fatigue, irritability, lack of focus, or trouble sleeping.
Though testosterone is linked to emotional regulation, it’s still unclear whether these mood changes are a direct cause of low T or a byproduct of some of its symptoms, like sexual performance issues or poor sleep.
“I believe it is a mistake to only focus on any one factor, be it the biological or just the psychological or just the interpersonal,” Dr. Daniel B. Singley, a board certified psychologist and President-Elect of the APA Society for the Psychological Study of Men & Masculinities, told Healthline.
“I think it’s really critical to take a biopsychosocial approach because when you drill into the experience of folks who have testosterone that’s elevated or low or depression and/or sexual dysfunction, what you see is they all go together, and they impact each other in fairly nuanced and sometimes kind of unexpected ways.”
Men often worry how their sexual performance will be affected by low T. They may even feel a sense of shame when they’re unable to perform. In a
A lack of energy and feelings of inadequacy and shame can be confusing for both people in a relationship.
Sexual dysfunction can bring about feelings of embarrassment or shame, but it’s important not to withdraw and avoid telling your partner what’s going on.
“People need to communicate and communicate proactively and fully, including not just ‘the what,’ but the ‘what it means to me,’” explained Singley.
In other words, it’s important to go further than just saying you’re having trouble with your libido. Explain to your partner what’s hard about it, what your insecurities are, and that you’ve already been assessed by a doctor.
According to Singley, this gives you the opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation that doesn’t minimize your experience.
It’s also important not to play the blame game. When dealing with such sensitive topics, Singley explains, it’s helpful to talk about the facts and your own personal experience rather than shutting down or blaming your partner.
That said, your partner may blame themselves and wonder if they’re simply not attractive to you.
“They’re essentially sort of making it about themselves, oftentimes in a subliminal or sort of subconscious way that most of us do to kind of pretend that we have a sense of control over something that, in fact, we don’t,” explained Singley.
It’s a good idea to emphasize that it’s not their fault. And it’s not yours, either.
While you have the right to talk about this, Singley says, the conversation will likely go better if you lead with “honest curiosity and grace.”
Testosterone levels decrease naturally as men age: About 40% of men over the age of 45 have low testosterone. But medications and lifestyle changes can help improve symptoms.
Your doctor can prescribe testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which is available as injections, patches, gels, and implantable pellets.
TRT may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, but more research is needed about its long-term safety. Before starting treatment, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits.
It’s important to note that TRT shouldn’t be used when testosterone levels are considered normal. Increasing levels can have serious adverse effects. It can also cause the body to stop naturally producing testosterone.
You may be able to increase your testosterone levels naturally by:
- managing stress
- avoiding excess alcohol
- improving sleep quality
- maintaining a moderate weight
Counseling or talk therapy can help treat the psychological symptoms of low T and help you navigate relationship concerns that arise from it.
It’s hard to talk about sex, and even couples who have been together for a while may still need to work on their communication.
Singley recommends a modality called sensate focus, which is a type of therapy that integrates aspects of mindfulness, physical touch, and elements of the relationship between sexual partners.
He also strongly encourages seeking out a mental health professional with a sexology certificate, “because they’re going to be more sensitive to the biological, the psychological, and the interpersonal elements that basically synergize.”
Low testosterone is usually treatable, but you’ll need to be proactive in getting the help you need.
It can feel embarrassing to bring up issues with sexual function with a doctor or partner. Education and open communication can go a long way in improving your symptoms.
Many men may feel self-conscious about discussing sexual issues with a doctor, but doing so can greatly improve your health and your relationship.
Once diagnosed with low testosterone, communicating with your partner can help relieve stress as you wait for treatment to work.
If you’re having trouble coping or communicating about the effects of low testosterone, sex therapy or counseling can help bridge that gap.