Male Hormones in Puberty
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
Hormones play an instrumental role in puberty. These signals tell your body when and how much to grow and change, as well as dictating how it should feel.
At puberty, both boys and girls may experience changes to their bodies such as growing taller, shifting hair color, developing deeper voices, growing body hair more rapidly, experiencing mood shifts such as becoming easily irritable or angry and growing more body hair.
These changes are all normal and expected parts of puberty.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), produced in the brain, initiates puberty by telling the pituitary gland near the base of the brain to produce more puberty hormones; specifically luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
Sperm production follows, and eventually leads to boys developing erections or wet dreams. Some teenage boys may wake up and find one testicle is larger or hangs lower than another; it's totally normal!
Studies suggest that higher testosterone levels can decrease depression risk among male adolescents during adolescence when stress and low moods are common.
However, further research needs to be conducted in order to ascertain why and how this occurs.
Higher testosterone could either activate protective genomic effects or suppress expression of genes which increase vulnerability for depression.
What are male hormones and how do they work?
Hormones are chemical messengers produced in glands across your body and transported through your bloodstream to act on other cells, helping regulate growth, reproduction and well-being.
Male sex hormone testosterone plays an integral part of male sexuality: it regulates sexual drive (libido), bone strength, fat distribution and energy production as well as helping maintain prostate health.
Furthermore it acts on cells within testicles to produce sperm; some of it also converts into estradiol, the female version.
Hypothalamus of Brain Controlling Sex Hormone Production The hypothalamus controls production of sexual hormones from pituitary gland located at the base of brain.
Hypothalamus releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone, stimulating pituitary gland to release follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone.
These two important messenger hormones enter testicles via Leydig cells where they act on Leydig cells to produce testosterone which is then released into blood stream as testosterone.
Testosterone is essential to puberty's physical changes, such as the development of penis, testicles and facial hair growth.
Additionally, testosterone contributes to secondary sexual characteristics like an enlarged larynx with voice change as well as increasing muscle mass and strength.
Furthermore, testosterone affects mood while helping create red blood cells and sperm - with some tissues and cells turning some circulating testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, causing prostate enlargement or male pattern baldness.
Low testosterone can also cause symptoms like erectile dysfunction or poor sperm quality which require medical intervention to treat.
If you suspect your child is suffering from delayed puberty there are treatments available.
The role of testosterone in male puberty
Testosterone is an essential hormone involved in male puberty. It plays a pivotal role in shaping male genital development as well as increasing muscle mass, height, sex drive, body hair growth, deeper voice projection, sexual desire, body fat levels and energy levels. Testosterone production occurs primarily by Leydig cells located within both testes in males and ovaries of females respectively.
Understanding the role of testosterone during male puberty is vital, as its effects may have profound repercussions in various areas of a person's life.
Personalities and characters develop during this stage, which has lasting ramifications.
Sex hormones like testosterone help organize brain structure permanently; consequently, those experiencing low testosterone during puberty often struggle more adapting to changing situations during adulthood.
Recently published research demonstrating how testosterone levels during puberty impact how people respond to facial expressions.
Researchers utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans on young men throughout puberty who had their testosterone levels tested with videos of facial expressions while monitoring brain responses through an fMRI scanner.
Those who experienced lower testosterone levels at puberty experienced less of an emotional response when watching faces than did young men with higher levels of testosterone during puberty.
Lower testosterone during puberty may have contributed to depression by impacting the part of the brain that processes emotions, or by changing genes involved with mood and motivational/reward systems that could contribute to depression (McEwen 1994).
Accordingly, results of this study suggest that having higher levels of testosterone during puberty could provide protection against depression.
Researchers conducted an in-depth analysis of 27 studies that investigated the effects of endogenous testosterone on behaviors, affect, and mood in healthy male adolescents.
Only one of these studies was longitudinal; all others used cross-sectional designs with various measurement tools used.
As no meta-analysis could be performed due to such diversity; most of the studies focused on aggression.
One found significant relationships between aggression and changes in testosterone during puberty while most cross-sectional studies failed to find correlations at any point during adolescence.
Physical changes during puberty caused by male hormones
As children enter puberty, their bodies produce hormones which cause noticeable physical and sex changes over time, with certain areas of the brain playing an active role in this transition.
Puberty typically begins between 8-13 for girls and 9-14 for boys - however each body goes through it at its own pace.
Boys and girls both experience an initial growth spurt at puberty's beginning stage, with height and muscle development increasing rapidly.
Furthermore, female hips broaden while pubic hair thickens. Breasts also start growing larger. Girls may develop acne while male voices may deepen during this stage.
The hypothalamus, located within the brain, signals to the rest of the body when it's time for reproduction by producing gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).
GnRH then travels to the pituitary gland which then releases two more hormones: follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone.
These eventually travel through blood vessels to female ovaries or testes, where primary sexual hormones will be released into their systems and cause primary sexual hormone production.
Sex hormones help the reproductive organs mature. For females, this means their ovaries produce estrogen while testes produce testosterone; and for males this signifies their testes have begun producing this male-dominant hormone.
When released for the first time by teens entering puberty, their release serves as a clear indicator that puberty has begun.
At this stage, girls' thighs and hips begin to widen as their muscles build strength. Bras may become necessary, while their voices may deepen.
Girls may develop pimples or acne; new sweat glands form beneath their armpits which cause body odor; some even start experiencing menstrual cramps for the first time.
At this age, boys' faces and shoulders expand; pubic hair becomes thicker; they may gain weight; some might develop moustaches or beards; most boys' shoulders and arms become larger.
Their voices deepen; baby fat may decrease while muscle mass develops. Boys may develop small patches of breast tissue called "gynecomastia."
Usually this condition will resolve itself by puberty. If it doesn't, however, then adolescents should visit their physician to receive further testing and advice.
Additional tests could include a complete blood count, liver enzymes and an erythrocyte sedimentation rate test.
A karyotype analysis could also be conducted to show their individual chromosomal pattern and potentially determine any genetic causes behind precocious puberty.
Emotional and psychological effects of male hormones during puberty
Puberty can be an emotionally taxing time for many teenagers. This can be caused by physical changes that happen within their bodies and hormone shifts that take place, along with emotional upset that often results.
Though it's normal for teens to experience distressful feelings during this period, adults can help teens manage these emotions in effective ways.
One option is by talking openly with them about why it's okay for them to experience negative emotions occasionally and reading books together about the physical and emotional changes associated with puberty as a means to managing those emotions.
Girls typically experience puberty between 9-16, while boys usually start around 11. Hormones trigger rapid height increases as well as secondary sexual characteristics - including wider hips and breasts, menstruation starting, increased muscle mass, deeper voice, facial hair growth and an increase in genital size.
Furthermore, steroid hormones trigger brain circuits involved in sexual behaviors to spark greater interest among adolescents in sexual behavior.
At this age, it can be common for teens to withdraw into themselves and spend considerable time alone, which can be problematic.
If your teen spends an abnormally large amount of time alone without engaging with friends or family members, it is important to talk about his/her concerns with them.
If those problems continue despite this approach, professional assistance such as counselling could also be considered.
Puberty can be challenging for transgender individuals as it doesn't conform to their gender identity.
Therefore, some decide to receive hormone treatment to make their bodies and brains conform with their gender identities.
An estrogen or testosterone dose could help improve mental health, according to a new study.
The findings were drawn from data compiled during the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey with responses from 27,715 transgender adults and adolescents.
Puberty marks a time of rapid physical changes for boys between 10-14 years.
Hypothalamus gland in the brain produces gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).
This signals to the pituitary gland to release two other hormones -- follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone -- that travel to sex organs to produce testosterone which then enters bloodstream to begin making sperm while also increasing muscle and bone mass, fat distribution, and sexual drive.
Reproductive organs include penis, scrotum, and testicles for female reproductive systems and the prostate gland for male systems may experience changes.
As part of puberty, a person may experience greater emotional swings and mood fluctuations; this is normal but it is essential that you understand how hormone levels impact these.