Testosterone treatment, internalizing symptoms, and body image dissatisfaction in transgender boys

Connor Grannis*, Scott F. Leibowitz, Shane Gahn, Leena Nahata, Michele Morningstar, Whitney I. Mattson, Diane Chen, John F. Strang, Eric E. Nelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Many transgender adolescents experience clinically elevated anxiety and depression. Testosterone (T), used as a gender affirming treatment, may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. We assessed the effect of gender affirming T treatment on internalizing symptoms, body image dissatisfaction, and activation patterns within the amygdala-prefrontal cortex circuit in transgender adolescent boys. Method: Symptoms of generalized anxiety, social anxiety, depression, suicidality and body image dissatisfaction were measured by self-report and brain activation was measured during a face processing task with functional MRI in a group of 19 adolescent transgender boys receiving T treatment and 23 not receiving gonadal hormone treatment (UT). Results: Severity of anxiety and depression was significantly lower in the T treated group relative to the UT group, along with a trend of lower suicidality. The T group also reported less distress with body features and exhibited stronger connectivity within the amygdala-prefrontal cortex circuit compared to the UT group. Finally, group differences on depression and suicidality were directly associated with body image dissatisfaction, and anxiety symptoms were moderated by amygdala-prefrontal cortex connectivity differences between groups. Conclusion: T treatment is associated with lower levels of internalizing symptoms among transgender adolescent boys. T is also associated with greater body satisfaction and greater connectivity in a neural circuit associated with anxiety and depression. Satisfaction with body image was found to overlap with the association between T and both depression and suicidality, and amygdala-prefrontal co-activation moderated the role of T on anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105358
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume132
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Amygdala
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Puberty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

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