Testosterone

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If you read much in the androsphere it might seem like this is the magic potion. Game advice will often implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, state that more testosterone will make a man more alpha. Outside of the androsphere it is often toted as a cure for all that ails a man.

Now at some level, this makes sense. After all, in a biochemical manner, it is the mark of a man. I was always a bit skeptical of magic T as the driver of male confidence and sex drive. I often suspected that dopamine was more likely the driver of alpha behavior. I believe that it is more likely that dopamine is behind, extraversion, sex drive, sensation seeking and decisiveness. While testosterone may drive a man’s sensitivity to status, it is dopamine providing the energy to seek it.

All of this musing comes from the result of recent blood tests. While skeptical, I was willing to consider that my T levels might be low. I certainly relished the chance to find a relatively easy fix that would turn me into a more dynamic individual (because sex hormones can easily be measured, any treatment can easily be monitored).

Willing to put my masculine pride aside, I recently took lab tests that include among all the standard tests (cholesterol, Red Blood Count, White Blood Count, T4, T3, etc.) a measure of my testosterone. I had no particular expectation. If forced to guess I would have expected my levels to be normal (although perhaps at the lower end). If at the lower end, I might then have sought T therapy.

Imagine my surprise (and yours) when my levels came back high. I do not just mean near the top end of normal for a middle-aged man, I mean high. High even for a twenty-something.

In some ways I am surprised. I doubt anyone would call me feminine but nobody would accuse me of being a tower of masculine energy. I am deeply introverted, non-combative, and not particularly driven to lead or dominate others. In other ways I am not surprised because I suspect that the effects of testosterone are not quite what people expect.

As I look at it now I can see how someone that fits my character description could still have high T. In my more poetic, and aggrandizing, moments I would describe myself as still and solid, not introverted or shy. Deeply and intensely still, but certainly not submissive. I suspect that this much maligned molecule is partly behind male stoicism and sense of honor.

In some ways I am happy, there is something comforting, as a man, to having a plenty of the primary chemical that makes me a man. In some ways I am disappointed, low T levels would give me an angle of attack on the somewhat malaised feeling my life has. It would give me something that I can apply, measure, and monitor. Altering dopamine levels is trickier and hard to measure. Brain chemistry is more difficult to measure an more easy to upset.
[I am well aware that messing with hormone levels brings its own problems and difficulties. However, simple blood tests can confirm relative levels]

The benefits I receive from testosterone are mostly physical. Although small for a man, I am very sturdy. I recover from anaerobic exercise quickly. A while ago, over the long weekend, I helped a friend out with some building and yard work. While smaller than all the other men, I was able to keep up. Whereas the following day they complained of aches and pains, I was ready to go. I have good musculature without much (any) training. I am rarely sick. I have taken my share of tumbles but never broken a bone. I suspect all of this results from the anabolic (muscle and bone building) effects of testosterone. For all of that I am grateful.

Perhaps there is a dark side to the magic T deal. If my body is sturdy then my brain is fragile. My mood and mental energy are much more unstable. I have deep introversion driven, I suspect, by that fragile brain. Poor sleep will hammer my thinking while having little effect on my body (at least in the short to medium term). I have done little research on it, but I am, not surprised that testosterone might exact a price on the brain.

By all rights I should be the thundering, rampaging alpha of the androsphere. I suspect my T levels are higher than the majority of male posters. Despite this, I am not the silverback of the androsphere (or even my local arena). Other men need to realize that your T level is just one number. I need to realize that my search for malaise ending potion is not over.

Testosterone may be the mark of a male but on its own it does not make the man. Perhaps it suffers the Goldilocks syndrome: a little is bad, too much is bad, but just the right amount is perfect.

Notes::
Although testosterone is linked in peoples minds with aggression, that may not be the case. Some studies have linked testosterone in humans with more fair-minded dealing.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8400172.stm
http://www.bing.com/search?q=testosterone+fair+play
Such descriptions are in line with how I deal with people. I am not a pushover but prefer win-win situations. I get no pleasure from win-lose but may take them to avoid loss myself. Domination for itself offers me no rewards. One interesting part of the study was that those who only thought they had received testosterone acted in a more aggressive manner. In other words it was the idea of testosterone and not the chemical itself that drove actions.

I have seen some studies [not to hand right now] that show that testosterone’s beneficial effects on visio-spatial skills are not linear. It may follow an inverted U dose-response or may have an even more complicated dose-response curve. For a male (perhaps even in general), I have a hopeless sense of direction. I cannot instinctively point to North and can get lost even when I have a map. My mathematical and image rotation abilities are fair at best. Of course, such brain masculizing may be brought on by fetal or pubertal testosterone, not free testosterone.

TMI Alert
Although testosterone is linked with male sex drive I have the opposite problem. My sex drive has disappeared. I am not aware of studies showing a negative link between the two. Theory would say that such high levels should leave me in a rutting frenzy. While the equipment is functional, the desire is absent. I suffer from the reverse of Shakespeare’s warning about alcohol provoking the desire but taking way from the performance.

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35 Responses to “Testosterone”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Very interesting.

    I’ve always seen you as an honorable man. The most honorable in these parts.

  2. Default User Says:

    Thank you Anonymous. I felt a brief testronic surge of pride as I read that.

    I wonder if testosterone is what causes all the typographical, spelling, and grammar errors that seem to litter anything I write.

    I just spotted several and cleaned them up before replying to your comment. Like playing both father and child I am forever cleaning after myself.

  3. jmkaye Says:

    Is it possible that you have clinical depression? If so, an SSRI or NRI type drug would probably help with the malaise, but it won’t do wonders for your libido.

  4. Word Around the Campfire – the Hungover edition « Hidden Leaves Says:

    […] Default User: Testosterone […]

  5. Default User Says:

    I did recently try Stablon (tianeptine) with little positive effect and perhaps a mild negative (less mental energy). As it is an SSRE (selective serotonin reuptake enhancer) and thus works differently from SSRIs, I thought it might have prosexual effects. A long time ago I tried Prozac and received some mood boost, but at the cost of been a little speedy and spacey.

    My best results have been with dopamine related (e.g., tyrosine, DLPA) but sometimes at the cost of feelings of nervousness, anxiety, or even anger (mild, more like irritation, a need to cause arguments, a darker form of energy). I have no experience of the NRI, NDRI, or NDRI drugs.

    In the short term I would be less worried about libido and more worried about overall drive (although I cannot believe they are completely unrelated).

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Is it a lack of passion you feel you lack?

    My impression is that you need some type of goal or cause which is tied in with your sense of honor and creativity. Then passion follows.

    Is ennui spiritual-philosophical or biochemical?

  7. Default User Says:

    @Anonymous
    I will show my age, and geeky background, when I say that I might be caught in a psychological form of the deadly embrace

    A clear mission and goal would help lift my mood but I need to raise my energy to be ready to seek that mission. That may sound self-pitying and hopeless but it is not meant to. I do not really lack hope but just do not see an immediate solution.

    I suspect that I arrived at this point of ennui through a mixture of biochemical leading to a loss of drive which allowed me fall into a more philosophical ennui. You need a certain level of energy and drive to create a passion.

    While I have been mostly happy and am generally optimistic (some postings here are me at my worst), I have never really found something to really grab me. Although somewhat successful by external standards, I have never really found myself in that magical place called “flow,” or “the zone.”

    I am not sure if that makes sense. Perhaps if I could explain it clearly I would not be writing it but be out there doing it.

  8. sdaedalus Says:

    Hi Default

    This is an interesting post, and discusses something which is not uncommon in real life, although of course not touched on very much in the Roissysphere. It deals with two separate issues, lack of drive generally & lack of sex drive, though it seems likely the two are linked.

    Re lack of drive generally, have you thought about just doing something, even though you are not madly enthusiastic about it, to see if enthusiasm can grow? I find inertia tends to build (the best example I can give is that if I put something off, it becomes harder to do it, even if it is something that I quite like doing when I get round to it). Maybe if you picked something relatively small, a hobby or something, and see if enthusiasm increases as you get into it? Then you would have established to yourself the principle that initial disinterest could change to interest, which is psychologically important.

    Re sex drive, obviously I can’t speak for men, but with many women, the best way to get interested in sex is just to have sex regularly, even if not madly enthusiastic about the idea at first, often interest can increase. Often too, people need close contact with members of the opposite sex to be turned on, not everyone gets turned on by words, or even sight through the medium of photos, tv etc., some people need actual physical presence, smells & so forth. I’m not saying that you should start formally dating someone if you’re not sure where you’re at in this regard, but more socialising with unattached members of the opposite sex could help.

    Also, as stated above, the two may well be linked, if you solved one of them, or got some part of the way towards solving it, the other might sort itself out.

    I agree with the honourable bit (though I have met other honourable Roissyspherians as well, believe it or not, you know who you are) and also with the occasional need to cause arguments.

  9. Default User Says:

    @sdaedalus
    Regarding sex, I am not sure if a man can have sex while not feeling enthusiastic. I would certainly not like to find out at that late stage that is was not possible. I understand about dating for the sake of it, but feel it is very unfair to start dating (implied sexual interest) and then not be able to deliver. It leaves her wondering what went wrong.

    While I do not discount the importance of connection and friendship, a lot of the impetus for gaming a girl comes from the sex drive. In its absence goes a lot of the urgency to meet women. Sad as it sounds, I do have male friends and am happy enough with that. They do provide enough social support that I do not feel lacking in that regard.

    In social life, I do notice attractive females and even flirt with them. So I am not entirely out of contact with women.

    Your suggestion on hobbies is good. I have tried it with some success. Indeed my taking up blogging is part of such an attempt.

  10. sdaedalus Says:

    I can understand your concerns about dating, but I can also see how it could be self-perpetuating.

    Perhaps if you joined some sort of group or organisation where you would have contact with women without actually being expected to become romantically involved with them (maybe linked with a hobby) you might find your interest increase. I genuinely think spending more time around women might help in this regard.

    I appreciate you are not entirely out of contact but your contact may well be in a situation where it either leads fairly quickly to dating (e.g. bar, meetings arranged by friends to set you up with someone) or it does not. In such a situation there is more likely to be pressure anxiety, your concerns about dating might well neutralise any attraction you might feel.

    Work is a special case because as far as I can make out the workplace in the US is highly desexualised.

    Of course if you already have this contact, then my suggestion is moot & just disregard it.

  11. Default User Says:

    @sdaedalus
    Low libido does not really worry me that much. It is just one less thing to worry about. I see your point about socializing though. I do get to spend time with women, the context is somewhat but far from completely desexualized.

    While I realize that one may be the cure for the other, I am more concerned with general drive and mental energy now. Perhaps this why I am a less frequent commenter at Roissy’s, at this point it all seems a bit to academic for me (it would make me the perfect keyboard PUA).

    BTW:
    The workplace is not as terrible as some make out, but you do need to be careful. However it is not completely asexual, all the normal attraction and flirting stuff does go on. I know of at least a few workplace couples.

  12. chic noir Says:

    My defalut is a manly man.

    *chic noir winks at default*

    I’ve never brought the high-T crap on the sphere myself. but I’v read how men who use steriods usu Testosterone sometimes become more agrresive.

    Low libido isn’t really bad in it’s self. Just look how guys with a high libido drive themselves nuts thinking about women, aspragus anyone.

    It could be that you need the right woman to make you excited. Random women in their 10 dollar hoochie dresses don’t do it for you.

  13. Default User Says:

    And Chic is a feminine woman.

    *Default winks back*

    PS

    Random women in their 10 dollar hoochie dresses don’t do it for you.

    A random woman might not, but the right woman . . .

  14. logan Says:

    If you had total testosterone measured –it is only part of the story. SHBG can knock usable testosterone down to nothing.

    So it is possible to have sky high total levels of testosterone and yet be having symptoms of a lack of testosterone.

  15. Default User Says:

    @logan
    I understand the complexities of these things. My levels of free testosterone were also high.

    As you said, it may not be the full story (which was part of the point of writing the post). It is just one number.

  16. David Collard Says:

    I suspect that work success can raise testosterone levels. Has done with me. Also, I used to have a liver complaint, which has slowly resolved itself and seems to have improved my testosterone levels. I have never had them measured, but I can sort of feel them.

    I have a masculine face and musculature, but I have never exercised much. That may be due to testosterone being high. I am not particularly aggressive, but I have really traditional views on sex and women, and I have always had these. I used to put it down to some feature of my nurture or upbringing, but I now suspect it is constitutive, and related perhaps to hormonal imprinting.

    It seems to me that testosterone can be high but not have normal effects because prenatal testosterone is probably formative to a degree and also I feel that it can have unequal effects. So you get a bloke like me: very masculine-looking, rather a gentle demeanour, but a huge male chauvinist who keeps his wife on a tight rein.

  17. maurice Says:

    Default-

    Good post, interesting topic. I have never had my T measured (not sure I want to know) but I think both sex drive and energy levels naturally decline with age. In other words, the key number behind your concerns may be number of birthdays, not T level. At least I observe that in myself as I get older. (Not that my sex drive has declined to zero, oh no.)

  18. Default User Says:

    @David Collard
    I agree that the problem in talking about T levels is that it will have different affects at different times (fetal, very early childhood, puberty, adulthood). Furthermore it interacts with other hormones with possible positive or negative feedback loops.

    My current belief (and not backed by deep learning or research) is that the character effects of testosterone move more in the direction of calmness (or even stoicism) not aggression. What studies I have seen point to testosterone rising under threat. That is, threat or the need for aggressive action drives testosterone; testosterone does not drive that action. Given the anabolic effects, that makes sense. Aggression may leads to injury and higher T levels will help the body rebuild. When needing to assert himself (attack in our primal brain) it makes sense to ready the body’s defenses.

    Also, as you pointed out, the effects may vary according to a man’s individual biochemical profile.

  19. Default User Says:

    @Maurice
    First off, I am glad that your libido remains healthy. :/

    If you feel healthy, have no symptoms, and are enjoying life, I would not worry about your T levels. One of my reasons for posting this was precisely what you pointed out. I have seen a lot of claims that make testosterone out to be a magic potion. For some men it may well be, but for most it will not turn them into the super men they hope for.

    Sadly, we can do little about our birthday count. Every year that number just gets higher and higher. Like they say about falling: it is not the rising number that worries me, it is the sudden stop at the end.

  20. David Collard Says:

    Default User, I like your suggestion. And it helps me to understand some of my own behaviour. Appropriate assertion and stoicism are the bright side of testosterone.

    Testosterone probably produces what is “stereotypicallly” masculine: stoicism, good humour, assertiveness, generally positive mood. Not just aggression.

  21. Default User Says:

    @David Collard
    I think estrogen, and not testosterone, is the demon hormone.

  22. chic noir Says:

    A random woman might not, but the right woman . . .

    exactly what I was getting at.

  23. David Collard Says:

    It is funny you should say that, Default User. My wife can get pretty aggressive, but it is not the calm, powerful assertion of a grown man. It is hysterical, oestrogenic aggression. I think one reason men get taken more seriously than women is that a man has to be a lot more upset to actually lose control, a grown man I mean.

    I think this is one reason too why women can carry on an undercurrent of abuse directed at men, in the media and in society, and men don’t complain. Whereas when men say something about women, it is treated as a much more serious matter. On the one hand, it is unfair to men, but on the other hand it tends to imply that men’s considered views are given more weight. And it is why “manginas” are so useful to feminists, because they carry the weightiness of a male opinion.

    I once read a book by an anthropologist who had spent some time in West Africa. He said that he had become used to complaining loudly about things, in the local way, when he was in Africa, among the Dowayo I think it was. When he returned to England, people found him rude and aggressive. But he was just being normal – for Africa. In the same way, women’s culture encourages a constant level of complaint and emotionality, which is why men have to learn to discount it. One of the first principles of “game” for men is to learn not to take a woman’s “emotion of the moment” too seriously.

  24. Default User Says:

    @Chic

    exactly what I was getting at.

    It seems that you know me well.

  25. Default User Says:

    @David Collard
    Good and interesting comment. I can’t think of anything to add.

  26. Rebekah Says:

    It’s refreshing to read such an honest post — thank you for sharing this, Default.

    I assume the introversion and basic personality traits, along with the social dynamics you experience, have been the norm for you and part of your life. However, I’m wondering about the lack of drive/purpose, and how long this has been your experience.

    Only you would know if you experience intermittent bouts of loss of interest, or when it was you last felt motivated and good about life. It doesn’t sound like you’re severely depressed, but rather experiencing a low-grade depression that’s kind of just sitting with you, and which you’ve accepted into your life on some level. It really comes down to how important it is to you to feel differently, and the problem with depressives is sometimes, even when you know something is wrong, there is a lack of desire to change it.

    If the libido thing isn’t causing any loss of enjoyment in life, I can see why it’s not at the top of your concerns. However, the general drive you reference, perhaps even a lack of concentration, can really be a problem. My two cents: talk to your doctor first {sounds like you’ve already discussed some of your concerns with him/her}, and then to a therapist. If you decide to continue taking medication for anxiety or depression/mood disorders, I would make sure to talk to a psychiatrist in addition to your therapist, and not just your GP.

    The good news is, I truly believe there is hope for altering your course and feeling fulfilled in life. {I type that, but some days I question it for myself, I admit}

  27. Default User Says:

    @Rebekah

    I assume the introversion and basic personality traits, along with the social dynamics you experience, have been the norm for you and part of your life. However, I’m wondering about the lack of drive/purpose, and how long this has been your experience.

    It is only recently that I realized how much disphoria was part of my life. I suppose I had just accepted it as who I was. Now, some of that relates to my natural introverted nature but not all of it. It is the part that was not introvert related that I allowed to creep up on me. However, you should not think me unhappy. The real problem is that I drifted more than drove my life forward.

    I have not been talking to a doctor about this. I was able to order the lab tests without a physician’s order. I am not currently taking any prescription medicine for depression or anxiety. I have tried various non-prescription alternatives (e.g., 5-HTP) with some success.

    I sometimes regret posting some of the stuff I do. Not because people show concern but because people may feel I feel worse than I do. I do have expectation that I can alter my course. Like you, it sometimes seems that I can often offer more encouragement than to myself. However, I always remain optimistic (even if I don’t always sound it).

  28. David Collard Says:

    Depression and low mood can become a habit, to the extent that one hardly notices it. It creeps up on a lot of people, especially as they enter middle age.

    It is important to manage one’s mood, and this is a skill like any other, which can be learned. Giving oneself little treats helps. If you are busy, even on an interesting and consuming task, take plenty of breaks.

  29. Default User Says:

    @David Collard
    All good points, thanks.

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  31. namae nanka Says:

    vasopressin and aggression, testosterone is the god hormone, politicized science can go take a hike.

  32. Default User Says:

    @namae nanka
    According to Wise Geek Vasopressin may:

    . . . show a correlation between high levels of the hormone and happiness in monogamous relationships or marriage. These findings remain somewhat controversial, but most experts agree with the assessment that some relationship exists between monogamous tendencies and vasopressin levels.

    God, it sounds like the anti-player serum. I bet the feminist industrial complex will try to add it to our water.

  33. namae nanka Says:

    btw did anyone mention estrogen with regards to aggression?

  34. Default User Says:

    @namae nanka

    btw did anyone mention estrogen with regards to aggression?

    Well, I did call it the demon hormone in a comment above. I have seen claims that high estrogen can cause aggression in males. As I pointed out, testosterone is as much a response to as a cause of aggression.

  35. Random Thoughts: Dopamine, The Alpha Drug « Default User Says:

    […] that testosterone is the wonder drug that puts the Alpha in Alpha male. While I do not doubt testosterone’s usefulness to the Alpha male, I believe there is a more important substance. Indeed, I believe that dopamine […]

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