Friday, May 27, 2011

Victoria Costello - Men's Moods Demystified
At that moment, Florida governor Charlie Crist experienced a surge in T-levels

Awakening Psyche: Integrating body, mind and spirit in our collective consciousness is a blog by Victoria Costello at Psychology Today. Her most recent post is an attempt to demystify men's moods because, you know, we don't have a menstrual cycle to blame when we get cranky.

There is some validity to looking at testosterone levels in men to explain their moods - but we don't have the predictable cycles of hormonally related moods fluctuations as do women. Still, it's useful to know that we are at our best hormonally first thing in the morning and not at sundown - and it's good for our female partners to know this as well.

One thing I question a little is the T-levels high in the mid-summer and lowest in the winter - this seems easily explainable by the amount of female skin showing in those respective seasons. A LOT of research has shown that male T-levels increase when see attractive, scantily-dressed women, so it's simple logic that after a month or two of that exposure in summer months, our T-levels have likely peaked for the year. And of course, in winter women are wearing WAY more clothing, and it's cold and dark, so T-levels go down. That's my explanation as an amatuer endocrinologist.

When it's a woman, we call it a period

Although a woman's periods and the roller coaster emotions that go with them are widely known and parodied, it turns out a men have a mood altering pattern of their own. Dare I call them periods? I do. If the definition is a certain day or time when his hormones fluctuate and change his behavior. It's about time we brought equality to this gender-based discussion. And help out a woman trying to decipher her man's many moods.

One reason the male cycle is so poorly understood is because a man's testosterone level, the driver behind his cycle, changes rapidly with his environment and moods, so measuring it can be challenging. But here's what we know:

1. The male cycle occurs once every 24 hours, with peaks 6 or 7 times a day and smaller fluctuations occurring every 15 to 20 minutes.

2. The range of levels of testosterone that can be present in a man's blood is very broad, depending on the man and his physical condition.

3. Testosterone levels change with the seasons; in the mid-summer his level is highest, and lowest in winter and early spring. So much for all that talk of love budding with the blooms of spring!

4. A man's high testosterone level in the morning makes him most virile upon waking. This explains why men often wake up with an erection. No news there. Comparatively, he's got less testosterone and desire at dusk, especially as he ages.

5. A man's testosterone level is increased through regular sexual activity, and high testosterone leads him to want and have more sex. In addition to increasing a man's sex drive, a higher level of testosterone is beneficial to a healthy heart and brain. It produces a buoyant effect on his mood and energy level.

And here's a thought provoking bit of research: Studies have shown that men with the highest overall testosterone levels (and those who are the most handsome) are more likely to cheat on their partners and be divorced. Could this be evidence of too much of a good thing? Researchers say the evidence points to exactly that conclusion.

Personally, I'll admit I've never been attracted to extremely handsome or "pretty" men. Could this have been the survival instinct at work? What about you? Do pretty men turn you on or off?

Read more in The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Chemistry of Love, coauthored with Maryanne Fisher, Ph.D.

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