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The Balance of Oxytocin and Testosterone in Female Fighters

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#1
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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Was researching - well, you know, Googling and reading, Googling and reading as you do - the hormone oxytocin, a chemical known to be connected with experiences of bonding, and ran into this very interesting piece of information. Oxytocin and Testosterone are antagonists. Originally I was thinking about how some of the social elements under the influence of oxytocin have been issues of stress in Sylvie's training. As many have pointed out women are often much more motivated by social cues (coach trust, fighting for the team, proving worth) than by powerful antagonisms. I've talked about this with fighter Kaitlin Young, and our discussions definitely came back to me as I was reading the below. What is really interesting, at least from a prospective place of investigation, is that it may be the case that many seriously committed female fighters have elevated testosterone. No expert in this, I'll just hazard that some may have just a higher baseline profile of testosterone than average on the bell curve, and some may have increased levels of testosterone as a matter of their regime and their training. Or a combination of both.

This is the really compelling part. If fighter training (and the selection of women who become fighters) will produce elevated testosterone, and the below is also true, being a fighter as a woman may result in oxytocin suppression. This could be related to the supposed need or difference in motivations reported by female fighters as opposed to male fighters (who have different hormonal profiles and balances).

The relevant part:

"...What you might not know is that most hormones work as antagonists to other hormones. In other words, they can balance each other out. When one is released, it tempers or suppresses the over-production of the other. But if you keep over producing one, it can begin to snuff out the other all together.

Now let's look at some examples. We'll start with my favorite, oxytocin, and its antagonist testosterone. You might think that the antagonist to testosterone would be estrogen, the feminine hormone, balancing the masculine. And to some degree you'd be right. But testosterone is more powerfully antagonistic to oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, the one that makes you go, "Oooo" when we see something cute. Oxytocin is released during the experience or even the witnessing of loving kindness and affectionate touch, even when you see it on TV. It's also called the love hormone, the bonding hormone, as well as acting as a stimulant to contractions during pregnancy/birthing. When oxytocin is released, we feel softer, more nurturing, more cuddly, more loving. It changes our visual and mental perceptions allowing us to see the oneness of all things, the interconnectedness of all of us. For a brief moment, it turns us into right-brained systems thinkers, rather than analytical critics. And if you release enough of it, it allows us to see God. Studies have shown that those with high average levels of oxytocin are more likely to believe in God. So can't we just give people oxytocin directly? Sure, but the half life is only about 3 minutes, meaning the effects fade very quickly.

This brings us back to it's antagonist, testosterone, the masculine and aggressiveness hormone. It's released when a breach of trust occurs, making you even more distrusting. And as it rises, it suppresses oxytocin. That's what makes it a chemical antagonist. And just like the antagonist in a good novel, you need a chemical antagonist to keep things in balance in the body. Testosterone makes you more logical, linear, rational, and more goal oriented. In societies, it's testosterone that keeps an eye out for threats, dangers and free loaders, those who would take up resources while returning nothing to the community.

So oxytocin and testosterone. They are both required in a healthy person and a healthy society or culture. The reason we need the protectiveness of testosterone is that not everyone has a healthy regulation of oxytocin. Both biological diversity and abuse results in some people who have little to no oxytocin (or poor regulation). This misregulation of oxytocin has been linked to conditions as diverse as autism and sociopathy. Needless to say, if your oxytocin never gets released it becomes harder to see the point of being loving. There may be rational reason to get along, but there is no compelling biology that would require it of those with poor oxytocin regulation. And without the biological imperative of oxytocin to be loving, we are decidedly self-centered, short sighted and egotistical. Without oxytocin, our testosterone would cause us to be more fear-based in our decisions, or at best, coldly analytical.

The testosterone that gets released when we argue makes us less trusting, more closed minded. The oxytocin that gets released when we reach out to lovingly understand and forgive makes us more trusting and allows us to see world views we didn't know existed..."

source: Quora

IF there is a causal connection between the increase of testosterone and female fighter training (or selection by population) and there is a bonded antagonism between testosterone and oxytocin, then it would be really important to make sure that there is care taken to keep oxytocin levels in check. Yeah, I know, it sounds stupid. More hugs, more "Great job!'s", more "You're a part of our team!"s, but it may very well be the case that there is a chemical deficit is that is created through training and the ambition of fighting. A coach or a team designing training of female fighters would need to purposively attend to this chemical reality.

Further, female athletes themselves, aside from just generally putting themselves in the "best" or most positive training environments, should probably attend to this hormonal balance in concrete, specific ways. Acknowledge that yes, you are in a regime ostensibly designed to increase testosterone, but this may very well put you in an oxytocin deficit. This means taking active measures to stimulate oxytocin, either outside the gym, or in training itself. Don't be passive to your own states. Your training contexts might not be feeding you the right mix, but you can actively work to caretake. Small things like systematically giving compliments to others, helping instruct others (when it is desired), building team chemistry between partners, could effect your own oxytocin levels.

This is the really profound thing. A lot of the time we can address issues like this at the emotional layer of our "character". If we are not motivated, it's our character that has to change. If we are not feeling positive its our character we have to change. The benefit of changing the layer at which we think of these problems to the hormonal level is that we can think of something like oxytocin suppression much in the way we think of dehydration. To stay motivated and positively focused oxytocin levels needs to be in a certain range, just as we need water to be in a certain range. Really strenuous, aggressive training will dehydrate you. It may also leave you in oxytocin deficit. 

As to men, I really don't know. I think studies in these areas are pretty sporadic. I do know that hyper-aggressive training contexts like military bootcamp and wartime engagement are also structurally linked to socializing bonds that end up cementing relationships between men in a very deep way. This goes for team sports as well. So in men there may very well also be an important testosterone/oxytocin balance that is culturally addressed in the very nature of male bonding and training. Men get very aggressive, but then can be glued together through rites, practices and mores. Culture finds a way to set the hormones right in traditional forms, that's how traditions last and are propagated. But what is particular to female fighters is that they are in nearly all instances, almost by definition, "outside" of the masculine coded space, they are almost structurally determined to find themselves in oxytocin deficit, in a generalized way. The rise in testosterone may make oxytocin more difficult to regulate. They cannot as easily avail themselves of powerful forms of bonding, at least not as readily as men may be able to. They may find themselves on a testosterone train without balance. This may in fact account for the powerful romantic (and near romantic) attachments women sometimes form with the instructors who train them (not to say that they are un-real, but romance does provide an oxytocin spike in environments where it may be suppressed). And, it may account for the very significant successes some gym have when women are specifically nurtured, and team is really emphasized.

 

I wrote about this from a very different angle in my guest post:

The Female Fighter and the Chain of Shame

I hadn't thought about it at the time, but perhaps oxytocin (and testosterone) have a role in that theoretical construct.


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#2
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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Losing Harder On Women Than Men?

Here is an interesting study that suggests that women losing to other women in competition actually increases testosterone.

Speaking very widely under the assumptions of the above post, this might suggest that losing maybe even harder for women to experience than men. If testosterone becomes elevated when a female fighter loses, so might oxytocin become suppressed, which means feeling less bonded to the social group. Losing could create something of a runaway train effect at the hormonal level for women. You might come back to the gym, train even harder, raise your testosterone even higher, and push your oxytocin levels lower, and feel even more disconnected and ostracized from the group.


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#3
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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And then there is a 3rd

(prospectively) Cortisol, the stress hormone, is a 3rd player in this dynamic. It is reported also to be a natural antagonist of testosterone AND oxytocin. We hear a lot about cortisol, stress and overtraining. Think about what is happening to oxytocin when testosterone surges. A female fighter in training may begin to lack oxytocin-type experiences of connection. Stress levels increase due to natural workload fatigue (inflammation) but also perhaps because of social alienation, cortisol shoots up creating further detachment, suppressing oxytocin further. No longer is it testosterone which maybe forcing oxytocin down, it is cortisol.  


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#4
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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Oxytocin Is Also At Play In Intensifying Traumatic Memories

It isn't just the love hormone, it appears to also be involved in creating powerful stamps of trauma that are experienced on the social level. This article refers to the connection.

"...For this study on the link between oxytocin and fear-based memories, the researchers used region-specific manipulations of the mouse oxytocin receptor (Oxtr) gene (Oxtr). The scientists were able to identify the lateral septum as the brain region mediating fear-enhancing effects of Oxtr. 

The research shows that one function of oxytocin is to strengthen social memory in this specific region of the brain. If an experience is painful or distressing, oxytocin will activate the lateral septum and intensify the negative memory..."

The author proposes using the social-bonding powers of oxytocin to unwork and re-weave the powerful traumatic connections made by the first memory.

These are related article by the same author:

 

Oxytocin study that suggests it can delay fear extinction.


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#5
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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Two Things That May Release Oxytocin: A Dog and Massage

2. Get a dog. Petting a dog releases oxytocin in the dog and the human. Starting with a canine companion can help some patients become more comfortable with human companionship.
3. In research my lab published in September, 2008, we have shown that moderate-pressure massage primes the brain to release oxytocin and motivates interactions with strangers.

Noticeably, these are two things that we have done. Adopting Jaidee from the street felt like an important step, and we are really rigorous in making sure that Sylvie gets multiple massages every week.

 

 

Background on oxytocin

Oxytocin, a small peptide, is a neurotransmitter and a hormone secreted centrally from the posterior pituitary, as well as a paracrine hormone secreted peripherally from tissues such as the gut, bladder, uterus in females, and vas deferens in males. Human studies demonstrate numerous roles for oxytocin in physical aspects of daily life of males and females across the lifespan including growth, wound healing, fluid balance, blood pressure and breathing regulation via control of vascular and bronchial dilatation, and digestion and sexual and reproductive functions including birth and breastfeeding via control of smooth muscle peristalsis (Pederson, Caldwell, Jirikowski, & Insel, 1992; Uvnas Moberg, 2003). Oxytocin is active in regulating vagal tone (Porges, 2011), and could be associated with dysregulation of any tissues and organs regulated by the vagus nerve.

Oxytocin is implicated in behavioral aspects of daily life in relation to attachment, affiliation, and maternal behavior (Pederson, Caldwell, Jirikowski, & Insel, 1992), pro-social behavior (Brown & Brown, 2006), stress regulation (Porges, 2011), and memory and learning under very stressful conditions (Pitman, Orr, & Lasko, 1993), especially social learning (Hurlemann et al., 2010). In literature focusing on biobehavioral outcomes of maternal-infant dyadic regulation, dysregulation of the oxytocin system has been considered a potential mechanism of adverse outcomes of early relational trauma such as attachment disorganization and affect dysregulations associated with self disorders (i.e., dissociation, somatization, interpersonal sensitivity) (Schore, 2003). This is consistent with the cascade model of the effects of deleterious early experience on neurobiology (Teicher, Anderson, Polcari, Anderson, & Navalta, 2002) which specifies the oxytocin system as a third “pillar” of the stress-response system, along with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathetic nervous system.

https://www.ncbi.nlm...les/PMC3539231/


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#6
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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Lower cerebral spinal fluid oxytocin levels found in women who had suffered from early childhood abuse or neglect.

 

Perhaps an additional, complicating factor could be histories of abuse or PTSD-type events which could alter one's Oxytocin regulation.


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#7
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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AAEAAQAAAAAAAAITAAAAJGU4NjRlMTM2LTUxMGQt

 

Don't know if these are all real, but food for thought in the right direction of oxytocin re-balancing in testosterone/cortisol producing environments. Article here.

 

vagus.jpg


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#8
threeoaks

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Was researching - well, you know, Googling and reading, Googling and reading as you do - the hormone oxytocin, a chemical known to be connected with experiences of bonding, and ran into this very interesting piece of information. Oxytocin and Testosterone are antagonists. Originally I was thinking about how some of the social elements under the influence of oxytocin have been issues of stress in Sylvie's training. As many have pointed out women are often much more motivated by social cues (coach trust, fighting for the team, proving worth) than by powerful antagonisms. I've talked about this with fighter Kaitlin Young, and our discussions definitely came back to me as I was reading the below. What is really interesting, at least from a prospective place of investigation, is that it may be the case that many seriously committed female fighters have elevated testosterone. No expert in this, I'll just hazard that some may have just a higher baseline profile of testosterone than average on the bell curve, and some may have increased levels of testosterone as a matter of their regime and their training. Or a combination of both.

This is the really compelling part. If fighter training (and the selection of women who become fighters) will produce elevated testosterone, and the below is also true, being a fighter as a woman may result in oxytocin suppression. This could be related to the supposed need or difference in motivations reported by female fighters as opposed to male fighters (who have different hormonal profiles and balances).

The relevant part:

"...What you might not know is that most hormones work as antagonists to other hormones. In other words, they can balance each other out. When one is released, it tempers or suppresses the over-production of the other. But if you keep over producing one, it can begin to snuff out the other all together.

Now let's look at some examples. We'll start with my favorite, oxytocin, and its antagonist testosterone. You might think that the antagonist to testosterone would be estrogen, the feminine hormone, balancing the masculine. And to some degree you'd be right. But testosterone is more powerfully antagonistic to oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, the one that makes you go, "Oooo" when we see something cute. Oxytocin is released during the experience or even the witnessing of loving kindness and affectionate touch, even when you see it on TV. It's also called the love hormone, the bonding hormone, as well as acting as a stimulant to contractions during pregnancy/birthing. When oxytocin is released, we feel softer, more nurturing, more cuddly, more loving. It changes our visual and mental perceptions allowing us to see the oneness of all things, the interconnectedness of all of us. For a brief moment, it turns us into right-brained systems thinkers, rather than analytical critics. And if you release enough of it, it allows us to see God. Studies have shown that those with high average levels of oxytocin are more likely to believe in God. So can't we just give people oxytocin directly? Sure, but the half life is only about 3 minutes, meaning the effects fade very quickly.

This brings us back to it's antagonist, testosterone, the masculine and aggressiveness hormone. It's released when a breach of trust occurs, making you even more distrusting. And as it rises, it suppresses oxytocin. That's what makes it a chemical antagonist. And just like the antagonist in a good novel, you need a chemical antagonist to keep things in balance in the body. Testosterone makes you more logical, linear, rational, and more goal oriented. In societies, it's testosterone that keeps an eye out for threats, dangers and free loaders, those who would take up resources while returning nothing to the community.

So oxytocin and testosterone. They are both required in a healthy person and a healthy society or culture. The reason we need the protectiveness of testosterone is that not everyone has a healthy regulation of oxytocin. Both biological diversity and abuse results in some people who have little to no oxytocin (or poor regulation). This misregulation of oxytocin has been linked to conditions as diverse as autism and sociopathy. Needless to say, if your oxytocin never gets released it becomes harder to see the point of being loving. There may be rational reason to get along, but there is no compelling biology that would require it of those with poor oxytocin regulation. And without the biological imperative of oxytocin to be loving, we are decidedly self-centered, short sighted and egotistical. Without oxytocin, our testosterone would cause us to be more fear-based in our decisions, or at best, coldly analytical.

The testosterone that gets released when we argue makes us less trusting, more closed minded. The oxytocin that gets released when we reach out to lovingly understand and forgive makes us more trusting and allows us to see world views we didn't know existed..."

source: Quora

IF there is a causal connection between the increase of testosterone and female fighter training (or selection by population) and there is a bonded antagonism between testosterone and oxytocin, then it would be really important to make sure that there is care taken to keep oxytocin levels in check. Yeah, I know, it sounds stupid. More hugs, more "Great job!'s", more "You're a part of our team!"s, but it may very well be the case that there is a chemical deficit is that is created through training and the ambition of fighting. A coach or a team designing training of female fighters would need to purposively attend to this chemical reality.

Further, female athletes themselves, aside from just generally putting themselves in the "best" or most positive training environments, should probably attend to this hormonal balance in concrete, specific ways. Acknowledge that yes, you are in a regime ostensibly designed to increase testosterone, but this may very well put you in an oxytocin deficit. This means taking active measures to stimulate oxytocin, either outside the gym, or in training itself. Don't be passive to your own states. Your training contexts might not be feeding you the right mix, but you can actively work to caretake. Small things like systematically giving compliments to others, helping instruct others (when it is desired), building team chemistry between partners, could effect your own oxytocin levels.

This is the really profound thing. A lot of the time we can address issues like this at the emotional layer of our "character". If we are not motivated, it's our character that has to change. If we are not feeling positive its our character we have to change. The benefit of changing the layer at which we think of these problems to the hormonal level is that we can think of something like oxytocin suppression much in the way we think of dehydration. To stay motivated and positively focused oxytocin levels needs to be in a certain range, just as we need water to be in a certain range. Really strenuous, aggressive training will dehydrate you. It may also leave you in oxytocin deficit. 

As to men, I really don't know. I think studies in these areas are pretty sporadic. I do know that hyper-aggressive training contexts like military bootcamp and wartime engagement are also structurally linked to socializing bonds that end up cementing relationships between men in a very deep way. This goes for team sports as well. So in men there may very well also be an important testosterone/oxytocin balance that is culturally addressed in the very nature of male bonding and training. Men get very aggressive, but then can be glued together through rites, practices and mores. Culture finds a way to set the hormones right in traditional forms, that's how traditions last and are propagated. But what is particular to female fighters is that they are in nearly all instances, almost by definition, "outside" of the masculine coded space, they are almost structurally determined to find themselves in oxytocin deficit, in a generalized way. The rise in testosterone may make oxytocin more difficult to regulate. They cannot as easily avail themselves of powerful forms of bonding, at least not as readily as men may be able to. They may find themselves on a testosterone train without balance. This may in fact account for the powerful romantic (and near romantic) attachments women sometimes form with the instructors who train them (not to say that they are un-real, but romance does provide an oxytocin spike in environments where it may be suppressed). And, it may account for the very significant successes some gym have when women are specifically nurtured, and team is really emphasized.

 

I wrote about this from a very different angle in my guest post:

The Female Fighter and the Chain of Shame

I hadn't thought about it at the time, but perhaps oxytocin (and testosterone) have a role in that theoretical construct.

Super fascinating.  Suggests the "old coaches tale" regarding not having sex, for male fighters, the night before a fight..  You've heard the other story on the street about the Stock Market dipping on the day the last strip club on Wall St closed?  Yeah.  Speaks to rings girls.  All of this of course fascinates me (and if you train hard enough you don't menstruate which affects estrogen, but is there also an effect on Oxytocin I wonder)?


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#9
threeoaks

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Lower cerebral spinal fluid oxytocin levels found in women who had suffered from early childhood abuse or neglect.

 

Perhaps an additional, complicating factor could be histories of abuse or PTSD-type events which could alter one's Oxytocin regulation.

That is fucking crushing.


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#10
threeoaks

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Kevin I responded before I read the breadth of your research, and all your thoughts (so it was blithe and short).  I can't respond in kind to the density of your thought, but its super fascinating.  Of particular interest is the idea that female fighters are in chronic deficit of oxytocin, being structurally outside the male bond of the gym.  I've taken to madly trying to build female fighter camaraderie at my small upstate gym.  I'm not very outgoing, but I am just fascinated for all sorts of reasons.  This helps me think through why.  Thanks.


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#11
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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Kevin I responded before I read the breadth of your research, and all your thoughts (so it was blithe and short).  I can't respond in kind to the density of your thought, but its super fascinating.  Of particular interest is the idea that female fighters are in chronic deficit of oxytocin, being structurally outside the male bond of the gym.  I've taken to madly trying to build female fighter camaraderie at my small upstate gym.  I'm not very outgoing, but I am just fascinated for all sorts of reasons.  This helps me think through why.  Thanks.

 

It's crazy to think that there is some kind of "structural" (in the sociological sense) and "hormonal" (in the balance of hormones sense)...synergy going on. That as women seek to overcome cultural boundaries and hurdles they also have to struggle against hormonal shifts and deficits. What is compelling is that IF we can locate the difficulty at the chemical level, and not so much at the ideational/character level, if we see the emotional difficulties females may encounter as more or less "natural"...or at least naturalized hormonal imbalances, these can be directly addressable without the baggage of emotional judgment. If you are going to push yourself into states where oxtocin might be put in deficit then you may have to build out oxytocin enhancement as part of your commitment to the sport and art of fighting. It should be part of the program.


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#12
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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Unfortunately I don't have all the links from my further reading, but it's all stuff that I found through extensive Googling, so you should be able to find it too. One of the problems with this area is that the available literature tends to be divided into two different, sometimes unhelpful, layers. There is starting to grow an oxytocin "speak" on the internet with which seems to be fairly surface in terms of knowledge or application. Oxytocin being treated as a kind of wonder drug or answer to all our ills. There doesn't seem to be a lot of anchorage in this kind of writing. The other layer is actual studies, many of them animal (mostly rats). As such they are highly specified testings of narrow hypotheses, as they should be, and seldom repeated in research. This means that there is a huge gulf between what is widely understood about oxytocin, and what is more definitively known. This means that oxytocin can be wildly talked about with little grounding, sometimes with conflicting perspectives. I say this as a caution. Hormones interact in very complex ways. There is no simple "good" hormone or "bad" hormone, or good/bad hormonal interaction. They are some of the most primatively evolved ways of regulating the organism, and they can interact on multiple levels.

A good example of this was the effusive reaction to oxytocin when it was labeled the "love hormone" or the "ethical hormone" or the "moral hormone" or even the "God hormone". Some people felt that we just needed more oxytocin in our bodies, so we could all get along. But in some very narrow studies there were very unexpected actions of oxytocin in the body. Some of the most forward applicable research came about, if I'm reading this right, when the military started looking into if it could be (in nasal spray form) a magic bullet to PTSD. The results of research were very mixed. In one very interesting rat study (sorry it's not cited here), oxytocin actually played a role in anchoring fear experiences and making them MORE traumatic. Basically helping to ingrain them in a certain part of the brain reserved for intense traumatic memories. And the presence of oxytocin seemed to retard rats from destressing from fear conditioning, in one study. Another study found that women (if I recall) who had been exposed to early sexual abuse (ESA) when stress tested for performance, had a much higher blood plasma level of oxytocin than women without ESA. In fact such women did not respond with spikes in cortisol (the common "stress hormone") as the non-ESA women did. This is a big deal, and something the researches could only wildly hypothesize about. Another articled talked about how oxytocin could be implicate in the continuation of abusive relationships. And for those that think that oxytocin just makes everyone lovey-dovey, one study showed that the effects of oxytocin can be highly culturally dependent. In an "trust" test of westerners the nasal spray seemed to make subjects more reliant on friends, while the same test with Korean subjects appeared to make them LESS reliant. From all these unintuitive, darker aspects of oxytocin I tentatively read this as: oxytocin helps as a kind of social glue, but the glue isn't necessarily an all-is-right-with-the-world glue. Rather, shame-memories and socially framed stresses might themselves become fortified by oxytocin, at some level...as a way of gluing the social together. It doesn't mean that rises in oxytocin might not also work to unweave, or counter those effects, but it does mean that oxytocin is complicated by the levels on which it works.

One source, not particularly footnoted, suggested that it isn't just the presence of oxytocin that shapes social emotions, but it is the change in oxytocin levels. This could mean that ESA individuals could have elevated oxytocin levels which act like how insulin-resistence does, diminishing the effects a typical oxytocin-promoting event might have. This is just my own wild speculation, but at least something to consider. If abuse can over-trigger oxytocin's role in social regulation it might be even more important to watch the need for oxytocin. And...even more speculatively, could very hard training, testosterone producing female athletes be working to drive their own oxytocin down, countering their own oxytocin resistance? (Okay, this is really speculative, just treat it as such.) I just find it fascinating that ESA stress tested subjects were not producing cortisol spikes. 

Returning to the original subject there just isn't the science to really know what the story is about the role oxytocin is playing with the emotional profiles of female fighters training at a high level. If they are coming to their training from a history of abuse (and many do, both physical and sexual) then their own oxytocin battles may be more complicated, just in terms of their history and the role oxytocin has taken in terms of memory attachment and stress response. But...in all cases it should be noted that broadly speaking oxytocin and testosterone are considered antagoinists, and even 60 minutes on the treadmill can create a testosterone spike in women. Cortisol, the stress hormone, also is said to be an antagonist. So at minimum we have a profile of counter-oxytocin hormone probabilities laid out in typical high-level training. For women in particular this could be a very important and somewhat neglected dimension of fighting or becoming a fighter.

Qutie some time ago Sylvie wrote a controversial "Myth of Overtraining" article. One of the things I found interesting was the push back from women who definitely experienced mental and physical deficits. One woman in particular wrote about her extremely high, tested cortisol levels. Sylvie's answer at the time was about how what people neglect is resting, what she called active resting. Your rest needs to equal your stress, so to speak. The missing component perhaps was that part of that restorative rest, especially for women, might involve the replenishment of oxytocin. For a woman who is experiencing really high levels of cortisol she definitely is under extreme stress. Sylvie's quarrel at the time was with the idea that degrees of physical exertion alone were the cause of the expressed symptoms of overtraining. If we add oxytocin replenishment to a notion of active rest then maybe we have a more complete picture of the limits of high-intensity training. I could also say that as a victim of extreme sexual assault (one event she has written about) Sylvie may not have a typical cortisol reaction to stress and fear. So her own experiences of the limits of physical training in Thailand may be atypical. 


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K. von Duuglas-Ittu

K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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I should add, in terms of the prospective article I wrote on the role of shame in the training of women, at the time I created a hypothetical "Fear-Shame molecule"

Shame-Fear-Module-400x279.jpg

Admittedly this was a kind of sci-fi version of training theory, trying on a conceptual model to see what it might reveal. What is compelling - and I haven't got my head completely wrapped around it, is that oxytocin is implicated in social trauma, when violence or abuse tears at the social fabric. It can intensify and perpetuate memories. And apparently also become a part of how victims hormonally regulate stress responses in the future. At the time I was just hypothesizing, but it is interesting that oxytocin can be both a fear and a shame response chemical, that these two layers can be exhibited in the role of a single hormone. This may be a source of complication when trying to train new fear responses in female fighters with a history of abuse. Could the shame/fear molecule that I hypothesized be related to the complex role oxytocin plays in abuse?


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