What about dopamine/prolatin in multiorgasmic women?

Submitted by Level1Shaka on
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This is a very interesting site, very very interesting.

However, there's something I don't understand.

What about women who achieve multiple orgasms when having sex? What about their dopamine/prolatin levels? Doesnn't this contradicts or proves wrong that dopamine levels drop and prolatin rises after orgasms?

Thanks in advance,

Hi Shaka

Welcome! You are right. Some German research showed that in multi-orgasmic people (men, too), prolactin doesn't go up after their initial orgasms. It probably does go up when they are satiated, however, whenever that may be. Smile

In any case, the multi-orgasmic folk certainly don't escape the hangover if their experience is intense enough. I have that on the good authority of some of my multi-orgasmic women friends. Wink The days following can be just as rocky for them...weepiness, neediness, sharp tempers, dissatisfaction, reckless spending, etc.

Also, the orgasm hangover is probably far more complex than mere prolactin. It looks like a lot of other neurochemicals are also involved (all of which, so far, tamper with dopamine levels). We've put the latest research we've found in Cupid's Poisoned Arrow, but there's much more still to learn.

I am wondering if one factor

I am wondering if one factor in hangover might be stress levels. It seems clear that many addictions are pursued to numb stress. I'm sure that many people also use sex as a decompression mechanism for other stressors in life. The interesting question for me then would be how cortisol (or glucocorticoids) and dopamine influence one another. Perhaps when we have higher stress levels, our dopamine levels also rise.

I think that a lot of stress of modern variety is not as intense as the "fight-or-flight" that one might face in a life-threatening situation, and is more of a low-grade but persistent state of continual psychological stress. I believe that the book "Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers" pointed to glucocorticoids as being dominant factors in states of continual stress.

My sense is that under conditions of persistent stress, it may be less obvious to a person that they are stressed at all, or are seeking out an unconscious stress relief. When I look back on the times when I had an intense hangover from orgasms, whether with another or myself, I can see that the factor was not necessarily the orgasms, but the conditions and context under which the orgasms were sought.

I'd propose that there is more likely to be a hangover from orgasm when the orgasm is sought under stressful conditions or used as a stress release. Perhaps dopamine levels are higher under stress. Perhaps when we are not stressed, when we are fully relaxed and experience orgasm without grasping or as a numbing distraction from stress, there is less of a hangover.

There was one time when I gave my lover four orgasms out of sheer exasperation with him. I think that there was some stress in our relationship where he was not feeling verified by me and perhaps sensed that I would split from him. I was feeling stress because my old ex had come back to pursue me, so I was experiencing a lot of inner turmoil. He sensed my instability and so got needy and demanding. So I just gave him four orgasms to try to confirm his manliness, but suffered from a definite hangover the following days. I recall saying I hated men! I also took this as verification that orgasms lead to hangovers. As our relationship disintegrated under these stress factors, we continued to have increasingly hot sex, making it harder and harder to break up. The hot sex comes from the novelty, I believe, of not knowing if you will be with the person the following day or not.

I now think that it is more likely that there was some interaction between the cortisol or glucocorticoid levels in my system and how they interacted with dopamine. I have experienced multiple orgasms in other situations where I was not using sex to release stress, and I did not feel hung over. I also recently felt a hangover following masturbation and realized that I now that I have largely given up masturbation, it almost only surfaces under particularly stressful conditions.

Maybe you have already done some research into this that I don't know about?

A reply to myself then.

A reply to myself then. Here is the first thing I found on this topic, from http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/abstract/24/11/2825:

"Mesolimbic dopamine is thought to play a role in the processing of rewards. However, animal studies also demonstrate dopamine release in response to aversive stressful stimuli. Also, in animal studies, disruptions of the mother–infant relationship have been shown to have long-lasting effects on the mesolimbic dopamine system and the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis. We therefore investigated dopamine release in response to stress in human subjects, considering the relationship to early life parental care. We screened 120 healthy young college students for parental care in early life using a combination of telephone interviews and questionnaires. Five students from the top end and five students from the bottom end of the parental care distribution were then invited for a positron emission tomography study using [11C]raclopride and a psychosocial stress task. The psychosocial stressor caused a significant release of dopamine in the ventral striatum as indicated by a reduction in [11C]raclopride binding potential in the stress versus resting condition in subjects reporting low parental care. Moreover, the magnitude of the salivary cortisol response to stress was significantly correlated with the reduction in [11C]raclopride binding in the ventral striatum (r = 0.78), consistent with a facilitating effect of cortisol on dopamine neuron firing. These data suggest that aversive stressful events can be associated with mesolimbic dopamine release in humans, and that the method presented here may be useful to study the effects of early life events on neurobiological stress systems."

So, people with low parental care in life are more prone to stress and therefore dopamine surges than those with high parental care (see! it's the same conclusion as that all that affective neuroscience stuff in my cranio books was makign).

And >>> stress = increased dopamine = reward-seeking behavior (drugs, porn, video games, relief through orgasm or grabby sex) = depleted dopamine after reward = increase in prolactin (which is regulated by dopamine) = hangover.

However, the neurochemistry of relaxation and flow might = harmony and lovemaking, which might, under these conditions = increased oxytocin, which might, under these conditions = an orgasm with considerably less hangover than the above scenario.

To any neuroscientists out there, please check me if I'm way off base in my understanding of this stuff (I studied creative writing in school, after all).

And continuing that train of

And continuing that train of thought, I am just wondering what would be so wrong with separation (prolactin and low dopamine) in a somewhat mild form, from an orgasm that started off in a person who was pretty neurochemically balanced (assuming that any orgasm, even if it was started under relaxed conditions and not stress induced, is still going to release some dopamine).

I think that, given an ideal scenario such as this one (which i realize not everyone is lucky enough to have), occasional orgasm could be perfectly healthy:

1) the person was given a lot of affection when they were a child
2) the person is aware of stress when it is surfacing and doesn't seek to self-medicate
3) the person chooses to live a lifestyle where stress is minimized as much as possible, even at the expense of certain modern status symbol acquisitions (big house, fancy car, etc. etc)
4) the person gives and receives a lot of affectionate, non-goal oriented touch
5) the person has a basic understanding of the reward circuitry of the brain, and is able to identify when impulses emerge, and able to examine them before or without acting on them (this includes the impulse to fantasize about pursuing unavailable mating opportunities)
6) This person's basic understanding of the limbic brain's agenda and the reward circuitry allows them to realize that following orgasm, a need for separation is bound to crop up in both people, and is neither a personal affront or a permanent situation, but an opportunity to focus on other things besides security and mating.
7) the person chooses not to have sex under stressful conditions
8) the person has an equally mature and aware sexual partner

Given these factors, I think that orgasms once in a while could be perfectly healthy. Rather than a "separation virus", an orgasm could be an excuse for some (perhaps) much needed time alone.

Just playing Devil's advocate here. I am not trying to downplay the fact that hangovers from orgasm do happen or that they are harder on some people than others. I'm trying to hone in on what other factors might be contributing to their severity, rather than dismissing orgasms once and for all.

I've actually often thought the same thing

Ironically though, a person that's as chilled-out as what you hypothetically describe is one who will probably *feel* the least need for orgasm of anyone. If your theory is right, the more you find yourself wanting an orgasm, the less able you are to actually cope with it.

These points

have been raised before, although not with such helpful detail. (Thanks, HS!)

We agree that dopamine dysregulation, whether resulting from childhood influences or a porn addiction (whether or not related to childhood) makes the fallout from orgasm more extreme. That said, some people also probably just inherit more sensitive systems...and thus benefit more than others from practices that increase balance (meditation, karezza, exercise, whatever). This is not a defect, necessarily. It looks like pair-bonders pair bond because their reward circuitry is more sensitive to dopamine and has fewer of the D1 receptors that signal "satisfaction." (Promiscuous mammals have plenty of the latter...and use less drugs, if offered them.)

All *that* said, even very balanced people (however one defines it) probably still experience greater post-orgasmic effects than they realize they are experiencing. And more intense effects the more often they orgasm. This is because the effects often remain subconscious, and get *projected* onto their experience of the world and their relationship - while it seems to them that they are just fine. This was always my pattern...and I know that you, Hotspring, have often experienced this phenomenon of thinking you're having no hangover, while your partner has suddenly become a dickhead. Wink

Also, even a healthy person's "Coolidge Effect" program is always driving them to move in the direction of trying to exhaust their sexual energy, lose interest in a partner, and find a novel mate especially enticing. Technically it's this "chilling" effect that is the "separation virus," not orgasm itself.

As I often say, "orgasm feels great, and if it were the end of the story, people could do what comes naturally in the bedroom and they would just bond more and more tightly." The problem is that the passion cycle extends beyond the orgasm...and plays right into the hands of the Coolidge effect. http://www.reuniting.info/science/coolidge_effect

I personally never "go for" orgasm because I notice that it is a very rare orgasm that doesn't create some unwelcome emotional waves in my life...and I just don't like to gamble with the harmony in my relationships for a splash of bliss. I like feeling more centered most of the time than I like orgasm+angst.

But I would encourage everyone to find the balance that works for them.


And tricky.
For example, from one study:
"Low cortisol levels found in kids whose mothers show signs of depression
A new study of young children living in extreme poverty found that those whose mothers showed symptoms of depression had low levels of cortisol, a hormone activated during times of stress, compared with children whose mothers did not exhibit depressive symptoms."

So some studies have not only shown low cortisol in children (or adult children of...), but also a blunted cortisol response to a stressor. Not enough cortisol released to meet the challenge.

Also - chronic stress and elevated cortisol leads to dopamine depletion (rats, humans, you name it), and depression, and a whole host of possible symptoms. Some think PTSD and chronic fatigue syndrome may have this as a central mechanism.
In fact- Giving rats a dopamine agonist relieved their stress-induced depression

We have 2 obvious ways stress impinges on dopamine:
1) Where stress and cortisol create a greater than normal dopamine surge. Which means an activity - like drugs, sex, or rock & roll are more rewarding to that person.
2) Where chronically low dopamine and/or a blunted cortisol response to stress, make any rise in dopamine really rewarding.

In the Zebras book, #1 is highly associated with the initiation of an addiction.
#2) Is associated with withdrawal from an addiction (especially the low dopamine)

Both the low and high dopamine influence judgment and perception