Hormones

Gonadal hormones were the first biochemicals studied in relationship to sensation seeking. The reasons for this selection were based on the gender differences (males higher than females) and age changes (a peak in late adolescence and a drop at subsequent ages) on the SSS. Testosterone has similar gender and age differences. Another finding suggestive of gonadal differences is that high sensation seekers tend to have more sexual experience with more partners than low sensation seekers (Zuckerman, Tushup, & Finner, 1976). Indeed, in males testosterone and estradiol were correlated with both SSS scores (particularly Disinhibition) and sexual experience (Daitzman & Zuckerman, 1980). Estradiol in males is produced by conversion of androgens to estradiol. The aromatization hypothesis suggests that androgens in males have their major motivational effects after conversion to estrogenic metabolites (Brain, 1983). SSS scores of hypogonadal men with low testosterone levels were compared to those of men with sexual dysfunctions but average testosterone levels (O'Carroll, 1984). The men with sexual dysfunctions who had average testosterone levels scored higher than the hypogonadal men on the General and Disinhibition scales of the SSS. Subsequent administration of testosterone to both groups did not change their personality scores, although it increased their sexual interest and functioning. The hormonal influence on personality probably occurs before puberty—even as early as the fetal period of life, where it affects the developing brain.

RLA rats (the models for low sensation seeking in humans, as discussed earlier) show increased hormonal stress response in the HYPAC system, as previously noted. Cortisol is the end product of the HYPAC system and is related to chronic stress in humans. Ballenger and colleagues (1983) found that cortisol in the CSF correlated negatively with the SSS Disinhibition scale, and other scales in a factor that also included the SSS General scale, the Eysenck Psychoticism scale, and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Hypomania scale (Zuckerman, Ballenger, & Post, 1984). Low levels of cortisol and NE in CSF formed the negative pole of this factor. Low levels of cortisol were related to novelty seeking in veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (Wang, Mason, Charney, & Yehuda, 1997). Low cortisol and NE may indicate a lack of stress reactivity that is an advantage in some situations, but may also be associated with a lack of inhibition that leads to risky and sometimes antisocial forms of behavior.

Anxiety and Depression 101

Anxiety and Depression 101

Everything you ever wanted to know about. We have been discussing depression and anxiety and how different information that is out on the market only seems to target one particular cure for these two common conditions that seem to walk hand in hand.

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