Are we in control of our hormones or do our hormones control us? A difficult question and one we shall endeavour to answer this month.
Hormones are produced in response to a certain event either outside or within the body. For example seeing your daughter get married triggers happiness via the release of the serotonin hormone or eating causes the increase in blood sugar levels which in turn causes the release of the insulin hormone.
The purpose of hormones are either:
- to enhances our interaction with the event as serotonin does in the above example, or
- to counteract the event as with insulin in the above example.
As a general rule, hormones that elicit emotional / behavioural changes tend to enhance the event. Hormones involved in controlling our internal environment tend to counteract the event This is because in the body we want to maintain a fairly constant state, a status quo as it were. Thus any derivation from this and our body reacts against it in order to re-establish status quo. Our emotions/behaviours are triggered for a purpose or so our body thinks. If we are happy, it is because something or some event has made us happy and therefore the body feels this is the way we should be feeling at that time. So it enhances it. The same is true for other emotions such as sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, contentment, etc.
So as the event continues [either the marriage day or our eating] the greater the concentration of that hormone in our blood. The emotional urge or the outcome becomes harder and harder to resist. The hormones are now in control hence why sometimes we can not stop crying or laughing despite our environment telling us we should stop.
So how do we regain control? In one of two ways. Either;
1) the emotion creates a status within the body that goes further and further from the status quo. At some threshold the internal processes (including other hormones) are activated that are aimed at returning status quo, i.e. stopping the emotion. Take the example of laughing uncontrollably. This will cause a blood pressure rise and because our breathing is disturbed it affects the amount of carbon dioxide in our blood stream. Our blood becomes more and more acidic whilst our blood pressure rises the longer we laugh. At some point, the acidity and pressure stray too far from the status quo activating our internal process. These process retake control of our breathing slowing it down and thus interrupting our laughter.
2) By a strong distraction, i.e. another event. The classic comical example is a loving slap across the face when we are hysterical. The slap creates a distraction event, in this case pain. The pain causes its own response which disrupts the hormones control over us.
So the answer is:
Hormones within the body largely have control. However outside the body they are constantly exerting their presence. Complete control will only be shorted lived.