The Role of Testosterone in Breakups

Whether you’re in a relationship or not makes a big difference for your physiology and bodily chemistry.  A host of neurochemical constellations are involved in a series of complex processes that drive sets of physiological responses and behaviors. In a relationship, one of these constellations you’re likely to experience is that of attachment to your beloved. These feelings of fusion with your lover are now widely attributed to the “paternal instinct” chemical of oxytocin and the “cuddle” chemical of vasopressin.

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We share a lot of our brain chemistry with other mammals and even birds. Since most of  these processes are so complex and hard to single out, scientists tend to inject other mammals with these chemicals to figure out what effect they have. For example, injecting vasopressin into the brains of virgin male prarie voles induced these males to become possessive of a nearby female and defend the space around them from other males. Thus, feelings of attachment were increased by increasing the level of vasopressin.


Testosterone, is another such brain chemical involved in a complex constellation. Testosterone is the principal male sex hormone and is primarily secreted in the male testicles. From an evolutionary standpoint, testosterone is seen to be beneficial during certain forms of competition and the exertion of dominance.

Renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher poses, in her book Why We Love, poses that testosterone can reduce the chemistry of male-female attachment.

She states that there is ample evidence that men in committed romantic relationships have lower levels of testosterone than single men. As a man’s marriage becomes less stable, his levels of testosterone rise. With divorce or divorce, his testosterone levels rise even more.

According to Fisher, increased levels of testosterone can decrease levels of vasopressin and oxytocin – the very chemicals responsible for male-female attachment. When scientists surgically pumped testosterone into monogamous male sparrows, these faithful fathers abandoned their nests, their young, and their wives to court other females.

Increased levels of testosterone can decrease levels of vasopressin and oxytocin – the very chemicals responsible for male-female attachment

But the reverse also happens: as a man becomes more and more attached to his lover, levels of testosterone can decline. In fact, at the birth of a child, expectant fathers experience a significant decline in levels of testosterone. Even when a man holds a baby, levels of testosterone decrease.

So the physiology of attachment correlates with decreased levels of testosterone and increased levels of oxytocin and vasopressin. Whereas the physiology of bachelorhood correlates with increased levels of testosterone and decreased levels of oxytocin and vasopressin. Not only can testosterone decrease feelings of male-female attachment, their are a host of other advantageous effects for single men.

The advantageous effects of testosterone for single men

  • The effect of testosterone treatment on changes in mood was studied in men. Testosterone replacement led to significant decreases in anger, irritability, sadness, tiredness, and nervousness, and significant improvement in energy level, friendliness, and sense of well-being in all subjects as a group.
  • Testosterone may produce antidepressant effects in men. Scientists administered testosterone transdermal gel to men aged 30–65 who had refractory depression and low or borderline testosterone levels. The findings suggest that testosterone may produce antidepressant effects in depressed men.
  • Testosterone treatment is known to decrease visceral fat mass, increase lean muscle mass, improve insulin resistance and decrease blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Testosterone replacement in men enhanced skeletal muscle mass by stimulating the muscle protein synthesis rate.
The disadvantageous effects of testosterone
  • Testosterone is known to induce aggressive behavior in other animals, so far the results are inconclusive for human beings. One of the reasons is that testosterone in humans can increase or decrease in response to an aggressive encounter. Men with above- average testosterone are more likely to engage in antisocial and risk behaviors that increase the chances of depression.
  • Men with higher levels of testosterone are less likely to be depressed if they are socially integrated by way of marriage or employment. Testosterone seems to have direct and indirect effects.

Working Out Induces Testosterone

The effects of testosterone are clearly advantageous for men going through a breakup. I do not advocate any type of testosterone treatment. Luckily there is a natural way to boost your testosterone levels: working out.

Research has indicated that acute, heavy resistance training increases testosterone concentration, this elevation is also seen in the recovery period from the resistance exercise workout.

I believe this is one of the reasons so many guys report on the benefits of working out in getting over a breakup. It’s a great way to vent your anger, focus on improving yourself and it feels great to push your body. And, recent research suggests that the increased testosterone levels could help shift your physiology from a male-female attachment mode to a detached bachelor mode.

There are other natural ways to boost your testosterone levels as others have experimented with.

Let me know if this sounds familiar in the comments.

About Jesse

I’ve been helping guys recover from their breakups since 2012. Work with me to fast-track your recovery.


  1. lol… Great.

    Where do gay men fit into this?

  2. Working out so far has been the best remedy against my pain. It distracts you and seeing your body transform for the better is a great feeling.

  3. Wow.. very scientific post


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