In-depth research suggests BDSM practitioners can experience altered states of consciousness that can be therapeutic.
- BDSM is an acronym encompassing a variety of sexual practices that include: bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism. The practice of BDSM usually consists of partners taking on specific roles in which one partner is dominant and the other is submissive.
- BDSM practitioners (individuals who frequently engage in BDSM play) can experience various mental health benefits from engaging in their scenes.
- According to the research, subspace is often characterized by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the release of epinephrine and endorphins, and a subsequent period of non-verbal, deep relaxation.
The psychology of BDSM<p><a href="https://www.ohsu.edu/womens-health/benefits-healthy-sex-life" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Many experts</a> have weighed in on the significant mental and physical health benefits of sex:</p><ul><li>Lower blood pressure</li><li>Stronger immune system</li><li>Better heart health </li><li>Improved self-esteem</li><li>Decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety </li><li>Better sleep routines </li></ul><p>However, there is an increasing interest in studies that explore the specific mental and physical health benefits of BDSM practices. BDSM practitioners (individuals who frequently engage in BDSM play) can experience various mental health benefits from engaging in their scenes. For example, <a href="https://bigthink.com/sex-relationships/bdsm-work-ethic" target="_self">one study</a> suggests that being dominant in the bedroom can boost your work ethic. <a href="https://www.verywellmind.com/how-bdsm-might-benefit-your-health-and-your-relationship-4846462#:~:text=Improves%20Mental%20Health&text=The%20participants%20in%20the%20BDSM,less%20sensitive%20to%20others'%20perceptions." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Other research</a> in this area has suggested engaging in BDSM activities can boost your mental well-being and increase awareness of your attachment style in partnerships, which can ultimately lead to healthier relationships. Additionally, <a href="https://bigthink.com/sex-relationships/bdsm-psychology-trauma" target="_self">unhealthy stereotypes and misconceptions</a> about BDSM have also been addressed by experts. </p><p>A natural starting point for more research surrounding the mental health impact of BDSM practices is to explore what happens in a person's mind and body when they experience intense sexual activity. While physical reactions (such as arousal and climax) are quite typical, there is something unique that happens to individuals who participate in intense BDSM scenes. </p><p><strong>What is "subspace" in BDSM play? </strong></p><p><a href="https://sofiagray.com/blog/an-intro-to-bdsm-subspace-what-every-submissive-should-know/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Subspace</a> is defined as a state of transcendence reached by submissives through intense physical or psychological experiences with their partner. This can happen through sensory triggers (the use of paddles, blindfolds, restraints) or through emotional triggers (certain words or phrases, meaningful expressions).</p><p>This space, while experienced differently for many, can be described as a nearly-hypnotic feeling that takes over when the submissive partner is highly engaged in their role. </p><p><strong>What is "domspace" in BDSM play? </strong></p><p><a href="https://sofiagray.com/blog/an-intro-to-domspace-what-every-dominant-should-know/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Domspace</a> is defined as an altered, elevated state of mind that Dominants (during BDSM scenes) experience through intense physical or psychological experiences with their submissive partner. This can happen through sensory triggers (using paddles or restraints on your partner) or through emotional triggers (expressing certain words or phrases to your partner, meaningful expressions, the notion that your submissive trusts you enough to be vulnerable with you). </p><p>While subspace can be described as a "hazy" or "blurry" trance-like state, domspace is often described (by individuals who experience it) as an intense, euphoric, and focused state of mind.</p>
Are there therapeutic benefits to submission?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY1MDkyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDc3OTgxOH0.ku49neryuoVZiLTFY2vmIzE2H7ufWjiOm6C2TX8CmK0/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C385%2C0%2C386&height=700" id="32e18" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f3a51bbf36ed5d823af33eb15fc38f4f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="submissive male submissive man male sub BDSM therapy" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Experts weigh in: there may be therapeutic and relational benefits to being a submissive person in BDSM scenes.
Photo by LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS on Adobe Stock<p>According to the author of the study, Dulcinea Pitagora: "Because the BDSM community has been historically vilified due to stereotypes reinforced by negative media exposure and inadequate education, relatively little is known about the phenomenon of subspace outside of the BDSM community."</p><p><strong>There is a proven connection between BDSM interactions and altered states of consciousness. </strong></p><p><a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308575318_Consensual_BDSM_Facilitates_Role-Specific_Altered_States_of_Consciousness_A_Preliminary_Study" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">According to a 2016 study</a>, there is a direct link between BDSM interactions and ASCs (altered states of consciousness) - the significant one, in this case, being that engaging in a submissive role during BDSM play can lead to transient hypofrontality. </p><p><a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-edge-peak-performance-psychology/201703/the-transient-hypofrontality-edge#:~:text=Transient%20hypofrontality%2C%20then%2C%20means%20that,with%20the%20term%20transient%20hypofrontality." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Transient hypofrontality</a>, a term coined by <a href="https://www.arnedietrich.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dr. Arne Dietrich</a>, is when the focused, thought-processing part of the brain is "shut off" by external triggers. An example of this is the difference between engaging in a competitive sport and running in a beautiful park. During a competitive sport, your brain will need to make a variety of complex decisions. While you're running a calmer path in a beautiful park, however, your mind can "let go" of that prefrontal engagement and you can experience an alternate (relaxed) state of consciousness. For a submissive, during BDSM scenes, this can result in reduced self-reported stress and increased sexual arousal.</p><p>Transient hypofrontality has also been used to describe severe "end-stage" addictions. This ability to <a href="https://www.practicalrecovery.com/prblog/biggest-lies-recovery-pt-vi-addiction-disease/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">"shut off" the thought-processing</a> function in your brain can actually cause "involuntary" cravings for this feeling. This can be why many submissive practitioners become reliant on their BDSM activities. </p><p>The study explains, <em>"In order to examine an alignment of transient hypofrontality with </em><em>subspace, the authors collected additional self-reported data describing experiences of </em><em>subspace; a comparison of these datasets confirmed that the characteristics of transient </em><em>hypofrontality were consistent with those of subspace."</em></p><p><strong>Experiencing subspace during BDSM play can activate the sympathetic nervous system. </strong></p><p><a href="https://journalofpositivesexuality.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/No-Pain-No-Gain-Therapeutic-and-Relational-Benefits-of-Subspace-in-BDSM-Pitagora.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to the research</a>, subspace is often characterized by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the release of epinephrine and endorphins, and a subsequent period of non-verbal, deep relaxation. This chain reaction can often lead the submissive in the scene to experience a temporary state of depersonalization and derealization (which are generally experienced as positive and pleasant in this context). </p><p><strong>The key to experiencing this trance-like state is having a partner you trust, research suggests.</strong></p><p>This state is highly sought after by individuals who identify as submissives in the BDSM context - and the key to achieving this state of being is having a dominant partner you can trust. This type of trust and reciprocal consent can provide an entry to subspace. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Because the participant who identifies as the sadist, dominant [or top] in a given scene is generally charged with monitoring and protecting their partner, the [submissive] bottom in the scene might be better situated for achieving an altered state of consciousness and transcendence." </em>-<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11133-010-9158-9" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Rethinking Kink</a>, 2010</p><p><strong>BDSM could be used as a way to heal from trauma and benefit your relationships, experts suggest. </strong></p><p>While there is no research to date that has sought to capture the specific experiences of subspace and how they relate to relationships and healing, many experts believe BDSM can in fact provide therapeutic and relational benefits to those who engage in the practices. </p><p><em>"</em>Given the associations between ASCs and subspace described above, the authors' findings on ASCs can be extended to the analogous experience of subspace. The study suggested that symbolic action can have a profound effect on psychological processes and connected trance (a type of ASC) with the healing properties of the trance state."</p>
Being a leader is about more than the job title. You have to earn respect.
- What does it take to be a leader? For Northwell Health president and CEO Michael Dowling, having an Ivy League degree and a large office is not what makes a leader. Leadership requires something much less tangible: influence.
- True leaders inspire people to follow and believe in them and the organization's mission by being passionate, having humility, and being a real part of the team. This is especially important in a field like health care, where guidance and teamwork save lives.
- Authenticity is also key. "Don't pretend, be real," says Dowling. "Accept your vulnerabilities, accept your weaknesses, know where your strengths are, and get people to belong."
Clinical trials at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research focus on stabilizing cognitive loss and alleviating the psychotic symptoms that change our loved ones.
- Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease that is estimated to affect twice as many Americans by 2050, making it a troubling eventuality for many young adults.
- There's currently no cure for Alzheimer's, but clinical trials of immunotherapy approaches show promise.
- Immunotherapies may also alleviate the psychotic symptoms of Alzheimer's, like agitation, aggression, and paranoia.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?<p>While the costs of Alzheimer's are clear, its exact causes remain frustratingly mysterious. Currently, there's no cure for the disease, nor treatments that stop its progression.</p><p>"Alzheimer's is this brain problem, and everyone sort of knows what's probably causing the problem, but nobody's been able to do anything about it," said Dr. Jeremy Koppel, a geriatric psychiatrist and co-director of the Litwin-Zucker Alzheimer Research Center.</p><p>But in recent decades, researchers have zeroed in on likely contributors to the disease. The brains of Alzheimer's patients reliably show two abnormalities: build-ups of proteins called abnormal tau and beta-amyloid. As these proteins accumulate in the brain, they disrupt healthy communication between neurons. Over time, neurons get injured and die, and brain tissue shrinks.</p><p>Still, it's unclear exactly how these proteins, or other factors such as <a href="https://feinstein.northwell.edu/news/the-latest/alzheimer-s-drug-cuts-hallmark-inflammation-related-to-metabolic-syndrome-by-25-percent" target="_blank">inflammation</a>, may drive Alzheimer's.</p><p>"We are dealing with very complicated components," said Dr. Philippe Marambaud, a professor at the Feinstein Institutes and co-director of the Litwin-Zucker Alzheimer Research Center. "The actual culprit is not clearly defined. We know there are three possible culprits [tau, beta-amyloid, inflammation]. They're working in concert, or maybe in isolation. We don't know precisely."</p><p>Many Alzheimer's researchers have spent years developing therapies that target beta-amyloid, which can accumulate to form plaques in the brain. The Alzheimer's Association <a href="https://www.alz.org/national/documents/topicsheet_betaamyloid.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">writes</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"According to the amyloid hypothesis, these stages of beta-amyloid aggregation disrupt cell-to-cell communication and activate immune cells. These immune cells trigger inflammation. Ultimately, the brain cells are destroyed."</p><p>Unfortunately, clinical trials of therapies that target beta-amyloid haven't been effective in treating Alzheimer's.</p>
Anti-tau immunotherapies: The holy grail of Alzheimer’s?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUzMzQ5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDk2Nzg0NH0.8pYVGXtj3bc_qEf2jHkttvLrnli8_w9K8e2rvu72WHU/img.jpg?width=980" id="a287d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="77cb60062a1b38bfe21f74bdde7add95" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3873" data-height="3873" />
In brains with Alzheimer's disease, tau proteins lose their structure and form neurofibrillary tangles that block communication between synapses.
Credit: Adobe Stock<p>At the Feinstein Institutes, Dr. Marambaud and his colleagues have been focusing on the lesser-explored Alzheimer's component: abnormal tau.</p><p>In healthy brains, tau plays several important functions, including stabilizing internal <a href="https://www.brightfocus.org/alzheimers-disease/infographic/progression-alzheimers-disease" target="_blank">microtubules</a> in neurons. But in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, a process called phosphorylation changes the structure of tau proteins. This blocks synaptic communication.</p><p>Dr. Marambaud said there are good reasons to think anti-tau therapies may effectively treat Alzheimer's.</p><p>"The main argument around why [anti-tau therapies] could be more beneficial is that we've known for a very long time that tau pathology in the brain of the Alzheimer's patient correlates much better with the disease progression, and the loss of neuronal material in the brain," compared to beta-amyloid, Dr. Marambaud said. </p><p>"The second strong argument is that there are inherited dementias, called tauopathies, which are caused by mutations in the gene coding for the tau protein. So, there is a direct genetic link between dementia and tau pathology."</p><p>To better understand how this protein interacts with Alzheimer's, Dr. Marambaud and his colleagues have been <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30134961/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">developing immunotherapies that target abnormal tau</a>.</p><p>Immunotherapies, such as vaccines, typically target infectious diseases. But it's also possible to use the body's immune system to prevent or treat some non-infectious diseases. Scientists have recently succeeded in treating certain forms of cancer with immunotherapies, for example.</p><p>"We have developed a series of monoclonal antibodies, which are basically the therapeutics that are required when you want to do immunotherapy," Dr. Marambaud said.</p>
Alzheimer’s and psychosis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUzMzQ4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDc5MzUzN30.riUe5nW2qpCqI54cWxLVnpklZoTpOtWoaVCiIOAWHMY/img.jpg?width=980" id="5482a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ddded1499c8f2e6f446393446981cd0f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1313" data-height="875" />
Credit: Getty Images<p>When most people think of Alzheimer's, they tend to focus on the erosion of memory. But the darkest effects of the disease are often psychotic symptoms like agitation, aggression and paranoia, according to Dr. Koppel, who, in addition to researching Alzheimer's, spent decades treating Alzheimer's patients as a clinician.</p><p>"My research focus comes out of 20 years of sitting with Alzheimer's families and listening to what the primary issue is," said Dr. Koppel. "It's never memory. It starts out with memory as a diagnostic issue. But the real suffering comes from the changes that happen in the personality and the belief system that make Alzheimer's patients" ostracized or even become violent toward their loved ones.</p><p>At the Feinstein Institutes, Dr. Koppel's research focuses on alleviating Alzheimer's-related psychotic symptoms through anti-tau immunotherapies. </p><p>"It's our hypothesis that abnormal tau proteins in the brain somehow, downstream, impact the way that people think," Dr. Koppel said. "And the impact that it has is this paranoid, agitated, psychotic phenotype."</p><p>Supporting this hypothesis is research on <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/what-we-need-to-know-about-cte" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)</a>, a degenerative disease that involves the accumulation of abnormal tau. CTE, common among professional football players, also causes psychotic symptoms like agitation, aggression and paranoia.</p><p>What's more, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25151619/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research shows</a> that as Alzheimer's patients accumulate more abnormal tau in their brains, as measured through cerebrospinal fluid, they exhibit more psychotic symptoms, and are more likely to die sooner than patients with less abnormal tau.</p><p>Given these strong connections between psychosis and abnormal tau, Dr. Koppel and his colleagues hope that anti-tau immunotherapies will alleviate psychosis in Alzheimer's patients, who currently lack safe and effective treatment options and are often given medication that is meant to alleviate psychosis in people with schizophrenia.</p><p>"We are giving medications to Alzheimer's patients that hasten their cognitive decline and lead to bad outcomes, like stroke and sudden death," Dr. Koppel said. "Nonetheless, the schizophrenia medications do treat some of the psychotic symptoms and aggressive behavior related to Alzheimer's disease, and for many families this is crucial. We just don't have many options, and we desperately need more."</p><p>Beyond treating Alzheimer's patients, anti-tau immunotherapies may shed light on other mental illnesses.</p><p>"Alzheimer's may give us a window into what happens in the brain that makes people psychotic," Dr. Koppel said. "Once you have a biologic treatment for psychosis that gets at an underlying pathophysiology, believe me, you could look at schizophrenia in new ways. Maybe it's not going to be tau, but it may be a paradigm for treating mental illness."</p>
The future of Alzheimer’s treatments<p>Dr. Marambaud said the long-term goal of anti-tau immunotherapies is to prevent Alzheimer's. But that's currently impossible because scientists lack the biomarkers and diagnostic tools needed to detect the disease before cognitive symptoms appear. It could take decades before prevention becomes possible, if it ever does.</p><p>In the short term, stabilizing Alzheimer's is a more realistic goal.</p><p>"Our hope is that the treatments will be aggressive enough so that we can at least stabilize the disease in patients identified to be already affected by dementia, with cognitive tests that can be done by the clinicians," Dr. Marambaud said. "And even better, maybe reduce the cognitive impairments."</p><p>Dr. Marambaud said he encourages the public not to lose faith.</p><p>"Be patient. It's a very complicated disease," he said. "A lot of labs are really committed to making a difference. Congress has also realized that this is a huge priority. In the past five years, [National Institutes of Health] funding has increased tremendously. So the scientific field is working very hard. The politicians are behind us in funding this research. And it's a complicated disease. But we will make a difference in the years to come."</p><p>In the meantime, the Alzheimer's Association <a href="https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/research_progress/prevention" target="_blank">notes</a> that physical activity and a healthy diet can reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer's, though more large-scale studies are needed to better understand how these factors interact with the disease.</p><p>"Many of these lifestyle changes have been shown to lower the risk of other diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, which have been linked to Alzheimer's," the association wrote. "With few drawbacks and plenty of known benefits, healthy lifestyle choices can improve your health and possibly protect your brain."</p>
When someone is lying to you personally, you may be able to see what they're doing.
- A study uses motion-capture to assess the physical interaction between a liar and their victim.
- Liars unconsciously coordinate their movements to their listener.
- The more difficult the lie, the more the coordination occurs.
The tell<p>Someone who is lying to your face is likely to copy your motions. The trickier the lie, the truer this is, according to experiments described in the study.</p><p>The researchers offer two possible explanations, both of which have to do with cognitive load. In a <a href="https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/telling-a-really-big-lie-turns-us-into-copycats" target="_blank">press release</a>, the authors note that "Lying, especially when fabricating accounts, can be more cognitively demanding than truth telling."</p><p>The first hypothesis is that when someone is lying, their brain is simply too occupied with the subterfuge to pay any attention to the control of physical movements. As a result, the unconscious part of the liar's brain controlling movements defaults to the easiest course of action available: It simply imitates the motions of the person they're lying to.</p><p>The second possibility is that the liar's cognitive load deprives a liar of sufficient bandwidth to devise a clever, effective physical strategy. Instead, while lying, their attention is so laser-focused on their listener's reaction that the liar unconsciously parrots it.</p>
Experimental whoppers<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUxMTc5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTgwOTY0NX0.3GYcJFPaeUrPE_NXYkadkUKi66IGLLH4wdTk2oo0AiA/img.jpg?width=980" id="77e98" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8f9cd644cf3362f49ba9ad7c96939153" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="954" />
Credit: Niels/Adobe Stock<p>The phenomenon is referred to as "nonverbal coordination," and there is some existing evidence in deception research that it does occur when someone is under a heavy cognitive load. However, that evidence is based on observations of specific body parts and doesn't comprehensively capture whole-body behavior, and little research has mutually tracked both parties' movements in a lying scenario.</p><p>Nonetheless, say the authors, "Nonverbal coordination is an especially interesting cue to deceit because its occurrence relies on automatic processes and is therefore more difficult to deliberately control."</p><p>To track nonverbal coordination, pairs of participants in the study's two experiments were outfitted with motion-capture devices Velcroed to their wrists, heads, and torsos before being seated facing each other across a low table.</p><p>In the first experiment, a dynamic time-warping algorithm analyzed participants movements as they ran through exercises in which one individual told the truth, and then told increasingly difficult lies. In the second experiment, listeners were given instructions that influenced the amount of attention they paid to the liar's movements.</p><p>The researchers found "nonverbal coordination increased with lie difficulty." They also saw that this increase "was not influenced by the degree to which interviewees paid attention to their nonverbal behavior, nor by the degree of interviewer's suspicion. Our findings are consistent with the broader proposition that people rely on automated processes such as mimicry when under cognitive load."</p>
Mirroring<p>There is, it must be said, a third possible reason that a liar copies their target's behavior: Maybe liars are subconsciously reinforcing their credibility with their victims using "mirroring."</p><p>As Big Think readers and anyone familiar with the art of persuasion knows, copying another person's actions is called "mirroring," and it's a way to get someone else to like you. Our brains have "<a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/mirror-neurons-smiling" target="_self">mirror neurons</a>" that respond positively when someone imitates our actions. The result is something called "<a href="https://imaginehealth.ie/the-psychology-of-mirroring/" target="_blank">limbic synchrony</a>." <a href="https://www.scienceofpeople.com/mirroring/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Deliberately mirroring</a> a companion's movements is an acknowledged sales technique.</p><p>So, how can you tell when mirroring signifies a lie and not benign interpersonal salesmanship? There is an overlap, of course — lying is one form of persuasion, after all. Perhaps the smartest response is to simply take mirroring as a signal that close attention is warranted. No need to automatically shout "<a href="https://64.media.tumblr.com/7a549060a9b05fc0a94d50dfe0bcbd9e/tumblr_n24teywDbO1tv5oaqo1_250.gifv" target="_blank">liar!</a>" when someone copies you. Just step back a little mentally and listen a bit more carefully to what your companion is saying.</p>
Psychologists point to specific reasons that make it hard for us to admit our wrongdoing.
- Admitting mistakes can be very difficult for our ego and self-image, say psychologists.
- Refusing to own up to guilt boosts the ego and can feel more satisfying.
- Not acknowledging you are wrong can lead to psychological issues and ruined relationships.