Oxytocin The Love Hormone

Pipestone Flyer

 

Nowadays there are drugs for every occasion; to increase your happiness or to make you attentive, to induce drowsiness or to wake you up. Now they have a drug that actually makes a person love their spouse or significant other more and be wary of encounters with people of the opposite gender. What’s really great is that it is not actually a drug, although it is available in nasal spray form, but is a hormone already being produced in any healthy human, and a host of other animals, as well.

The hormone is called Oxytocin and is very different than the confusingly similar pain narcotic OxyCotin. Oxytocin is produced in the body during certain emotionally charged times, such as during intimacy or childbirth. Studies in lab animals have shown that mother critters given drugs to block the action of the Oxytocin appear to lose their “maternal instinct” and neglect their offspring. The lack of Oxytocin in humans erases feelings of empathy and is one of the vital pieces missing from the chemical profile of a sociopath.

Recent studies have shown that the hormone has an amazing amount of tasks in the body, from engaging the relaxation mechanisms that allow milk to flow in nursing mothers to increasing one’s generosity. It also has a function in feelings of “belonging”, as a couple, but also in groups. Too much Oxytocin, however, has shown to lead to extreme examples of this behavior, referred to as “tribalism”, which can lead to heightened feelings of fear and distrust of any “outsiders” from your own group. It also appears to be linked to “favoritism”.

Conversely, Oxytocin also plays a role in making us feel safe and happy when we are in our couple or trusted group setting. This feeling carries over after we leave the setting and go out in public and keeps us from sending unconscious “available” signals.  Since Oxytocin is produced in the body through even gentle intimacy; holding hands or a soft caress, science may have found the biological imperative of the “kiss good-bye”.

Another societal norm that may be related to Oxytocin production is that researchers have discovered the hormone is an aid to healing. They found that when gentle touching and caressing actions are performed on patients recovering from a wound, the Oxytocin created made the wound heal quicker. Perhaps, that is why we have developed the cultural norm of visiting our loved ones in the hospital.

So why not just get everybody hopped up on Oxytocin, known as “the love hormone”? Other studies have shown a number of downsides to excessive amounts or during inappropriate times; the “us versus them” mentality previously mentioned. As well, recent research has demonstrated Oxytocin tends to make us docile and willing to conform or “follow the herd”. Excessive amounts of the hormone can have physically damaging effects, too. It appears to slow urine secretion and can lead to eliminating too much sodium which may cause serious conditions.  It has also been linked to increased cardiac arrhythmia, pelvic hematoma and a host of other maladies.

As wonderful as the concept of a nasal spray to keep your hubby on the straight and narrow, you’re better off with a hug and a kiss.