Oxytocin and Long Standing Relationships
Oxytocin – The Love Hormone
The next time you experience the feeling of love, be sure that cupid’s arrow glued with oxytocin has hit your brain. Isn’t it strange to know that instead of sex hormones (androgens), oxytocin controls sexual arousal, orgasm, interaction with the partner, etc, in human beings?
Oxytocin is a nonapeptide hormone which is mainly produced by the hypothalamus and released into the blood stream through the pituitary. This hormone plays multiple roles in the human body. It is released in large amounts in females during their labor pains as it facilitates the child birth, and during breast feeding. Oxytocin secreted by the posterior pituitary is responsible for the local (autocrine) control of the milk synthesis. It reduces blood pressure and cortisol (stress hormone) levels and exhibits anti-anxiety effects. Apart form all these positive effects, current research shows that this hormone can influence our behavior such as trust, empathy and generosity and helps to maintain a romantic relationship. This hormone contributes to the social bonding that occurs between lovers, friends, and colleagues.
Why do we need to boost our oxytocin levels?
The modern world is moving at a very fast pace and we hardly have time for our near and dear ones. This leads to the death of many relationships. There has been a large scale increase in the divorce rate. These unhealthy relationships are one of the primary causes of stress in the modern man and lead to psychological distress. What can stop this and increase the bonding between people? Oxytocin might be the answer. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone which can be used to boost up positive attributes and increase the emotional bond between couples. This article aims to inform the readers about the outcomes of the current research on oxytocin. It also explains the ways through which oxytocin levels can be boosted naturally.
What does the current research about oxytocin say?
The interest in this hormone soared up since 1900s, when it was realized that breastfeeding women are calmer and remain unaffected by psychosocial stress in comparison to bottle-feeding mothers. Research on monogamous rodents, particularly prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster), showed that the unique pair-bonding between the partners is promoted by the secretion of the oxytocin. Amongst the voles found in central North America, the male maintains a life-long relationship with a single female exhibiting a monogamous nature. Further, biparental behavior was also noticed in humans and other mammalian species exhibiting monogamous pair-bonds.
Several studies have been conducted on human beings also. The levels of this hormone were found to be highest in couples during the period of falling in love. Also, the levels were found to be higher in couples who maintained a longstanding relationship. A research conducted by Scheele, et al. shows that the release of oxytocin is promoted during a monogamous relationship and this hormone also helps men to maintain such relationship. Such men try to avoid signaling romantic interest form other women during social gatherings (Scheele, et al. 2012). Hence, oxytocin leads to a trust worthy relationship between couples. Isn’t that great!
A recent study conducted at NYU Langone Medical Cente shows that this neuro-hormone has the potency to increases the strength of desired signals (Owen, et al. 2013). It suppresses the background activity by suppressing the brain region known as the amygdale which processes fear. It controls the fear and anxiety responses.
According to Simone Shamay-Tsoory, this hormone acts as an overall trigger for social sentiments and has two faces. Pro-social behaviors are boosted up if the person interacting is in positive association. Whereas, negative sentiments soar up when the person is negatively associated to us (Love and Envy Linked by Same Hormone, Oxytocin). This shows that oxytocin is an intelligent hormone which stimulates different behaviors depending on the persons with whom we are interacting.
A video describing multiple advantages of oxytocin and suggesting methods of increasing oxytocin secretion
Books describing the various roles of oxytocin
How to increase the oxytocin secretion?
Oxytocin is a great stuff which offers several nice perks and reduces the negatives of our life. Nasal sprays and inhalers containing oxytocin are available in the market. These sprays are specifically used by nursing mothers to increase the flow of breast milk. However, this hormone is not sold in a widespread manner in the form of pills or creams as ethical issues may crop up.
There are certain natural ways of increasing the oxytocin secretion. They are:
- Ingestion of food – An empty stomach does not allow recognition of the feeling of love. Ingestion of food activates vagal afferent nerves and stimulates oxytocin secretion.
- Massage – Human beings are social creatures and sensations like touch and warmth build a sustained social bond. Massage involves a prolonged interaction through touch and raises the levels of oxytocin in blood. Even actions like hugging or holding hands boost up the oxytocin levels.
- Dreaming about your partner – Thinking about the partner during his/ her absence also boosts up the levels of oxytocin.
- Sensory stimulus – Activities which activate ones sensory stimulus like music, pictures or smells should be enjoyed.
- Physical activity – Exercises like swimming, walking also boost up the secretion of this hormone.
Further research in this line can not only protect the dying relationships but also help us to build a society with strong interpersonal relationships.
Scheele, D., Striepens, N., et al. (2012). Oxytocin modulates social distance between males and females. J Neurosci, 32(46), 16074-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2755-12.2012
Owen, S, F., Tuncdemir, S, N., et al. (2013). Oxytocin enhances hippocampal spike transmission by modulating fast-spiking interneurons. Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature12330.
Love and Envy Linked by Same Hormone, Oxytocin (2009). Retrieved on Aug6th from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091112095038.htm