Oxytocin: The Hormone of Love

Oxytocin is mostly known for its role in the woman’s body when giving birth and after. During labor the brain produces big quantities of oxtytocin just after the cervix and the vagina dilates. Oxytocin also stimulates the nipple, aids in birth and breastfeeding.

Recent studies looked into oxytocin’s role in human behavior, which includes bonding, trust, recognition and of course, maternal behavior.

How oxytocin works

Oxytocin aids in breastfeeding by stimulating the mammary glands so that the milk will proceed to a collecting sac from which it can be sucked out by the nursing baby.

The baby’s sucking causes the neurons in the brain to trigger action potentials in periodic bursts, which in turn causes pulses of oxytocin to be secreted from the neurosecretory nerve terminals of the pituitary gland.

Also, during breastfeeding, the released oxytocin causes slightly painful unterine contractions in the first weeks of lactation.

Role of oxytocin in intimate relationships

A couple of recent studies found that (plasma) oxytocin is increased during orgasm in both men and women. This is why oxytocin has gained the name of "love hormone." It plays an important role in human sexual relationships.

When couples intimately hug and touch, it also releases oxytocin. Eye-to-eye communication, a form of human interaction affected by oxytocin, is important in emotional communication for all kinds of human emotions such as love, trust, fear and anxiety.

Positive, intimate and caring relationships increase the production of oxytocin. So can just about any positive experiences. This love hormone helps put suitable psychological boundaries and is also important in maintaining intimate relationships.

Oxytocin and psychological disorders

Doctors and experts are hypothesizing that oxytocin can help in psychological disorders.

People with autism and schizophrenia avoid or are unable to have meaningful interactions with other people, especially eye contact. Schizophrenics usually have trust issues and may not believe their doctor, their partners and event their family members.

Increased oxytocin reduces fear, increases trust and generosity, and even eye contact. Increased oxytocin may bring about positive social and emotional behavior.

Despite the findings of recent researches, researches continue to research on the effects of of oxyocin on psychological disorders, but currently have no definite answers yet.