At this point, I’ve become a regular smorgasbord of basically useless information regarding endocrinology – I suppose I better understand it if I’m going to be fucking around with hormones. To some it makes no sense to look at a 6′ 6″ biker dude and think “HEY! I have an idea, let’s knock him up with huge amounts of Testosterone, hCG and Anastrozole” but I did it.
Meanwhile, the biker guy is thinking “hold my beer ….”
This week, I started reading up on Oxytocin – a fascinating little nugget that does many things in both men and women. What I found was amazing.
Some quick facts –
1) Oxytocin is a hormone and a neurotransmitter that is involved in childbirth and breast-feeding. It is also associated with empathy, trust, sexual activity, and relationship-building.
2) It is referred to as the “love hormone,” because levels of Oxytocin increase during hugging and orgasm. It’s also used as a investigatory treatment for a number of conditions, including depression, anxiety, and intestinal problems. It’s use in autism is being investigated.
3) Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain. Females usually have higher levels than males.
Well, ok then – not only does it enhance erections in men, it apparently makes men more FAITHFUL – yes, you read that right.
“Come for the romance, stay for the Qxytocin” That’s the bottom line on monogamy, according to new studies.
Guys using an Oxytocin spray, showed a renewed attraction for the faces of their romantic partners, but not for equally attractive strangers. And the men weren’t just saying so. Their brains were hyped up in areas associated with reward and motivation, according to the study. Men on a placebo were at the bowling alley bar, buying shots for the ladies.
So, what drives males to stay in a monogamous relationship?” The answer seems to lie in a steady diet of Oxytocin – it triggers Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward, motivation and addiction.
In humans, hugs, massages, and sexual intercourse all release Oxytocin, and it in turn, has been shown to induce better social behavior –- we tend to trust each other and feel more attached to others in response to it. Simply hugging another person for at least 20 seconds releases it, and builds trust.
In studies with Oxytocin, men in relationships actively moved AWAY from attractive women in favor of their mate, and even when she wasn’t around, that behavior continued, often without the subject realizing they were doing so.
As humans, Oxytocin has been shown to inhibit men already in relationships from approaching other attractive women; enhance activation of the brain’s reward systems when they see their partner’s face compared to other attractive women, and help couples deal positively with conflict.
Its effects on social interaction have made it an appealing therapeutic tool in patients who struggle with social situations and communication, including in autism, schizophrenia and mood or anxiety disorders. I am thinking PTSD falls squarely into this list of treatable things.
The best part is that it’s obtainable and easy to use. The studies have used nasal sprays to boost Oxytocin levels. These sprays are readily available, and appear safe to use, at least in the short term – no one yet knows whether there is any long-term harm, but by the time I’m growing a third limb out of my forehead, it will be too late and I won’t care.
That being said DO men become “addicted to love” for their mate via Oxytocin? The metaphor may not be far off the mark. It’s been suggested that the mere proximity of a partner could touch off the same reward and motivation circuitry behind addictive behavior.
So, a steady diet of sexual activity, hugs and other forms of physical contact may be enough to override the desire to spread genes, keeping a man at home.
In other words: Keep the home fires burning and do me! DO ME! Yes please.
In the meantime, one of the scientists doing the study said, “We believe we found a mechanism that could explain why it is beneficial for males to stay in a romantic relationship.” Oxytocin, in short, may have edited the “r” from “stray.” – how clever I thought.
BUT, as all things go, there is a dark side which is equally interesting
Oxytocin is a powerful thing it seems – this stuff has many functions I found including sex, reproduction, social behavior, and emotions. It can increase trust among people and make them more cooperative. It can increase the social skills of autistic people. It’s released during orgasm. It affects lactating breasts, contracting wombs and the behavior of mothers towards their newly born children.
The list goes on: drug addiction, generosity, depression, empathy, learning, memory, boners, more boners …
However, Oxytocin can also do some pretty weird shit like subtly shift your memories of your mother. In some people, it paints their mother in a fairer light, making them remember her as closer and a more caring person.
In others, the chemical has a darker influence, casting your mother as a LESS caring and a more distant parent. That’s fucked up right there. And that response isn’t just towards mothers, it’s toward EVERYONE depending on the user’s perception of them before taking it.
If you like someone, you develop trust and bonding, if you don’t know someone, it’s easier to build trust in them, and if you didn’t care for them before, it has in some cases amplified that distaste
Oxytocin in some can influence moral judgements and increase risk-taking and aggression., though the increase in aggression is limited to those who have an existing disposition to it. I thought ‘no shit’ if your pre-disposed to rob a bank, you are more likely to rob a bank? Who knew?
Anyway, the questions it brings up may create further bad press for the love hormone in the near future. It may be that the darkening clouds that threaten to tarnish its reputation are only just beginning to gather. At the very least, it should give us cause for careful evaluation before anyone starts tossing it back like Apple Cider Vinegar for everything under the Sun.
I guess we will find out.