How Does Oxytocin, the “Love Drug” Impact Me?
Relationships are an integral building block in our lives. As humans, we make it a mission to get to know people, form opinions and bonds with other humans. We are social creatures. Oxytocin is part of the reason for our social behaviors. The “love drug,” also known as oxytocin, influences our day to day lives while helping to stimulate our emotions and aid in reproduction.
What is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a hormone that runs from your brain through your bloodstream. One of it's main functions is to support women during childbirth. It also plays a role in behavioral habits in both men and women. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by your pituitary gland.
During birth, oxytocin is released to aid the mother pushing the baby out of the uterus. When the cervix and vagina start to expand, oxytocin is triggered to release, which in turn causes a contraction. This cycle repeats, and as the pace increases, oxytocin is released more rapidly and therefore contractions are faster.
Oxytocin also aids with the release of breastmilk. When a baby begins suckling on its mother’s nipple, oxytocin is triggered to release and helps to flow breastmilk to the child.
For men, oxytocin works to aid in ejaculation. Oxytocin is released to push sperm and semen forward in order to ejaculate. It also affects the production of testosterone in the testes.
How does Oxytocin Affect Day to Day Life?
Oxytocin also plays a very important role in day to day life. This hormone is most commonly nicknamed the “love drug.”
Whether you are connected to a person romantically, or just personally, oxytocin can be released from something as simple as sharing a meal with another person. Activities that could stimulate oxytocin are:
- Childbirth/Being a new parent
- Sharing a meal
While these are the main stimulants producing oxytocin, there are many others.
Oxytocin isn’t just a “happy drug” though. It was previously thought to only stimulate happy emotions, but recent research has shown that it enhances all emotions. The way that oxytocin is received by your brain is completely dependent on the situation you are in. While it has the ability to enhance positive emotions, it can also enhance emotions such as jealousy and exclusion. There is no proven regulation of “bad” and “good” emotions when oxytocin is involved. If you are in a situation where any emotion is triggered strongly, oxytocin can be released.
Oxytocin levels are controlled by the positive hormonal loops that occur. In other words, when oxytocin is released, it allows for more oxytocin to be released.
Low Oxytocin Levels
Low oxytocin levels are very rare, but if you do experience low oxytocin levels, it could stop contractions or stop lactation for mothers. The main cause of low oxytocin levels is panhypopituitarism which is a condition that causes all hormones released from the pituitary gland to be low.
Low oxytocin levels have also been proven to be linked to the autism spectrum as well as depressive symptoms.
High Oxytocin Levels
High levels of oxytocin are very rare in women. It’s known as oxytocin toxicity - this causes an overactive uterus which causes an increase in uterus mass. This can lead to difficulty in pregnancy due to the lack of space in the uterus.
For men, high oxytocin levels can cause benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is a condition that causes the prostate to grow in size. The prostate is part of the urethra - the tube that carries urine and sperm out of the body. BPH causes difficulty in urination. Over 50% of the male population over the age of 60 experiences BPH.
Why does Oxytocin Matter?
Oxytocin helps not only regulate and stimulate our emotions and our relationships with people, but also reproductive functions in both men and women. It is essential to our social relations with other people. The next time you make a new friend, know that oxytocin was probably involved.
*This post does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.*