Social Distancing is Playing Havoc with our Oyxtocin Levels

Social distancing may be having a profound effect on our oxytocin levels – the ‘love hormone’ that affects our desire and ability to bond with others.

As millions upon millions across the world are forced to reduce their social interactions, feelings of anxiety and loneliness are increasing – and that’s likely due to a reduction of oxytocin.

However, the relationship between oxytocin and social interaction – or the lack of it – is not always simple. Oxytocin can apparently even be raised in those feeling isolated and stressed.

Aside from subjective feelings of well-being, oxytocin levels have been associated with reduced blood pressure and heart rate.

According to researchers, nothing can completely replace in-person contact to raise oxytocin, but video chat that allows eye contact comes closest.

During times of social isolation, however, it’s important to stay connected to those you love and care about, psychologist Erin Leyba wrote in an article in Psychology Today.

She suggests setting up FaceTime calls with family members, playing virtual games with kids and reading books out loud with others to secure oxytocin’s positive influences during the pandemic.


‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin could Help with Anxiety and Autism

Another study has found that oxytocin could potentially be used as a treatment for people suffering from social handicaps, from anxiety to autism.

In the latest study, British researchers examined the effect of oxytocin nasal spray – popularly known as the ‘love hormoe’ – on 17 healthy men. The hormone was administered both nasally through a spray, and through the volunteer’s blood.

The research team studied the blood flow to the region of the brain known as the amygdala and found it to be reduced by the combination of nasal and injected oxytocin. The amygdala is thought to be the region of the brain involved in processing social information, emotion and anxiety.

The researchers also found evidence that levels of alertness and excitement was reduced in the volunteers who had been administered the oxytocin.

Interestingly, the team from Kings College London also found that administering the drug via the nasal route targeted areas of the brain which the injection method did not reach, although it was not clear where.

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