Oxytocin, or the ‘cuddle hormone’ as it is colloquially known, is linked to emotional bonding in childbirth and breastfeeding. Research into its uses reveal that the hormone could increase people’s trust in others following social rejection.
The study involved 100 students who were given either oxytocin or a placebo via a nasal spray. They were then involved in a staged conversation where researchers interrupted, ignored and disagreed with them.
The students were then asked to fill out mood and personality questionnaires, which revealed that those who felt particularly affected by the conversation had a greater feeling of trust in people if they had inhaled the oxytocin beforehand.
The research also showed that the hormone had no effect on those who were not emotionally affected by the rejection. Dr Mark Ellenbogen from Concordia University in Canada believes that instead of the traditional ‘fight or flight’ response to social conflict, oxytocin could promote a ‘tend and befriend’ response, encouraging people to reach out for support after a stressful event.
It is thought that in the future this hormone could benefit those suffering with depression as they tend to withdraw from others. Reactions to this hormone seem to depend on individual differences more so than other drugs, so learning more about it is paramount.
Co-researcher, Christopher Cardoso believes this discovery is of great importance:
“In distressed people, oxytocin may improve one’s motivation to reach out to others for support. That idea is cause for a certain degree of excitement, both in the research community and for those who suffer from mood disorders.”
It is thought that oxytocin could also help those with Autism and other conditions that are characterised by a difficulty in reading emotions and connecting with others.
Seeking help can often be a difficult first step to recovery – but it is the most important one. To find out more about depression and how a counsellor could help you, please see our Depression page.
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