As I continue to work with clients and families on the subject of their relationships and sexuality, I have found the impact of Oxytocin on our brains and its effect on relationships highly fascinating.
The role Oxytocin is a very important one, especially during the Christmas season; at a time when we start spending more time with family and friends.
The Effects of Oxytocin
More and more research is being published that indicates Oxytocin increases trust and bonding, thereby playing an important role in maintaining relationships and mood. It has also been found to reduce high levels of stress hormones, which lead to secretion of Adrenaline and Cortisol. Although Oxytocin is typically associated with milk ejection during lactation, and uterine contractions during birth, Oxytocin nasal spray is being popularized as the magical elixir for relationships.
Studies show that some individuals who use this nasal spray become more trusting, and more aware of others’ feelings. Even in Autistic children, if there was a previous relationship, can shows signs that they better remember positive aspects within a relationship.
Though this all sounds wonderful, it is important to be aware that there are possible downsides. Some individuals show defensive responding patterns, and can mistrust unpredictable situations or people when Oxytocin levels are high.
Oxytocin for the Holidays
During the holidays, there is less likelihood a mistrust issue will present itself. People are usually in familiar settings with familiar people. And, as Oxytocin tends to reinforce pro-social behaviors after an initial bond is formed (i.e. family), the likelihood of witnessing its positive effects are greater. For individuals who are less social, or socially aware, Oxytocin can in fact help them have a more positive experience, and help them tune in to the relational dynamics surrounding them.
Men vs. Women
Women tend to have more naturally occurring Oxytocin than men. This makes evolutionary sense due to women’s tendency to pick up subtle social nuances within a relationship. This is not the case with men. This also makes sense given my experience working with men and women. Men are generally less skilled at picking up social cues. Though we do have our our own strengths, social dynamics are not typically one of them.
The release of Oxytocin can occur through eye contact, touch, hugging, kissing, and cuddling. Other occurrences include: rubbing hair, back rubs, orgasm, and, if you are a women, talking. (Some research supports that women release of Oxytocin when they talk.)
I strongly encourage people to reach out and touch someone. Make eye contact. Give those massages. Offer a caring caress. If you are a man, allow the woman to talk to you. (Yes. While you are paying attention. Even if it kills you.)
Your efforts to get the Oxytocin flowing will pay off. It will, over time, improve trust in the relationship, and improve your sense of connectedness. This is something we all want during the holidays.
About The Author:
Cory Hrushka , M.A., Ph.d candidate, CCS, DST, Registered Psychologist
Availability: Edmonton South, and Online Counselling Cory is a certified (Diplomate) Sex Therapist/ and Supervisor, an Associate in Sex Education and…