Oxytocin - The Love Hormone

Oxytocin is called the love hormone because it is usually released when people hug, cuddle or socially bond. Hence, it is also called the “cuddle hormone”. However, studies have also shown that oxytocin can intensify social memories of relationships that have gone bad. Depending on the environment, this hormone can also make an individual feel suspicious. It can also make people less accepting of outsiders.

What is the Function of Oxytocin?

In women, oxytocin is crucial as it is involved in the birth process – by causing uterine contractions during labour as well as shrinking the uterus after delivery. Furthermore, during breastfeeding, oxytocin is released, which promotes the production of milk. Also, this hormone is very important for the bonding between the mother and her child. Studies also showed that the mother’s interaction with the baby also stimulates the release of oxytocin in the baby. In men, oxytocin promotes social bonding, just like women.

How is Oxytocin Released?

Oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland, a small structure at the brain’s base. The actual secretion of oxytocin depends on the electrical activity of the cells in the hypothalamus – it is generally released into the bloodstream when the neurons in the hypothalamus are excited.

How is Oxytocin Controlled?

The production of oxytocin is controlled through a positive feedback mechanism. This means that the release of oxytocin causes an action which stimulates more of it to be released. For instance – when the uterus starts to contract, oxytocin is released, which in turn stimulates even more contractions, thereby causing more oxytocin to be produced. This leads to an increase in the intensity and frequency of contractions.

Implications of Oxytocin

Currently, the effect of high or low levels of oxytocin in the body is not well understood. Some studies have linked high levels of oxytocin to a condition called benign prostate hyperplasia, which typically affects the prostate of men over the age of 50. On the other end of the spectrum, low levels of oxytocin have been linked to autism. However, the evidence to support these claims is inconclusive.

Frequently Asked Questions on Love Hormone

What is the function of oxytocin?

Oxytocin is released when people socially bond. In women, oxytocin is an important hormone required for the birth process.

What triggers the release of oxytocin?

Generally, oxytocin is released when people make physical contacts, such as kissing and cuddling. It is also produced during sex. Pregnancy also triggers the release of oxytocin, especially during the process of childbirth and breastfeeding.

How does oxytocin make you feel?

Oxytocin is part of the “happy hormones” – it promotes feelings of love and affection. It also promotes social interaction as well.

Do men produce oxytocin?

Yes, men produce oxytocin.

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