What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a powerful hormone. When we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels drive up. It also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In fact, the hormone plays a huge role in pair bonding. Prairie voles, one of nature's most monogamous species, produce oxytocin in spades. This hormone is also greatly stimulated during sex, birth, breast feeding—the list goes on.

Recent Posts on Oxytocin

Arousal: Must It Mean Fear and Danger?

We can feel fear when safe. We can feel no fear when in danger. It takes more than feelings to determine whether we are safe or not. A sophisticated system hosted in the pre-frontal cortex does that.

"Love Hormone" Oxytocin Linked to Domestic Violence

Oxytocin, which leads to trust and attachment, may also lead to possessive and abusive behaviours.

How Do Various Cortisol Levels Impact Cognitive Functioning?

Having just the right amount of cortisol in your bloodstream appears to optimize childhood cognitive functioning. What is the secret to finding the sweet spot between too much cortisol or too little cortisol?

Nature’s Antidepressant: The Dog

How do dogs work their magic on our mood? Researchers believe a big part of the answer is found in the chemical oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” Dogs also affect our moods less directly, by being the catalyst of situations that help keep low spirits at bay, whether they spring from a diagnosed mood disorder or just a tough day at the office.

How Addiction Makes Strangers of Those We Love

Addiction can turn those we are closest to into people we don’t recognize – people who lie, steal, manipulate and who appear to value their drug of choice much more than they value us. As we watch in anguish as they turn their backs on all that once had meaning for them, we find ourselves asking, “Why don’t they care?”

Oxytocin — The Multitasking Love Hormone

By Robert D. Martin Ph.D. on May 12, 2015 in How We Do It
Oxytocin is widely known because hospitals routinely use it to trigger and support birth. The hormone also triggers milk ejection during breastfeeding. But it is also involved elsewhere, including bonding. Oxytocin has significant effects on brain function as well as on the reproductive organs. But it has very ancient origins, so what was its initial function?

What is Love?

For Mother’s Day this blog will not address the pressing issues of psychiatry today. Suffice it to say that the harm done by the twin traumas of deprivation and abuse generate all the psychiatric struggles we are all subject to. This is the other side of the story - my appreciation for what I have learned from my wife.

The Ideal Dog

Having a well-mannered dog just might be easier than we thought.

Brainlock 101—How We Can't Help Becoming Stuck

You are trapped—by your own brain activity and chemistry, by developmental patterns from the past, by the way your patterns and your partner's patterns interlock with one another, and by social forces that are hard to see. Read about how this becomes "Brainlock" and cements you (in a plural sense) into a state of irrelationship.

Why We Don’t Speak Up!

Being rejected, thrown out, or having my voice suppressed has been one of the top three ‘fight back’ themes in my life. Since fear of rejection is hardwired into all of us I’ve been compelled to study, research, and experiment for three decades looking for a new approach.

Looking for Mr. Right? 16 Questions to Consider

Look at the research on matters of the heart. Answer 16 questions. And if you are describing a past love who has disappointed you, rewrite your love story, and seek out someone who values you.

Why Betrayal Hurts So Much (and Who Seeks Revenge)

A betrayal by someone you trust is one of the most challenging interpersonal situations you can face in life. Whether through infidelity or a failure to fulfill a promise, betrayal leads to a desire for revenge, particularly in some people. New neuroscience research suggests who’s most likely to be hurt by a betrayal and why.

Need a Lift? Just Look Into a Dog's Eyes.

By Mark Derr on April 22, 2015 in Dog's Best Friend
Japanese researchers make a lofty claim for what staring into your dog's eyes does to you and your dog.

Did Dogs Hack the Oxytocin Love Circuit?

A paper published today in the journal Science challenges us to consider whether every study that compares wolves and dogs can shed light on domestication.

Dogs, Humans, and the Oxytocin-Mediated Strong Social Bond

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on April 16, 2015 in Animal Emotions
A new study has shown that mutual gazing by dogs but not wolves increases oxytocin levels in humans. To demonstrate there was a causal relationship, when oxytocin was administered to a new group of dogs before they interacted with their owners, the researchers saw an increase in the extent of mutual gaze between owners and dogs and an increase in oxytocin in the humans.

7 Secrets to Hitting Your Reset Button

Dr. Michael Roizen, co-author with Dr. Oz on the best-selling YOU series, has just published a new book, “This is Your Do-Over.” The book provides 7 secrets to better physical health. Fortunately, these same secrets are the pathway to positive mental health, happiness, and well-being.

Holding a Grudge Produces Cortisol and Diminishes Oxytocin

Are you currently holding a grudge against someone? Is someone holding a grudge against you? This blog post offers scientific reasons and some basic advice on how-to let go of a grudge and move on with your life.

Addicted to Being Right!

I’ve found that even the best fighters – the proverbial smartest guys in the room – can break their addiction to being right by getting hooked on oxytocin-inducing behavior instead. Connecting and bonding with others trumps conflict. The more you learn about other peoples’ perspectives, the more likely you are to feel empathy for them.

Extreme Jealousy in Relationships

Jealousy is a social convention just like monogamy.

Using Art to 'Touch' Someone in a Juvenile Detention Center

Guest blogger and artist Elise Lunsford describes a unique and creative approach to promote reconnection and healing with a difficult client in a juvenile detention facility. In forensic settings, clinicians are warned not to touch the inmates. She demonstrates that art can allow us to reach out and touch those who therapists would otherwise hesitate to touch.

Gamify Your Life

Computer games make it fun to confront obstacles. Wouldn't it be great if your real-life obstacles were as much fun to tackle? Now there are tools that "gamify" everyday life, to tap into the motivating power of computer games.

50 Strategies to Beat Anxiety

By Alice Boyes Ph.D. on March 03, 2015 in In Practice
Mega list of strategies for dealing with anxiety.

Your Inner Monkey: Learning From Your Way-Way-Back Past

How far back do you look when you want to learn from the past? Your monkey ancestors actually can teach you much about why you do what you do now.

True Love vs. False Love

By Mark Banschick M.D. on February 11, 2015 in The Intelligent Divorce
Falling in love is great. But loving a real person is better.

When Love Brings Pain - #1

Your brain seeks the good feeling of letting down your guard. But the slightest threat puts your brain on alert. If you learn to manage these alerts, you can have lasting love.

How to Use All 5 Senses to Beat Stress

By Vinita Mehta Ph.D., Ed.M. on February 04, 2015 in Head Games
With the hassles of everyday life, it's easy for a bad day to take a downward spiral. Studies show that you can feel better by engaging the five senses. Here are five research-backed ways to de-stress and connect more deeply to your senses.

Testosterone v Oxytocin: Bridging the Gene-Behaviour Gap

Testosterone and oxytocin express the diametric opposition of genes that determine both mental illness and normality via their effects on the brain, mind, and behaviour.

10 Ways to Relieve Stress in 5 Minutes or Less

The way we work is broken when scores of talented people can’t attend to their basic human needs. Until the larger systemic issues are fixed, these and other stories continue to push me to create stress-relief strategies that can actually be incorporated in your super-hectic day. Here are 10 such strategies to try when you have 5 minutes or less.

What If Your Therapist Had A Dog In The Office?

A Chow Chow named Jo-Fi attended therapy sessions by Sigmund Freud: should today’s therapists have a canine assistant? How do clients feel about the dog in therapy sessions?

You Have the Right to Feel Good Now, With or Without "Them"

It often seems like "they" are standing in the way of your happiness. But if you conquered “them,” you wouldn't be as happy as you imagine. Your happy brain chemicals are hard to make sense of, but when you understand them you have all the power you need in the world.