Nicknamed the “love hormone,” oxytocin plays a role in mutual attachment and social bonding. Are feelings simply a matter of chemistry? Yes, but to what extent? Doctor Shoelifer tells you all about it.

So, what does it really mean to fall in love or make someone you desire fall for you? It’s a profound existential question, the editorial team doesn’t claim to know the absolute truth (it doesn’t exist). However, at the very least, oxytocin is not a bystander in this matter. What is it, exactly? It’s a hormone secreted by our brains, primarily when we spend time with loved ones. It is released when we receive compliments, acts of attention and kindness, and affectionate gestures. Oxytocin significantly promotes attachment. So, brain chemistry plays a non-negligible role in matters of the heart. Hence the talk of chemistry between two people.

Is oxytocin the reason for love ?

Secreted by the hypothalamus (a gland located at the base of the brain), oxytocin is produced in all affectionate relationships. Biologically, this hormone, which is also a neurotransmitter, is essential to reproduction. It promotes egg fertilization in women and ejaculation in men. Oxytocin is intrinsically linked to childbirth, the parent-child bond, and father-child relationships.

On a sexual level, tenderness, arousal, and orgasm increase oxytocin production. Thus, the more partners make love, the more they become attached to each other. Oxytocin accompanies the development of romantic feelings and even promotes exclusivity. It’s not just a love potion; it’s a loyalty potion. In fact, if it didn’t exist to counterbalance dopamine (the pleasure hormone), everyone would have sex with anyone. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing !

Oxytocin also promotes overall well-being. It reduces stress and facilitates interpersonal and emotional exchanges. A study published in the journal Nature, conducted by Ernst Fehr’s team at the University of Zurich, showed that this hormone encourages the feeling of trust among humans.

Oxytocin: a mild drug ?

Is love just a matter of oxytocin levels in the blood? No, don’t go play amateur chemists with “Bae.” But having more moments together, whether they are relational or carnal, undoubtedly contributes to feelings of love. Of course, they must be pleasant and positive moments. Beyond endless conversations or passionate sexual encounters, remember to look into each other’s eyes. Smile at each other. Gently touch each other’s hands. Be kind. Believe us; it makes a difference.

However, be cautious. Both oxytocin and dopamine activate the brain’s reward circuit. It can, therefore, become a (mild) drug. Wanting another “hit” doesn’t necessarily mean you see a future with the other person. You know very well that it’s much more complicated than that. But hey, it’s always better than not wanting any at all. Yes, let’s stay positive (the author of this article needs it).

Oxytocin deficiency, empathy deficiency

Moreover, we are not all equal in our ability to produce oxytocin. For example, people who lacked affection in childhood are less able. In childhood, a lack of oxytocin can even cause delays in mental and physical development. This deficiency fosters anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. In adulthood, an oxytocin deficit can also lead to a lack of empathy.

In 2017, a nasal spray made of oxytocin was specially designed for depressed people. By the way, when Edith Piaf sings “La Vie en Rose,” she is actually describing a massive release of oxytocin. So, it turns out that humans are indeed dependent on chemistry above all else !

Photo (c) : GQ China

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