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Yes, oxytocin can influence one’s mental health. Mental health as explained by the World Health Organization (WHO) is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Oxytocin is a natural hormone that, as explained by Harvard Medical School, “is produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland.” It is colloquially known as the “love hormone” because its main function is to facilitate childbirth. Oxytocin acts as a chemical messenger in the brain and plays a role in key aspects of human behavior and social interactions, such as:

  • Sexual arousal
  • Recognition
  • Trust
  • Romantic attachment
  • Parent-infant bonding

Further, under the right circumstances, oxytocin has the power to regulate our emotional responses and pro-social behaviors (e.g., empathy, gazing, positive memories, processing of bonding cues, positive communication, etc.). Because oxytocin has been empirically connected to promoting positive social behavior and stress regulation, it has received increasing attention for its potential as a therapeutic intervention for addressing various aspects of psychiatric disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), substance use disorder (SUD), schizophrenia, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research shows that the release of oxytocin, prompted by affectionate touch, may promote, and strengthen adult romantic connections, which ultimately fosters improved emotional health and mental wellbeing.

What Triggers an Oxytocin Release?

Oxytocin production and secretion is controlled by a positive feedback mechanism where the release of the hormone causes an action that stimulates more of its own release. Common triggers include:

  • Positive physical contact (cuddling, kissing, hugging, holding hands, etc.)
  • Social bonding (talking, making eye contact, laughing, etc.)
  • Sex
  • Breastfeeding
  • Childbirth

As is evident though the above examples, the release of oxytocin typically requires another person. A 2014 study conducted on chimpanzees, found that food sharing (e.g., sharing a meal) is linked to the release of oxytocin. Exercising can influence the release of oxytocin, as a 2019 study indicated a boost in oxytocin levels measured in participants’ saliva after high-intensity martial arts training. According to a 2015 study, music can increase oxytocin levels, particularly when people sing in a group, which adds the element of bonding. Still, experts assert that the way oxytocin impacts mood depends on our environment and the context of our surrounding emotional and social cues.

For Information and Support

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.

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