Hormones play a huge factor in just about everything that goes on in our bodies, from our emotional state and our drives, through to growth and healing.
While most people know a bit about some of the best-known hormones, like adrenaline, testosterone, and estrogen, one very important hormone that gets a lot less coverage is oxytocin. Many people in medical and psychology circles refer to oxytocin as ‘the love hormone‘ and you can find out more in this detailed article about its role from Live Long Stay Young.
What Does Oxytocin Have To Do With Love?
Oxytocin is effectively the hormone released that promotes feelings of bonding. It is released during romantic interactions, but it is also what causes people to feel a strong and immediate bond with their babies. It can even be released when you stroke your cat or dog (and even more interestingly, this makes them release it too)!
One of its main roles is to make us feel encouraged to bond with other people and to nurture those who depend on us. While it may seem reductive to claim that the love we feel for a partner or our children is simply down to body chemistry, oxytocin is very much involved in this and it has some very beneficial effects when released.
What Does Oxytocin Do?
Oxytocin has a profound effect on your emotional well-being, making you feel less anxious and more secure. It can reduce production of the stress hormone cortisol, which may well be why it can help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Oxytocin can also have significant effects when it comes to sex. Women who have high levels of oxytocin during sex with their partner are more likely to orgasm easily, and also more likely to have multiple orgasms. They will also experience better natural lubrication.
An interesting effect that has been noticed in studies, too, is that women tend to feel more alert when they have high oxytocin levels after sex. However, the opposite is true of men, who are more likely to feel calm and ready to sleep. This is perhaps where the old stereotype of men ‘rolling over and going to sleep’ after sex when women want to cuddle comes from – an actual biological function!
What Happens When Oxytocin Is Low?
Oxytocin can be low when someone feels isolated and doesn’t have a lot of human contact, or even contact with animals they feel a bond with. This can cause higher stress levels, anxiety, and a sense of not feeling especially emotionally attached to anything.
In a way, low oxytocin is a vicious cycle, because having low oxytocin tends to make people feel less inclined to interact and bond with others, which in turn stops them producing oxytocin.
While there are tests that look at oxytocin levels, these are mainly currently done for medical research, and while oxytocin is certainly beneficial, low levels are not generally treated as an illness as not enough is really known yet about the effects. However, you can keep your own levels high by doing things like hugging people you love, playing with your pets, and having sex with a partner you feel bonded to.