Science

Feeling stressed? Oxytocin may help you trust others better

By Enozia Vakil , Jun 25, 2013 09:43 PM EDT
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Researchers from Concordia University, through their study, revealed how oxytocin may play a role in helping stressed individuals reaching out to other people for support.

Oxytocin, a hormone known for its role in childbirth and breastfeeding, may also help stressed individuals cope better with their condition, the study finds.

According to the study, which is now published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, oxytocin could increase an individual's trust in others after a social rejection or a stress spell.

"That means that instead of the traditional 'fight or flight' response to social conflict where people get revved up to respond to a challenge or run away from it, oxytocin may promote the 'tend and befriend' response where people reach out to others for support after a stressful event. That can, in turn, strengthen social bonds and may be a healthier way to cope," Mark Ellenbogen, a researcher at the university, explained.

The researchers conducted a double-blind study, recruiting a hundred students that were administered either oxytocin or placebo, and were then subjected to social rejection.

Later, these participants were given personality questionnaires to assess them better. The data thus obtained revealed that the individuals who were asked to sniff oxytocin prior to being subjected to social rejection had better trust in people as compared to those participants who were on placebo.

Furthermore, oxytocin didn't show any positive responses among individuals who weren't affected by the social rejection, the study revealed.

"If someone is feeling very distressed, oxytocin could promote social support seeking, and that may be especially helpful to those individuals," a doctoral student from the Department of Psychology, Christopher Cardoso, added.

"Previous studies have shown that natural oxytocin is higher in distressed people, but before this study nobody could say with certainty why that was the case. In distressed people, oxytocin may improve one's motivation to reach out to others for support. That idea is cause for a certain degree of excitement, both in the research community and for those who suffer from mood disorders."

Further studies may help scientists discover more about how oxytocin could be used in medicinal applications. 

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