Oxytocin: The Reason We Fall in Love

Feb 12, 2019 by Osmosis Team

Valentine’s Day is here. It’s time to turn on your favorite romantic comedy and pour a glass of wine, or is that just us? While we might assume love is in the air, there’s more to the story that might be giving you the feels. We’re here to talk to you about the love hormone, oxytocin, and explain why you might really be feeling drunk and in love.

What is oxytocin?

Referred to as the “love hormone” or “cuddle chemical,” oxytocin is a powerful hormone. Helping us to make connections, triggering our protective instinct, or making us overall happy and less stress, oxytocin plays a large part in our life. Medically speaking, it is a neuropeptide, a short chain polypeptide that is used as a neurotransmitter relaying a signal from one neuron to another. Produced in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland, it binds to oxytocin receptors which can be found on cells in the brain as well as the rest of the body.

Why is oxytocin important?

The Positives

Oxytocin plays a big role in maternal attachment. It is crucial during the delivery of the baby, helping with cervical dilations and contractions. Additionally, when a mother is breastfeeding, oxytocin gets released in response to a baby’s suckling or in response to a baby’s cry as part of the reflux that allows milk to be let down from the nipples.

The love hormone can benefit everyone. Oxytocin promotes generosity and trust, decreases fear and helps people recover from negative social interaction. When you hug or kiss a loved one, your is releasing oxytocin. This is especially important for pair bonding, like in romantic relationships, increasing mood and feelings of attachment. Oxytocin is also thought to help with sexual arousal and orgasms.

Oxytocin plays a role in platonic relationships as well. Levels can rise in humans and dogs after petting or playing with each other.

The Negatives

While oxytocin promotes connection, it can also lead to a disconnect. The release of the drug leads to bonding among people with shared characteristics and resulting bias against people not like us. This can set in motion prejudice in our social behavior, and an ingroup and outgroup mentality.

Also, a quick recap...

The love hormone, oxytocin, promotes bonding in romantic and platonic relationships. While it leads to connection with others, it can also lead to disconnect. Oxytocin plays a complex and nuanced role in the body.