What Are the Effects Of Oxytocin On Men?
Many have heard of oxytocin, which is commonly referenced as a hormone that can influence our love and relationships. However, few may be aware of the extensive role it can play in the functioning of the male body.
Oxytocin has been scientifically suggested to affect brain chemistry, emotions and physical attraction. Read on to learn more about oxytocin, and the role of therapy in relationship management.
What Is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is generally known as a hormone that doubly functions as a neurotransmitter—helping transfer signals in the brain. It is generally produced in the hypothalamus, and can be stored and released into the bloodstream by the posterior pituitary gland, per recent research from Harvard Medical School.
Physically, oxytocin plays a crucial role in sperm motility and orgasm function in men, possibly enhancing the parent-child bond in both sexes. However, it has also been shown to influence emotions, sexual desire and trust.
The Effects Of Oxytocin And Romance
Many people may wonder what role oxytocin may play when it comes to falling in love.
When a couple is in the early stages of falling in love, current studies suggest that their brains produce substantially more oxytocin than they otherwise would. Many peer-reviewed studies have linked oxytocin to forming and maintaining romantic attachments, sexual activity and desire, as well as social interaction and behavior, trust, empathy, stress and anxiety disorders.
It can be important to remember that oxytocin doesn’t generally work alone when it comes to love. Neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, are frequently present in most when the love hormone is at work. Another important note to make is that oxytocin is generally part of many human interactions that may have nothing to do with love or romance. It’s complex, diverse and necessary for most to have fulfilling experiences—both emotionally and physically.
The Love Hormone’s Role In Loyalty
The presence or absence of oxytocin may have an effect on loyalty. A recent study using intranasally (through the nose) administered oxytocin showed that men in relationships frequently maintained a greater physical distance between themselves and an attractive woman upon introduction. The study notes that this effect was not observed in men that were not receiving intranasal oxytocin.
This may be true in your own life. You may find that the more time you spend being intimate or sexually active with a partner, the stronger these feelings grow. This close contact can stimulate the production of oxytocin in your brain, which can lead to pleasurable sensations—potentially creating a feedback loop to make the continued behavior rewarding.
For many, the more time you spend with your partner, the more oxytocin your brain might produce.
Oxytocin Production: Exploring The Process
Pleasurable interactions with others can stimulate the production of oxytocin. While women are scientifically suggested to have higher oxytocin levels, it can be triggered by the same things for males and females. Further study may be needed for those who identify as transgender, non-binary or gender-fluid.
Johns Hopkins Medicine has found that interacting with a beloved pet and speaking with a loved one can increase hormone production. Additionally, oxytocin is generally produced and released during sexual activity It may also play a role in forming erections and facilitating orgasms—possibly encouraging motility of the sperm and pleasurable orgasmic contractions for both sexual partners.
How Oxytocin Affects Men
Though the same things in both sexes can trigger oxytocin, it may affect males and females differently. For example, the hormone may heighten a man’s sense of competitive relationships, though women might feel emotions related to caring and closeness. Researchers currently believe this may be due to differences in amygdala structure, the area of the brain that is thought to be connected to emotional processing in many. Additional effects of oxytocin in the male body can include:
- Influencing how one reacts and adapts to social and emotional situations
- Strengthening close bonds, particularly parent-child bonds and romantic relationships
- Changing how you interact around other people
- Increasing intensity and frequency of love-affiliated feelings
- Increasing ability to maintain trust in relationships
- Decreasing (or increasing) stress and anxiety disorder symptoms
- Influencing competitive feelings
- Increasing intensity and frequency of certain feelings, such as loyalty or jealousy
- Influencing the fight-or-flight response
Oxytocin And Fatherhood
Beyond the crucial role it plays in childbirth, oxytocin is generally known for strengthening the bond between a parent and child after birth. While much of the focus is on the mother-infant bond, a study published in the Archival Report found no difference in the production of oxytocin during the first six months of parenthood by those who considered themselves to be mothers and fathers.
Higher levels of oxytocin in one’s system make someone more likely to provide responsive, loving care for one’s newborn. Additional research published in Child Development has suggested that the effect isn’t limited to biological parents, as foster and adoptive parents also clinically displayed elevated oxytocin levels when caring for and bonding with their children.
How To Recognize An Oxytocin Imbalance
Low oxytocin levels, while uncommon, can be characterized by several different symptoms, including a strong sweet tooth, muscle aches, trouble sleeping, sexual difficulties, anxiety disorders and generalized irritability.
You may notice several symptoms if you have an oxytocin deficiency, though it is important to note that many of these could indicate another condition or disorder. If you are concerned you may have an oxytocin imbalance, you may consider speaking to your healthcare provider to learn more about your options.Oxytocin And Relationship Formation
Oxytocin can heighten production when you’re with someone you feel close with, possibly increasing the intense feelings you might feel at the start of a new relationship. *
Current research suggests a possible link between healthy relationships and consistently high oxytocin levels.
*We do want to note that a range of attraction can be normal at the start of a relationship. If you have any concerns regarding your display of emotion or experience, you may consider connecting with a physician or a therapist.
Sex And How Oxytocin Plays A Role
Science generally indicates that oxytocin can play a significant role during sex for some. For those who identify as male, it can help move sperm through the reproductive tract and facilitate a productive orgasm.
You may also experience this pleasant hormone rush when being physically affectionate with non-sexual partners. Hugs, kisses and handholding with family and close friends can release oxytocin, possibly inspiring feelings of happiness in some. This may be an evolutionary response to reward humans for close contact.
Possible Drawbacks Of Oxytocin
While oxytocin can have many potential positive effects and applications, the American Psychological Association has stated that the hormone may have some downsides. Though this may not directly influence behavior, oxytocin can act as a filter for how you perceive events. This may impact your emotional, mental and physical responses.
In some people, oxytocin may negatively influence trust and social interactions. It can lead to an “us” versus “them” mentality and the formation of social groups, which may encourage favoritism, exclusion and other adverse social actions. Therapy can be a resource to counteract this if you notice this type of behavior appearing. Speaking to a licensed therapist can give you the tools you need to manage your emotional state and enjoy more fulfilling social interactions and relationships.
Medical Uses For Oxytocin
Researchers have seen possible positive results with the use of intranasal oxytocin trials, likely because the method offers direct access to the brain with fast, specific results. One study, for example, is currently testing intranasal oxytocin as a treatment to help people with autism recognize social cues.
- With ongoing research and study, oxytocin administration may create positive impacts in the lives of thousands who are currently experiencing difficult social and emotional situations. There are many other possible medical applications, which can include: Influencing sperm motility, helping move it for ejaculation and fertility
- Facilitation of labor, delivery, postpartum care and breastfeeding in females
- Influencing testosterone production in males
- Influencing gastrointestinal function for those with GI-related diagnoses, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
How Can Online Therapy Support One’s Emotional State?
Oxytocin can influence the intensity of your feelings, such as love and loyalty—but you can still maintain control over your behavior.
Online therapy can help you recognize healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors, possibly giving you the support and guidance necessary to have a more fulfilling social experience. While the thought of therapeutic intervention can feel overwhelming if you find it difficult to leave the home or speak to others, there is an alternative solution. Online therapy providers like BetterHelp can offer virtual treatments from the convenience of your home, which may offer a more accessible and flexible form of support.
Is Online Therapy Effective?
Many people have successfully identified and corrected adverse behaviors and thought patterns with online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Recent studies currently suggest that online CBT treatments can be as effective as in-person therapy for most. Many patients were clinically recorded, stating they enjoyed the accessibility of seeking treatment from home.
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