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With its ability to curb stress and promote social bonds and trust, oxytocin seems to be a great hope for individuals suffering from depression and anxiety.

It's no news that the importance of oxytocin — known as the "love and trust hormone" — stretches beyond the delivery room. Besides inducing and Augmenting labor, oxytocin also plays a vital role in mother-child bonding, bonding in romantic relationships, treating schizophrenia, and helping children with autism develop social skills. 

Could a lack of oxytocin also lead to depression and anxiety — and can engaging in activities that increase oxytocin secretion help treat depression and anxiety?

Can Oxytocin Treat Depression And Anxiety?

Oxytocin has been an experimental treatment for medical conditions such as autism, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.

To some people, depression is just a word, but to the world, it has become a common mental disorder, with over 300 million people of all ages suffering from it [1]. Depression is caused by many different factors, and projected through various signs and symptoms.

Research shows that individuals who partake in activities that naturally increase oxytocin, or make use of synthetic oxytocin display behaviors like trust, openness to social risk, and empathy. Oxytocin — a neurotransmitter — has the ability to make the amygdala, a crucial brain area for emotional processing, less reactive to fearful or threatening faces. [2]

Women tend to suffer from depression more often than men. [3] The same goes for anxiety. Fretting over a forthcoming exam, a job interview, or the future might be considered normal, but when it goes past this, you may have a diagnosable anxiety disorder.

The signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression [4, 5] have made these disorders a prey to the conquering power of oxytocin —  brain oxytocin has the capacity to modulate anxiety related behaviors, stress coping, and especially social interactions. Oxytocin also possesses the capacity to tackle the signs and symptoms of both depression and anxiety. [6]

The Antidepressant And Anxiolytic Effects Of Oxytocin

Studies reveal that oxytocin exerts antidepressant and anxiolytic effects on people. As such, this may help to improve emotional behaviors and reinstate mental health, making oxytocin a possible treatment for anxiety and depression. [7]

The Stress-Fighting Effect Of Oxytocin

The main aim in the treatment of individuals suffering from depression and anxiety is to make them see this world in a different way — as a beautiful place, making them recognize that they have loved ones who care for them.

Pessimism and worries over social acceptance are among the most debilitating symptoms of depression and anxiety. This causes cortisol to be the dominant hormone to be secreted. Involving oxytocin in a such situation will promote the secretion of dopamine and endorphins. This action enhances stress resilience, thus treating stress-induced psychopathology. In turn, this gives people with depression and anxiety the capacity to recover from negative events. It also reduces the likelihood that people will develop stress-induced anxiety or depression in the first place. [8]

The presence of oxytocin hinders the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, promotes trust and empathy, and curbs sleeplessness by instigating the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone. [9, 10]

According to preclinical findings, early life stress results in depression and anxiety related behaviors, increasing the odds that a person will suffer from one of these psychiatric disorders in adulthood. Therefore, it is possible that adverse early life experiences — which could include parental separation and childhood trauma — can alter the activity of the brain's oxytocin system in adulthood. [11]

All in all, it is becoming increasingly clear that oxytocin is not just a labor induction hormone, but has also proven its importance and involvement in social interaction, curbing stress, promoting internal joy, and enhancing the bliss in relationships. It seems inevitable that oxytocin will soon become a mainstream treatment for depression and anxiety, as well. 

Although research is still ongoing and we have yet to know the full capacity of oxytocin, we already know that oxytocin is a powerful mood regulator. 

How Can You Boost Your Oxytocin Naturally?

You may not be able to access synthetic oxytocin to boost your mood and help treat your depression and anxiety right away, but you do have the power to engage in activities that have been proven to increase oxytocin levels naturally. 

Examples of activities or situations that could improve your mood are:

  • Massage, which has been proven to increase oxytocin levels and reduce the presence of stress hormones in the body [12].
  • A supportive partner, and in particular, warm touch from a supportive partner [13]. 
  • Looking into people's eyes as you talk to them. 
  • Stroking a pet. 
  • Sex. 
  • Expressing gratitude. [14]

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