Most of you don’t live with a freak of nature. My family does. That would be me!
For the past several years the word oxytocin has been mentioned in my home at least once a day. At the very least it’s mentioned once every other day. The other day, Marley, our seven year old was telling her friend that giving someone a hug helps to release their oxytocin and helps to relieve stress. She continued by saying that her daddy, (me, the freak of nature) teaches a lot of people about oxytocin, but sometimes needs it himself so he hugs her! I believe the friend thought she had sniffed a little too much of the glue used in their arts and crafts!
My point is that I’ve been studying and teaching about oxytocin religiously for several years now. I am in regular communication with many of the GURU’s, and have created a website dedicated to it exclusively. But most of you may have only heard of Oxytocin in passing from television, or maybe from me in an article or a webinar.
It was when a social worker accused me of recommending oxycontin to parents! Scary! That I realized not everyone was standing in the oxytocin pulpit right alongside me.
What’s the Difference Between Oxytocin (What I’m advocating) and Oxycontin?
Oxycontin is a sedative from the same family as morphine, codeine, and heroin. You may have remembered some years back the football player Brett Farve became addicted to it. It’s used most commonly as a very powerful pain reliever. My dad was prescribed it during his final stages of leukemia. Among the side effects are dry mouth, constipation, lethargy, hallucinations, kidney failure, and death!

That is not what I am talking about.

I am talking about (read my lips…well try too) O-X-Y-T-O-C-I-N. (pronounced oxy-toe-sin) It’s also referred to as the “love hormone”, “the cuddle hormone”, and some refer to it as the “anti-stress hormone”. The only studies I’ve read related to oxytocin and addiction are ones indicating that it has possible uses for helping people overcome addictions like over-eating and smoking.

What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin, a peptide that functions as both a hormone and neurotransmitter, has broad influences on social and emotional processing throughout the brain and body. Oxytocin is a peptide of nine amino acids that is produced in the hypothalamus and released into both the brain and bloodstream. Functioning as both a neurotransmitter and hormone, oxytocin’s role throughout the body is widespread. Included is the hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, brainstem, heart, uterus and regions of the spinal cord which regulates the autonomic nervous system, especially the parasympathetic branch (Neumann 2008). Oxytocin’s role in reproductive functions is well known. Its contribution to pair-bond formation has been systematically studied (Gimpl and Fahrenholz 2001).

When was it Discovered?

In 1906, the English researcher Sir Henry Dale discovered a substance in the pituitary gland that could speed up the birthing process. He named it oxytocin from the Greek words for “quick” and “child labor”. Later, he found that it also promoted the expulsion of breast milk. Now it appears that oxytocin plays a much larger physiological role than previously recognized, since under many circumstances, it has the ability to produce the effects that we associate with the state of calm and connection (Moberg 2003).

Who can benefit from Oxytocin?
Everyone! Everyone needs oxytocin. Everyone’s body was designed to release Oxytocin. Some of us have experienced stress and trauma to the point that our body’s natural ability to create oxytocin is depleted. Nearly everyone I know experiences stress to a degree where things that they are expecting to be pleasant turn into stressful experiences, like shopping with your children, taking the family vacation, holidays with the in-laws, bath time, bed time, meeting with your child’s teacher. I hear of these stories every day. The reason these situations become stressful is because we experience them in our body as a threat on some level and therefore the amount of cortisol released outweighs our bodies natural oxytocin response. If you are mindful enough you can breathe through these experiences, recognize them as merely moments for growth, take a step back, and then approach the situation anew and more relaxed. However, if you are like most people, you get completely caught up in the moment, overwhelmed, stressed out, anxiety increases, and before you know it what’s supposed to be enjoyable, sucks! Yet, just by increasing our oxytocin production by just a hair, these same experiences can become more tolerable, and even pleasant.

Some of you moms with daughters might be able to relate to this story from my wife:

“I often laugh about ‘hair trauma’. If you have a daughter between the ages of 3 and 12 you likely know what I am talking about. I have ‘hair trauma’ myself. I remember the big weekly hair-do on Sunday night after the stress of getting me in the tub after the hours of weekend freedom, as we prepared for the upcoming week of school. Then my mother would sit me between her legs with me on the foot stool and her in her chair. She would comb through my long hair to prepare for styling. Even with conditioner there were tangles. I was not allowed to express the pain I experienced, but rather was allowed to stomp my foot as my outlet. I became known as ‘thumper’ during these weekly groomings. As a mother I have been determined to eliminate ‘hair trauma’ for my daughter, but had not been very successful. Each bout of ‘hair doing’ was met with resistance, not joy, and would erupt in her tearfulness and my stress and frustration escalating as I would try to be gentle, but obviously being unsuccessful. I would make threats of letting her go to school looking a hot mess, and inside would think the same thoughts as my mother, ‘if you can’t let me fix your hair then we’ll just cut it all off’. (flashes a picture of my bald daughter in my mind). I have found the cure for ‘hair trauma’ and its Oxytocin Factor. When I am getting ready to do my daughter’s hair, I take two sprays of OF nasal spray, within 5 minutes I feel a sense of calm and well being enter my body. My shoulders relax, my jaw relaxes, and I notice I am actually breathing full breaths. Now when it’s time for bath and hair, we play, we visit, we take breaks as needed, instead of being tearful and stressed she talks about what style she wants, and when we are done which actually takes about an hour, she is tired and relaxed. Thank you OF!!”

That's it for session #1. Be on the lookout for session #2.

Author's Bio: 

Bryan Post is the founder of a website dedicated to providing education and resources regarding everything oxytocin! You can download The Oxytocin Guide for free by visiting Oxytocin Central.