According to a new study, socially anxious women increase oxytocin reactivity to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology. Research shows that hormones play a role in physiological responses to social stressful situations.
Oxytocin is a hormone produced by the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland. It plays a key role in several socio-emotional processes, which led to its nickname “love hormone”. However, the authors of the current study found that oxytocin is also associated with an anti-stress response.
“I’ve been studying the human oxytocin system since I started graduate school in 2005,” said study author Benjamin A.@thesocialben), Assistant, Southern Methodist University, Director of the Laboratory of Social and Clinical Neurology. “Initially, when I started my work in this field, my research team thought that oxytocin was associated with positive social and emotional outcomes.”
“However, over the years, our work has revealed a more complex role of oxytocin in human socio-emotional processes and psychopathology (Tabak et al., 2011; Tabak et al., 2016; Tabak et al., 2021). Based on the gradual change in the paradigm shifting from the idea that oxytocin is a form of social elixir to the notion that the oxytocin system is involved in many social and non-social processes, including stressful situations, we hypothesized the peripheral reactivity of oxytocin to psychosocial stress. social anxiety is greater among people. “
In a new study, 101 participants (18–25 years old) completed social and depressive symptoms online prior to a laboratory session, in which they assessed an experimentally validated stress scenario from the Trier Social Stress Test, which caused anxiety.
Participants were required to prepare and give a five-minute talk in front of a female and a male actor. After the speech, a mental arithmetic task was given and participants were asked to count backwards from 2023 to 17. A video camera was installed in the room, and participants were told that their work would be recorded and evaluated.
To measure oxytocin levels, participants provided an initial blood sample approximately 1 minute before receiving instructions for the Trier Social Stress Test. Upon completion of the test, they donated 4 more blood samples within 30 minutes.
The researchers found that oxytocin levels increased after the Trier Social Stress Test, and that socially anxious participants had higher oxytocin levels than people with low social anxiety. However, the conclusions were only for women. Male participants did not notice an increase in oxytocin after the test.
“This study is another example of the fact that oxytocin is not just a ‘love hormone’ because there are many hormones and neurotransmitters involved in love and all psychological processes. Similarly, there are many biological systems that respond to stress, ”said Tabak PsyPost.
“Our study shows that people, especially women, who are particularly sensitive to social stress – socially anxious people – may have an increased oxytocin response. If this process is repeated, we may find that peripheral oxytocin reactivity to stress or certain types of stress is a biomarker of social anxiety.”
However, researchers note that there is much to learn about the relationship between oxytocin and neuropsychological processes.
“Future work is needed to determine if we can achieve such results using non-social stress,” Tabak explained. “Furthermore, because endogenous oxytocin is isolated in the context of positive and negative stimuli / situations, future research will benefit from an intra-subject project that studies the peripheral oxytocin’s reactivity profiles to positive and negative stimuli / situations.” It further enhances our ability to connect to disease.
The study, “Social anxiety is associated with greater peripheral oxytocin reactivity to psychosocial stress,” Benjamin A. Tabak, David Rosenfield, Cecile S.. Written by Sunahara, Talha Alvi, Angela Seto and Armando J. Mendes.