So I guess we'll all have to learn to produce oxytocin naturally and in a balanced way.
Prescribing oxytocin off-label to people can result in oversensitivity to emotions, according to a new Concordia study.
Studies conducted earlier have documented that the naturally occurring human hormone oxytocin, known to play a crucial role in social bonding, helps people with autism and schizophrenia interact well in social situations. But a latest study conducted by researchers at Concordia's Centre for Research in Human Development reveals that oxytocin taken off label results in oversensitivity to others.
Some psychologists are prescribing oxytocins to ease over anxiety in otherwise healthy people and who are not diagnosed with any disorder. This might lead to unexpected side effect like greater emotional oversensitivity.
"For some, typical situations like dinner parties or job interviews can be a source of major social anxiety," says Christopher Cardoso Cardoso, the study's lead author. "Many psychologists initially thought that oxytocin could be an easy fix in overcoming these worries. Our study proves that the hormone ramps up innate social reasoning skills, resulting in an emotional oversensitivity that can be detrimental in those who don't have any serious social deficiencies."
Under the guidance of psychology professor Mark Ellenbogen, PhD, Christopher Cardoso and Anne-Marie Linnen recruited nearly 82 healthy young adults with no history of schizophrenia, autism or related disorders to conduct a study on effects of oxytocin. As a part of the study, half of the participants were given measured doses of oxytocin and the other half placebos.
After receiving the doses of oxytocin and placebo, the participants were made to complete an emotional identification accuracy test. In this test the different facial expressions showing various emotional states were compared. They were not surprised to see that those who were given oxytocin witnessed a greater emotional intensity in the faces they were rating.
Oxytocin can help people with autism and related disorders to overcome social anxieties but in healthy people it can lead to unexpected side effects.
Cardoso says, "The potential social benefits of oxytocin in most people may be countered by unintended negative consequences, like being too sensitive to emotional cues in everyday life."
The finding was documented in the journal Emotion.