Objectives: Oxytocin (OT) has long been implicated in maternal bonding, sexual behavior and social affiliation behaviors. This paper reviews the wide effects of oxytocin and its key role in well-being.
Methods: Studies were identified through Medline, Pubmed, and PsychINFO search of the English-language literature from the past sixty years (1959 to 2009) using the key word "oxytocin" in human studies. Of the 287 articles identified, 102 were selected for review.
Results: OT induces a general sense of well-being including calm, improved social interactions, increased trust, and reduced fear as well as endocrine and physiological changes. Some central effects of OT are temporary and its release is associated with induction of secondary biochemical actions which mediate long-term benefits including blood pressure reduction, calm and affiliative behavior. As OT release is augmented by touch and physiological support so the hormone is involved in both the cause and benefits of social interactions. Just as OT has widespread effects in factors encompassing well-being, its dysfunction is associated with morbidity and decreased quality of life as observed neuropsychiatric conditions such as autism, schizophrenia and social phobias.
Conclusions: Oxytocin (OT) is of potential use in enhancing interpersonal and individual well-being, and might have more applications in neuropsychiatric disorders especially those characterized by persistent fear, repetitive behavior, reduced trust and avoidance of social interactions.
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