More Interesting News about Oxytocin
Every week seems to bring more findings about oxytocin. Most of the research uses an oxytocin nasal spray, but our bodies release the stuff during orgasm and when we experience the emotion of love, those brief sessions of our brains getting in sync as we share some other positive emotion together.
Oxytocin improves communication and increases trust in those who are not lying to us.
Now we learn that it has differential effects depending on our attachment style. If you're not sure what your attachment style is, you can take a quiz at http://www.web-research-design.net/cgi-bin/crq/crq.pl. What this quiz labels Secure, Preoccupied, Dismissing, and Fearful-Avoidant are labeled Secure, Anxious, Avoidant, and Preoccupied by other researchers, including those who did this latest Oxytocin research.
Preoccupied or Anxious people are those who worry a good deal more than others do about being abandoned or rejected by their partners, often because they were abandoned or rejected in childhood. Dismissing or Avoidant people are those who worry a good deal more than others do about losing too much of their autonomy and freedom (gaining a "ball and chain") in a relationship, often because they had very little autonomy or freedom in childhood. Secure people are about average on both concerns. Fearful-Avoidant/Preoccupied people score high on both concerns and tend to avoid relationships.
So, let's get back to oxytocin. Jennifer Bartz et al., in this study of 40 men, found its effect, on average, was to make them feel a bit warmer, kinder, more gentle. However, for those categorized as Avoidantly attached, its effect was greater. Men who have trouble with "togetherness" have less trouble with it when they are getting an oxytocin boost. If you're one of them or married to one of them, you might want to work toward releasing it frequently.
However, for those categorized as Anxiously attached, the slight boost in how warm, kind, and gentle they feel was accompanied by a decrease in how self-confident and independent they feel. It did not have this effect on the Securely or Avoidantly attached men.
Keep in mind, though, that this was in the context of taking nasal oxytocin and answering questionnaires. What we don't know yet is how it works when both partners get more oxytocin at the same time (what Anxiously attached person wouldn't feel more comfortable with more kind, gentle warmth from their partner?) and when it comes from the emotion of love, in which the vagus nerve is also stimulated, improving its tone, which in turn appears to improve the regulation of negative emotions. We also don't know if women respond the same.
So, as usual, further research is required. And you can do some of it on your own if you're married to someone who is Anxiously attached. Try combining an increase in oxytocin (through shared positive emotions as well as orgasm) with more Active-Constructive feedback whenever your partner reports taking a successful independent step.