Relationships are tricky. Most people think at some point that communicating positively with their partners when discussing stressful issues, like home finances, is an impossible task. But, relax, Swiss researchers are working on a "love potion" that will drive away all such conflicts.
Researchers have begun exploring the benefits of oxytocin for helping couples communicate better.
Oxytocin has been touted as beneficial for reducing anxiety, producing feelings of well-being, empathy, bonding, and sexual arousal.
In its May 1st issue, Biological Psychiatry, published by Elsevier, includes a paper by Swiss researchers that have investigated the effects of oxytocin, the "love hormone," on human couple interactions.
They recruited adult couples who received oxytocin or placebo intranasally before engaging in a conflict discussion in the laboratory.
Oxytocin increased positive communication behavior in relation to negative behavior and reduced salivary cortisol, i.e., their stress levels, compared to placebo.
"We are just beginning to understand the powerful effects of hormones and chemicals released by the body in the context of important social interactions," commented John Krystal, M.D., the editor of Biological Psychiatry.
"As this knowledge grows, the question of how to best use our developing capacities to pharmacologically alter social processes will become an important question to explore," he added.
Author Beate Ditzen, Ph.D., noted that this was the first study of its kind and important because it evaluated real-time natural couple behavior in the laboratory.
"[Oxytocin] might help us to pronounce the effects of a standard treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, by possibly making the benefits of social interaction more accessible to the individual. But it probably will not replace these standard treatments," the expert added.
They clarify that this study does not show that oxytocin should currently be used as a treatment itself and the effects of repeated administration have not been evaluated in humans.