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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

GOT TOUCH?: The Oxytocin Connection

My version of an oxytocin molecule-- DaVinci days

Known as the "cuddle drug", the"superglue of relationship", and "the connection hormone", oxytocin is secreted when we love and touch.  It's the chemical catalyst for community.

Studies found that when women gather in community, oxytocin levels increase-- and so does cooperation.  When persons were given internasal doses of the hormone, they were more likely to extend trust to sales pitches-- the proverbial "want to buy some swamp land" type, which has some sinister implications for the misuse of this powerful molecular concoction.  On a more positive note, oxytocin levels jump when devoted women imagine their husbands, or nurse their child.  Increased levels of oxytocin encourage intimacy and bonding by ramping up trust and reducing fear.  Sounds like my kind of drug.

a proposal on Mary's Peak
Lack of touch can stunt growth in babies, increase anxiety in all ages, and decrease calmness, connectedness, and safety.  Remember those terrifically sad pictures of monkeys clinging to the foodless warm terrycloth mom model over the cold wire cage milk-dispensing "mama monkey?".  They'd starve for food before starving for tactile connection.  Traumatized people need touch too, but it's got to be expected and the giver sensitive to tolerance levels.  Hand pats to the shoulder are usually acceptable where a hug would feel threatening.  Some who wouldn't tolerate a hug are ok with therapeutic massage.  When even that level of human touch is too fraught, humans can raise their oxytocin levels by cuddling a non-threatening pet.  In nursing home residents, blood pressures go down and perceptions of happiness increase when therapy dogs and cats are around for pettings.  To avoid the messiness of live animals, Japan is working on fuzzy robots to fill this role.

When circumstances dictate, even self-touch works.  And I'm not even talking masturbation. We rub our own neck, wring our hands, scratch our heads to self-sooth.   Physical therapists teach clients to curry themselves with ultra soft brushes.  It's calming, seems to raise oxytocin levels and desensitizes these hyperalert/tactically defensive folks to accept safe touch.

So get your touch on.  Dancing, petting animals, holding hands with a friend, rocking a baby, yours or anothers'-- not all touch is sexual.  But it is essential.

 More resources:  http://www.reuniting.info/science/oxytocin_health_bonding?

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