Oxytocin warning

shutterstock_131546207The use of oxytocin off-label, by those who don’t suffer from a diagnosed disorder, to treat mild social unease, should be avoided. This comes after research conducted by the Concordia University’s Centre for Research in Human Development.

Their recent study, published in the American Psychological Association’s journal Emotion, shows that in healthy young adults, too much oxytocin can actually result in oversensitivity to emotions in others, like being too sensitive to emotional cues in everyday life.

To perform the study, the researchers recruited 82 healthy young adults who had no signs of schizophrenia, autism or related disorders. Half of the participants were given measured doses of oxytocin while the other half was given a placebo.

Participants then completed an emotion identification accuracy test that had them compare different facial expressions showing various emotional nuances. As expected, the participants who had been given oxytocin saw greater emotional intensity in the faces that they were rating than those given a placebo.

“For some, typical situations like dinner parties or job interviews can be a source of major social anxiety,” says Christopher Cardoso, who was the lead author on the study. “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.”

Cardoso explains: “if your potential boss grimaces because she’s uncomfortable in her chair and you think she’s reacting negatively to what you’re saying, or if the guy you’re talking to at a party smiles to be friendly and you think he’s coming onto you, it can lead you to overreact and can be real a problem. That’s why we’re cautioning against giving oxytocin to people who don’t really need it.

Christopher Cardoso, PhD candidate in Concordia University’s Department of Psychology, discusses the new study http://youtu.be/CIaarjIuVls