Doctors surprised by results after giving oxytocin in nasal spray form to subjects with loneliness: Study

A team of European and Israeli doctors released an interesting study that recorded the results of administering oxytocin as a nasal spray to lonely people. Oxytocin is generally known as the feel-good hormone.

Futurism reported that oxytocin is usually released during physical intimacy, but it can be released during other activities, too. The study was published in the journal Psychother Psychosom.

‘This is a very important observation that we made — oxytocin was able to strengthen the positive relationship with the other group members and reduce acute feelings of loneliness right from the start.’

The abstract of the study stated:

Loneliness poses a significant health problem and existing psychological interventions have shown only limited positive effects on loneliness. Based on preliminary evidence for impaired oxytocin signaling in trait-like loneliness, the current proof-of-concept study used a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design to probe intranasal oxytocin (OT) as an adjunct to a short-term modular-based group intervention for individuals suffering from high trait-like loneliness.

The study found that while subjects did not report a dramatic decrease in perceived loneliness, perceived stress, or quality of life, they did report a decrease in acute feelings of loneliness. While it is a small distinction, the most surprising development was that the effects of the nasal spray appeared to linger for months after it was first administered.

The paper’s senior author, Jana Lieberz, said: “The psychological intervention was associated with a reduced perception of stress and an improvement in general loneliness in all treatment groups, which was still visible at the follow-up examination after three months.”

Another report noted that “[l]oneliness is not a disease. And yet it is a significant health problem. Depression, heart disease or dementia – people who are permanently lonely have a higher risk of becoming ill.”

Futurism reported that oxytocin is associated with bonding, and the findings of the study seemed to suggest that subjects had an easier time connecting with others during group therapy sessions that they were enrolled in.

“This is a very important observation that we made — oxytocin was able to strengthen the positive relationship with the other group members and reduce acute feelings of loneliness right from the start,” Leiberz said.

“It could therefore be helpful to support patients with this at the start of psychotherapy. This is because we know that patients can initially feel worse than before starting therapy as soon as problems are named. The observed effects of administering oxytocin can in turn help those affected to stay on the ball and continue.”

Though the trial size was relatively small, the results are promising. However, it is not certain if this could be a remedy for loneliness in the future. Researchers said more studies must be conducted on this issue.

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