The hormone is released by new lovers, mothers and even dog owners and promotes trust and generosity. However, just like booze, it has a dark side and can cause feelings of aggression.
Oxytocin takes over during labour in a bid to help new mothers bond with their babies. It also strikes during sex, explaining that close bond you feel afterwards. But even cuddling can trigger the hormone, whether you're embracing a loved one or a pet.
Researchers from Birmingham University called the similarities between oxytocin and alcohol "striking", revealing that both lower our inhibitions and make us more trusting and generous. However, that also means we could be more likely to take risks we wouldn't normally and makes us more susceptible to feelings of envy, aggression and arrogance.
But on the bright side, oxytocin could be just the boost we need in the face of nerve-wracking situations. Try hugging your pet or partner before a job interview or exam for a hit of oxytocin, advises researcher Dr Ian Mitchell.
He adds that the aggressive side of oxytocin is completely normal, explaining that new mothers are programmed to protect their young.
While it's unlikely we'll be swapping pints for cuddles anytime soon, it's hoped oxytocin could help out in treatments for conditions including anorexia and autism.
"I don’t think we’ll see a time when oxytocin is used socially as an alternative to alcohol. But it is a fascinating neurochemical and, away from matters of the heart, has a possible use in treatment of psychological and psychiatric conditions," Dr Steven Gillespie from Birmingham University said.
"Understanding exactly how it suppresses certain modes of action and alters our behaviour could provide real benefits for a lot of people.
"Hopefully this research might shed some new light on it and open up avenues we hadn’t yet considered."
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