Oxytocin has long been known as the warm, fuzzy hormone that promotes feelings of love, social bonding and well-being. It’s even being tested as an anti-anxiety drug. But new Northwestern Medicine research shows oxytocin also can cause emotional pain, an entirely new, darker identity for the hormone.
Oxytocin appears to be the reason stressful social situations, perhaps being bullied at school or tormented by a boss, reverberate long past the event and can trigger fear and anxiety in the future. That’s because the hormone actually strengthens social memory in one specific region of the brain.