‘Love hormone’ can increase sensitivity among stressed partners

Giving prescribed does of ‘love hormone’ — or oxytocin — to men suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can instil empathy and compassion in them toward women, reveals a study.

The researchers hope that in the future, oxytocin may be used as a treatment option in couple therapy as it may increase positive communication behaviours among partners — particularly in relationships where the husband suffers from PTSD.

The study found that a single intranasal dose of oxytocin enhances compassion — both in patients with PTSD and in healthy participants — but only toward women while it does not affect compassion toward men. “This provides new evidence that oxytocin may be able to improve the social behaviour of these patients,” said professor Simone Shamay-Tsoory from University of Haifa in Israel in a statement.

Professor Shamay-Tsoory and colleagues from Rambam Medical Center examined whether patients with PTSD suffer from deficits in compassion.

In addition, the researchers investigated whether intranasal oxytocin a hormone that’s known to modulate social behaviours may enhance compassion in these patients. The study included 32 patients with post-traumatic stress disorder and 30 healthy subjects with no history of psychiatric disorders.

All participants were randomly assigned to groups for the administration of either oxytocin or placebo. The results showed that patients with PTSD showed less compassion for others and were less talkative compared to healthy control participants.

The findings suggest that patients with PTSD suffer from significant and comprehensive deficits in compassion. Oxytocin therapy may improve the quality of the couple’s marriage — which is often impaired by the disorder, the team noted.