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Shyness Be Gone July 19, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Human Body, Nutrition and Health, Psychology and Behavior.

Social Worry

Shyness is something that many people feel-some a lot more often than others. If you’re shy a lot of the time, it can be scary and stressful to think about going to parties, spending time in groups of friends or dealing with the pressures of making conversation. At an even greater extreme are people who suffer from social phobia, where they are fearful and self-conscious in just about any social atmosphere. A hormone called oxytocin, which is produced in the human body, might just be able to help with social phobia.

Spray Away

Researchers led by Markus Heinrichs at the University of Zurich, Switzerland are studying 70 people who have social phobia. A common and popular treatment for this type of phobia is called cognitive behavioural therapy. The idea is to change negative ways of thinking into positive ones, and how a person acts will then also be positive. Half an hour before the 70 people received cognitive behavioural therapy, they got misted with a nasal spray that contains oxytocin. Ever heard of it? It’s a cool hormone because it does so many different things-one of the somewhat newer discoveries is that it seems to help reduce social anxiety and nervousness. The people who got a dose of the nasal spray before their therapy treatment appeared to be more open to interacting with other people and more confident to handle the challenges of socializing. A spray for confidence? It almost sounds like something out of a science fiction movie but the early results so far are suggesting it might be a really effective way to eventually treat social phobia.

Oxytocin Does More

Nursing Like I said before, oxytocin does lots of really interesting things in the body. Helping in social situations is just one of the newer discoveries of how it can benefit humans. It’s also released in mothers when they breastfeed and it’s thought to enhance the mother’s bonding to her child. It’s not just found in women though-it’s released in both women and men during sexual activity. In fact, it’s not exclusive to humans either. Most vertebrates have some form of oxytocin activity.

It’s a Busy Hormone!

Overall, the effects of the hormone are usually considered positive ones. I’m curious to see more research on how it can help social phobia because I think that human bonding is a really important aspect of life. When shyness gets in the way of enjoying interactions with other people, it can get really lonely. I think everyone deserves to feel comfortable and confident with themselves.

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1. David Bradley Science Writer - July 26, 2007

70 people were sprayed with oxytocin? How much? Were there no controls? Was this double-blind? Did the experimenters talk to the volunteers while they sprayed or was it done through some automated process? It’s almost possible that the simple act of a researcher doing the spraying could affect the confidence levels and perhaps even the endogenous oxytocin for those volunteers…


2. Miss Weird Scientist - July 26, 2007

It’s not a published study, although Heinrichs has co-authored a similar one on oxytocin and trust, which is published. From what I know, there are plans to conduct a full study. We shall see! :)

Almost possible, you say? It’s most definitely possible that the simple act of spraying could affect confidence levels. On the other hand, for people with social anxiety, it could go the other way-meaning that the spraying could put pressure on them to ‘do well,’ which could have the exact opposite effect. This would actually lend more authenticity to Heinrichs’ results. I think that his research is still interesting and has potential though.

3. james - January 8, 2009

when will they finaly release this spary to america

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