At a time when we are being told to socially distance, cover our faces and avoid human contact, we are seeing a dramatic rise in mental illness, despair and psychological stress as a result. What’s the connection?
People who need people are the luckiest people in the world… Remember that song? The truth is that we humans need each other, and we need to be close to others that are on our side, that we feel safe with and that love us. We need to gaze into each other’s face (the whole lot) and to hug and kiss, or to share a healing massage. We need to sing together, dance together, laugh together, eat together and work together. We are basically social creatures. If we are isolated in solitary confinement and starved of close social contact, we can die from it.
Close loving human contact makes us feel wanted and part of a tribe that is our family and community. It makes us feel worthy and good about ourselves, and it makes us want to share these good feelings with others. It also releases a whole bunch of pleasurable heart-warming endorphins and hormones, which boost the immune system, and are healing and regenerative. In other words, they keep us happy, healthy and younger longer.
One hormone of note is the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is a happy ‘feel-good’ hormone with similar pain-relieving properties to endorphins (opiate chemicals). It is released in the body when we interact with others in a loving and caring way. An oxytocin deficiency is also associated with stress sensitivity, anxiety and depression, lack of motivation and a dark outlook on life.
Mental health plummets in 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019
According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, across all jurisdictions:
- The volume of mental health-related PBS dispensed prescriptions spiked in March 2020 when COVID-19 restrictions were first introduced, followed by a dip in April 2020. From mid-May 2020 to early-August 2021 weekly volume tracked above the same week one year prior.
- In the 4 weeks to 19 September 2021, 1,215,475 Medibank mental health-related services were processed, 7.1% and 21.8% higher than the same periods in 2020 and 2019, respectively.
- In the 4 weeks to 19 September 2021:
- Lifeline saw several historical record high daily call volumes, and 96,273 calls were offered in total, up 14.1% and 33.1% from the same periods in 2020 and 2019 respectively;
- Kids Helpline received 32,572 answerable contact attempts, up 4.6% and 16.7% from the same periods in 2020 and 2019 respectively.
Chronic stress causes weakening of immune system, excessive loss of magnesium and oxytocin deficiency
The pertinent question to ask is, are we paying attention to these mental health related deaths and injuries as much as ‘cases’ of cold and flu? Could our bureaucratic regulators have stuffed up in their decisions regarding unpredictable lockdowns, isolation, travel restrictions and border closures?
We have seen increasing stress levels in people now having to contend with fear of massive fines, loss of job or business, retribution and persecutions if they choose not to have the Covid shots. As bad as it is that people had the daylights scared out of them in 2020 during the launch of the Covid pandemic, instead of the virus working itself through and out of the population in a relatively normal cycle as per other previous cold viruses, the fear porn was turned up in 2021 by the global media, state premiers and their handlers.
This worked for the most part to coerce the public into volunteering for an experimental genetic manipulation technology via intra-muscular injection. Now people are dealing with a massive upturn in health issues and immune system challenges related to the jabs, without any significant protection against the virus, nor prevention of its spread. What have they gained and at what risks? This weighs heavily upon people’s minds and increases stress levels, as their world has become so volatile and unpredictable.
There are also threats of apartheid and segregation of this new ‘second-class’ citizen (the unvaxed), as they are locked out of certain venues (and in some cases even hospitals) if they haven’t ‘volunteered’ for the experimental jab.
Small businesses don’t want to upset their customers by having to police the jab status of their patrons. Having to do this is very distressing for many people, including business owners, employees and customers. In Australia in the past we have been blessed with a democratic system of government with legal protections of civil rights. It appears, not so anymore.
Another ongoing cause of stress and anxiety is mask-wearing due to excessive inhalation of C02, and lack of oxygen. This is much worse of course for those with impaired breathing issues, such as those with asthma, cystic fibrosis or other immune disorders, as well as those with a diminished cardiovascular output where there is less blood to carry oxygen around the body.
Children also experience extra stress, as they pick up anxiety from their parents. In addition, mask wearing not only deprives them of sufficient oxygen for proper brain function and development, but not being able to see the mouth moving with speech impairs language development. It also causes irritability, malaise, fatigue and difficulty concentrating, according to this recent study of about 25,000 children.
Under chronic stress, the body tends to lose too much magnesium, often leaving us deficient in this vital master mineral. 1 Magnesium is essential to calm the nervous system by controlling calcium channels and relaxing muscle tension. If people have digestive issues (often induced by stress), it’s even harder to extract enough magnesium from foods to replenish stored supplies. Transdermal magnesium can help to deliver a lot more magnesium via skin compared to oral routes. Using magnesium chloride is also more bioavailable and a faster pathway to access cells.
In addition to nutritional and lifestyle changes, and providing more magnesium for your body, you can also love and laugh more together with others, because it releases oxytocin.
Everything’s good when I am in a state of love and oxytocin is flowing
Oxytocin is a vital neurotransmitter and hormone that the human species needs to ensure survival and propagation. It gives us warm fuzzy feelings in the heart, including feelings of generosity, trust, wellbeing, happiness and a positive mental attitude of optimism. It is the driving force behind attraction, social bonding and caregiving, and even controls key aspects of the reproductive system, childbirth, and lactation.
Hospitals give oxytocin to mothers in labour to help induce the birth if it’s taking too long. It’s the ‘jungle juice’ that brings on the birth. Oxytocin also helps to forget about the pain that came before the birth, and to focus on bonding with and loving her newborn.
Why does a cuddle help a child who fell over to recover better? We feel a natural instinct as parents to hold and comfort a child in distress – and also to give a comforting hug to adults who are close to us and in distress. The simple act of touch, as in a hug or a massage, boosts natural (endogenous) oxytocin release, which is soothing.
Babies in orphanages who don’t receive physical touch and hugging don’t thrive, but those that get hugs every day thrive and grow better.
We get an oxytocin release via many types of social contact, such as sharing a meal or cup of coffee with a good friend, romantic couples gazing into each other’s eyes, and even random acts of kindness from strangers. Studies have shown that oxytocin increases generosity in humans. 2
It’s our human loving and supportive relationship connections that give us this vital neurotransmitter release that is so comforting, restorative and also strengthens our immune system. “Love is the drug,” as the words to Roxy Music’s song goes.
Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus. The pineal gland signals the pituitary gland to release it. The pineal gland (together with the suprachiasmatic nuclei) is like the conductor or regulator of messaging within the HPA system (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal). 3 And the HPA system is also reliant on getting enough magnesium.
If you have a ‘bright and sunny’ disposition and outlook, then you likely have a healthy pineal gland with adequate sunlight exposure, which can then produce melatonin (your sleep hormone for brain detoxing) and regulate your oxytocin releases via the hypothalamus.
Therefore, spread some more sunshine in the community via a friendly café chat, give someone a massage or hug, or indulge your children with extra cuddles and play to generate more oxytocin. Remember that when you give the hug (and oxytocin release for the recipient), you also receive it. The old saying, “Make love, not war,” is the ultimate wisdom. All of these human relationship interactions lead to a greater sense of well-being, joy and happiness.
Even stroking and cuddling a dog or cat has been shown to release oxytocin in both the owner and the pet, but there needs to be first a friendship familiarity established.
Oxytocin creates a feeling of social trust. A mammal lowers its guard when trusted others in their clan or family are near. Animals are wary in the beginning because trusting everyone would not promote survival. There is something called ‘stranger danger’. The mammal brain evolved to make careful decisions about when to release oxytocin.
Their brains reward them with an oxytocin release as a response to trust and ‘togetherness’. Neurons connect when oxytocin flows and the more ‘oxytocin’ experiences you have with those close to you, the more trust is established, and the more love circulates. Around and around it goes, supporting the health and wellbeing of the family, the group and the community.
Analgesic and pain tolerance
It’s interesting to note that people with chronic pain, like those with fibromyalgia, naturally have lower levels of oxytocin circulating in their blood. The lower their oxytocin level, the higher they rate their pain, stress, and depression. Even healthy people with lower blood levels of oxytocin had lower pain tolerance.
Anxiety and depression relieved
Oxytocin indirectly decreases suffering by relieving depression and anxiety related to pain. The more we engage in these feel-good behaviours, the more oxytocin we get. You might even call it addictive!
- Higher levels are linked to feeling calmer and having a better capacity to deal with stress.
- New research suggests that increased oxytocin can potentially also increase feelings of empathy, generosity, forgiveness, trustworthiness, joy and security.
- It seems to help increase fidelity and monogamy in relationships by keeping us honest and facilitating compassion/empathy toward others – because that requires TRUST that a person is not going to hurt you.
Oxytocin facilitates bonding with children, increases romantic attachment, and plays an important role in reproduction for both sexes. A woman also has better orgasms when she trusts her partner and gives of herself without being on guard or apprehensive.
When we trust, we move from sympathetic mode (flight-flight stress and ready for action mode) to parasympathetic mode (rest and digest). This gets us off the treadmill of stress. Not only do we need to be in the parasympathetic mode for good digestion, but also for detoxification, building of tissue cells for repairs and maintenance, and for the strengthening of the immune system.
However, scientists have noticed some key distinctions in how men and women process oxytocin. For example, several studies have found that in men, oxytocin improves the ability to identify competitive relationships (enemies or threats) in order to protect and defend their family and tribe.
Women generally lack this response and instead focus on increased feelings of kinship and bonding within the close family group. They foster relationships within the family and tribe.
While it also works under times of low stress, oxytocin has been shown to be elevated under times of high stress too. It can make people who are stressed out seek out support through better social connections. 4 It also may help protect the nervous system from shutting down in the face of stressful circumstances, including childbirth.
Some animal studies show that treatment with oxytocin causes stressed animals to no longer display signs of depression, anxiety or cardiac stress. By increasing someone’s motivation to find help from others, the hormone can help people find opportunities that lead to more security, joy and love. This love hormone is the best nutrition for the heart!
Are you an emotional eater? You may have an oxytocin deficiency
Oxytocin can stop overeating and the tendency to eat when you are not really hungry, resulting in sustained weight reduction. This is because oxytocin can dampen the brain’s food-related reward circuitry. When we are in a state of love, we feel that we have enough, and are satisfied and content more quickly after a meal.
When we have an oxytocin deficiency (ie. love deficiency), we feel a sense of lack and emptiness that we are always trying to fill up, but it never really does. Consequently, we get more easily tempted by sweats as a panacea for emotional pain, instead of what we really need as the love hormone.
Suggestions for oxytocin balance
The best way to get more oxytocin is by helping your own body make more. As this important hormone-neurotransmitter is a protein, and magnesium is essential in the production and use of proteins, then making sure you have enough magnesium is also very important.
Eating a healthy fresh food diet for varied nutrition, drinking adequate mineral water (with magnesium), avoiding toxins like heavy metals, processed sugary carbohydrates and chemicals, and getting plenty of good sleep at night, are also essential in the mix. The rest is mostly about human relationship and loving supporting communications to get the ball rolling and the oxytocin flowing.
Clinical treatment with oxytocin
Recent studies have shown promising results using oxytocin nasal sprays for treatment of depression, anxiety, pain and other neurological disorders. 5 However results are short term, and there is concern about whether long term use can lead to addiction, whereby endogenous oxytocin production slows down.
Examples of ways to get endogenous oxytocin release:
• Physical contact —Hugs, MUTUAL MASSAGE WITH MAGNESIUM CREAM OR LOTION, love-making, or breastfeeding.
• Essential oils — Studies suggest that certain essential oils, including clary sage oil, may help balance hormones and encourage production of the love hormone.
• Making eye contact… Eye gazing.
• Laughing together
• Giving and receiving gifts
• Sharing meals
• Petting a dog, cat or other pet
• Meditating together
• Telling someone you love them
• Listen to calming music together
• Singing or dancing together
• Playing cards
• Speaking to someone you trust on the phone
• Walking or exercising with someone
• Looking at photos or videos of people you care about — including via social media
By Sandy Sanderson © 2022
(1) Seelig, M. S. Consequences of Magnesium Deficiency on the Enhancement of Stress Reactions; Preventive and Therapeutic Implications (a Review). J Am Coll Nutr 1994, 13 (5), 429–446.
(2) Zak, P. J.; Stanton, A. A.; Ahmadi, S. Oxytocin Increases Generosity in Humans. PLOS ONE 2007, 2 (11), e1128. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0001128.
(3) Møller, M. Vasopressin and Oxytocin beyond the Pituitary in the Human Brain. Handb Clin Neurol 2021, 180, 7–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-820107-7.00002-1.
(4) Kendrick, K. M.; Guastella, A. J.; Becker, B. Overview of Human Oxytocin Research. Curr Top Behav Neurosci 2018, 35, 321–348. https://doi.org/10.1007/7854_2017_19.
(5) Goodin, B. R.; Ness, T. J.; Robbins, M. T. Oxytocin – A Multifunctional Analgesic for Chronic Deep Tissue Pain. Curr Pharm Des 2015, 21 (7), 906–913.