Oxytocin and social functioning

Candace Jones, Ingrid Barrera, Shaun Brothers, Robert Ring, Claes Wahlestedt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Social anxiety is a form of anxiety characterized by continuous fear of one or more social or performance situations. Although multiple treatment modalities (cognitive behavioral therapy, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors/selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, benzodiazepines) exist for social anxiety, they are effective for only 60% to 70% of patients. Thus, researchers have looked for other candidates for social anxiety treatment. Our review focuses on the peptide oxytocin as a potential therapeutic option for individuals with social anxiety. Animal research both in nonprimates and primates supports oxytocin's role in facilitation of prosocial behaviors and its anxiolytic effects. Human studies indicate significant associations between social anxiety and oxytocin receptor gene alleles, as well as social anxiety and oxytocin plasma levels. In addition, intranasal administration of oxytocin in humans has favorable effects on social anxiety symptomology. Other disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, and anorexia, have components of social anxiety in their pathophysiology. The therapeutic role of oxytocin for social dysfunction in these disorders is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-201
Number of pages9
JournalDialogues in clinical neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Anxiety
  • Human
  • Oxytocin
  • Primate
  • Rodent
  • Social

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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