For some people social encounters such as a Christmas party, a job interview, or even a first date can be stressful.

Researchers say a naturally occuring drug administered via nasal spray can help take the edge off, allowing a person to be more at ease and gregarious.

Concordia University researchers have published a study in the journal Psychopharmacology that suggests an intranasal form of oxytocin can improve self-perception in social situations.

Oxytocin, is a natural hormone released by the body to ease childbirth and facilitate breast-feeding. Recently, the hormone has been dubbed the “love hormone” as it is believed to be involved with social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety and empathy.

“Our study shows oxytocin can change how people see themselves, which could in turn make people more sociable,” said senior author Mark Ellenbogen, Ph.D.

“Under the effects of oxytocin, a person can perceive themselves as more extroverted, more open to new ideas and more trusting.”

Researchers recruited 100 men and women, between the ages of 18 and 35 using an eligibility requirement of not being on medications, suffer from a current or past mental disorder, use recreational drugs or smoke cigarettes.

Participants inhaled oxytocin from a nasal spray and completed questionnaires on how they felt 90 minutes later.

Researchers assessed participants for the “Big Five” traits often used by psychologists to describe human personality: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to new experiences, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

“Participants who self-administered intranasal oxytocin reported higher ratings of extraversion and openness to experiences than those who received a placebo,” said first author Christopher Cardoso.

“Specifically, oxytocin administration amplified personality traits such as warmth, trust, altruism and openness.”

Source: Concordia University