A psychobiological rationale for oxytocin in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder

Miranda Olff, Willie Langeland, Anke Witteveen, Damiaan Denys

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Although cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many patients fail to attain remission with CBT. The authors propose augmentation of CBT with oxytocin in the treatment of PTSD. Oxytocin has a combination of pharmacologic effects that result in a "sense of safety" for the patient, which is a prerequisite to successful treatment of PTSD. We suggest a dual explanatory mechanism as to why oxy-tocin may be effective: through a reduction of fear response (decreasing amygdala activation, inhibiting fear response, and enhancing extinction learning) and through an increase of social interaction (activating social reward-related brain regions increasing engagement in the therapeutic alliance). Given that PTSD is marked by deficits in anxiety/stress regulation and in social functioning, and that oxytocin is implicated in both of these areas, oxytocin seems a likely candidate for treatment of patients with PTSD. Further clinical studies of the therapeutic value of oxytocin are indicated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-530
Number of pages9
JournalCns spectrums
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

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