A Chemical Romance: What Happens to the Brain in Love?
Have you ever wondered what on earth is happening to your brain when you’re falling head-over-heels in love with someone? Your brain feels foggy, their scent is intoxicating, you can’t focus, you need more of them, you’re almost obsessed and it all seems beyond your control. You might think there’s something wrong with you or that this person literally drives you wild, but your body is simply doing its evolutionary job and urging you to create a special bond with this person.
As it turns out, there are scientific, biological reasons why our mind and body seem to go a little haywire when we are in the process of falling for someone.
A healthy human brain is constantly producing and maintaining certain chemicals. When you begin to form a connection and deep attraction with someone, your brain is triggered to release specific chemicals and hormones that drastically affect the body, producing a rollercoaster effect that flips your stomach and dizzies your mind. While this may feel nerve-wracking at first, arming yourself with the scientific facts regarding your body’s natural responses to love will help you relax into the exciting process of falling for someone.
The Birds, the Bees, & the Brain:
Adrenaline is secreted by the adrenal glands and works in two ways: by improving certain senses and censoring others. When you meet a new potential mate, you might naturally find yourself a bit on edge. We can never see the future of a crush, and the uncertainty can drive us batty. Adrenaline is a hormone of survival - it urges us to press on in scary situations. However, this bravery is met with some nerve-wracking physical symptoms, such as sweating, heart palpitations, butterflies in the tummy, dilating eyes and even light-headedness.
Interestingly, the more adrenaline that pumps through your body, the more attracted you become to your object of affection.
When you become more attracted to someone and are in the beginning stages of romance, your hormones go wild. In men and women, testosterone increases; and women will also experience a boost of estrogen. Testosterone influences the sex drive in both men and women, making you feel extra randy toward your partner. You probably want to be near, or all over, them; you might not be able to keep your hands off. This is the result of testosterone doing its sexy job. Testosterone also urges you to open your heart and mind to someone, as well as preparing you mentally and physically for the seduction ritual. In men, testosterone increases masculine features.
In fact, an increase in testosterone actually makes men more attractive to their partner, and when estrogen increases it makes women appear more attractive as well. When a woman’s system is flooded with estrogen, she is more likely to dress a little bit more flirtatiously, emit pheromones, act friendlier and even raise her voice slightly. Estrogen essentially brings out those particularly girly qualities that reflect that you might otherwise suppress. In other words, it brings out your inner Marilyn Monroe, so strike a pose.
Even more chemicals come into play during the beginning stages of a romantic relationship, including serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine.
- Serotonin helps keep your emotions centered and your mind focused. When you begin falling in love with someone, serotonin actually decreases, which causes you to feel slightly unhinged. Dips in serotonin are responsible for those slightly obsessive feelings that occur around this time: Do they like me too? When will they call? Is this person the one? Don’t stress over these feelings, they are perfectly normal. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try boosting your serotonin through exercise, hydration and foods that are high in carbohydrates.
- Dopamine is a feel-good chemical that is released in the brain when we experience things we like, such as chocolate, wine and sex. A surge of dopamine will make you feel ecstatic, which is what makes love feel like a drug.
- Oxytocin is often referred to as the cuddle hormone because of its ability to make us feel attached. Oxytocin releases as the relationship progresses as well as after sexual encounters.
Together, these three hormones work to make you feel closer to your partner and urge you to continue on a trajectory of commitment. If you find yourself feeling a bit out of control during the beginning of a relationship, just know that your hormones are partly to blame.
Vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone, is released toward the end of this phase when a couple begins solidifying its status. This is the hormone that pushes us past a state of mere attraction and encourages us to create a lasting bond with our partner. When you start getting closer and more intimate with your partner, this hormone will disperse throughout your body and create feelings of attachment and longevity. This hormone is sometimes referred to as the monogamy chemical.
Standing Tall While Falling Hard
Falling in love is a magnificent, dizzying experience, but it can be just as nerve-wracking as it is wonderful. There are feelings of insecurity and worries regarding past heartaches that inevitably present themselves when relationships begin to blossom. Do not distress, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Chances are, your crush is feeling the exact same way. Just breathe and relax into the beautiful process of falling in love.
Related Article: The Love Drug: How Does “Love” Affect Your Body?