The Love Drug: How Does "Love" Affect Your Body?
Arguably, love is like a drug.
It feels oh-so-good. At least, it does most of the time. And it’s not all in your head (or your, er, heart?).
It’s real and it’s powerful. Similar to drugs, it releases a ton of chemicals in the brain and your body. And surprisingly, these chemicals impact your body in a variety of drug-like ways.
But it’s mostly good! And most of these reactions create a certain level of relationship wellness. These chemicals often solidify your and your partner’s bond, as well as bring you closer together.
So, what exactly is going on? Let’s dive in!
1. That Euphoric Feeling is 100% Real.
First: Why does it feel so good?
When you feel love, your body increases the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, in your brain. Dopamine triggers you to feel that a sense of reward is imminent. It’s that lovers high you feel when you are in love.
2. The Feeling of Butterflies in Your Stomach is Adrenaline.
You feel nervous - maybe a little bit anxious about seeing the one you hold near and dear. Your fight or flight instincts are kicking in. Cue The Clash: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
This is particularly evident during those initial stages of a relationship. Do you have a love compatibility? Will this work? Adrenaline also increases blood flow which helps light up those reward and pleasure centers of the brain. That is to say, it’s likely you’ll stay when this happens. You want that reward. Humans crave pleasure - all of which come with feelings of love.
Blushing: The dead give away. It’s hard to hide when you’re in love. Why? As aforementioned, adrenaline causes increased blood flow. In turn, your blood vessels dilate and your cheeks become flushed with pink and red tones.
4. Your Brain Chemistry Changes as You Fall in Love.
While those initial feelings of true euphoria often only last during the beginning of a relationship, love actually changes your brain’s chemistry make-up after that - which is why humans love being in love. You feel attached. You feel completely head over heels. In truth, it’s all a mix of dopamine, cortisol, vasopressin, and more.
Yet, these changes frequently ebb off after the honeymoon phase - about a year. You’ll still feel them. But they’ll be less so. And if you’re out of a relationship, it explains why it takes about a year to get over the other person. Blame your brain - not your heart.
5. Not Sure If They Love You? Check Their Pupils.
Okay, maybe not the best advice. Please don’t get in a fight with your partner if their pupils don’t change when you look at them.
But when the human brain likes something it sees, the pupils dilate. Thus, when you’re attracted to someone, your eyes literally light up - usually.
6. The Cuddle Hormone Keeps Your Love Train Chugging Along.
The honeymoon is over. It’s been a year - maybe more, maybe less. Every relationship is different. But long-term relationship wellness vastly improves through cuddling. Cuddling increases levels of oxytocin - also known as the cuddle hormone. When you cuddle or are intimate with someone, the body releases oxytocin.
And it helps reduce headaches (bonus!). So snuggle up love bugs. Get a little of that oxytocin - it’s good for you.
7. Dopamine Mimics the Effects of Other Drugs.
It’s not exactly a joke when people refer to love as a drug. There is a very good reason for it. Dopamine is also released when someone takes cocaine or methamphetamine. It’s part of the reason why people get addicted to drugs. And it’s part of the reason why love feels addictive. When you aren’t around your partner, you miss them. And dopamine is why this happens.
8. You’re Less Likely to Have a Heart Attack.
A 2013 study showed that when you’re in a relationship, you are less likely to suffer from any ill woes or sicknesses of the heart - meaning your cardiovascular system is better off when you’re in love. Thank your partner. They really are doing something good for your health!
9. Even a Picture of Your Partner Will Spark Good Feels.
When you look at a picture of your partner, your body increases blood flow to the pleasure centers of the brain. Again, it feels good.
Studies even indicate that looking at a picture of your partner can decrease feelings of pain by 40%.
10. Holding Hands Can Calm Your Nerves.
Touch - especially from someone you love - is soothing. Studies report that women feel relief when holding their husband’s hand as opposed to a stranger’s hand. Although, some studies did show that holding a stranger’s hand did alleviate some stress and nervousness. But not as much as someone’s partner’s hand did. In other words, a simple and small gesture can count for a lot more than you think.
11. The Pain You Feel When You Break-Up Is Also 100% Real.
Unfortunately, as good as long feels - it can also seriously hurt. You feel pain in the same centres of your brain where you would when suffering an injury or physical pain.
And then, there is broken heart syndrome, Broken heart syndrome refers to a condition where the heart temporarily enlarges. In severe and rare cases, it results in death.
But Love is Still Worth It
The benefits frequently far outweigh the negatives. You become part of a team. And you reap some pretty awesome physical health benefits too. The love drug ain’t so bad! And all that heartache and pain only allows you to grow and become who you’re meant to be. Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Love a little more!
Related Article: How Physical Touch Can Heal From the Outside In