Heart Talk: The Science Of Love
Love is not as simple as we thought. Love is more than just roses, wine, and shared secrets. Love is adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, and endorphins. Do you follow? Read on.
Today I got thinking about that pathetic feeling…what are they calling it these days? Ah yes! Love. Just watching them breathe – their chest rising and falling dramatically, is a thrill. Sometimes just a smile or a wink is enough to make you dizzy! Gosh, it may be hopeless, but it is the best feeling in the whole wide world! Heart talk aside, do we really understand love? Of course we understand butterflies in the stomach, scarlet cheeks, sleepless nights, and the feeling of ecstasy and invincibility. But I ask again, do we really understand love, and the reason we feel the way we do (and trust me, Cupid has nothing to do with it)? Falling in love actually causes our body to release a flood of feel-good chemicals, that trigger specific physical reactions. This internal cocktail of love is what is responsible for making our cheeks flush, our palms sweat, and our hearts race like nobody’s business. Let’s dwell on it a little more, and figure out the science of love by understanding these culprit chemicals better…stage-wise. Stage 1: Lust This stage of love and is driven primarily by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen – in both men and women, causing copious desires.
Adrenaline The initial stages of falling for someone somehow activate our stress response – increasing blood levels of adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin is the guilty party, which causes all the awkwardness experienced in the beginning – when you badly want to make a good impression, but all you’re doing is sweating, trying not to faint or throw up because of heart palpitations, and struggling to talk with your mouth gone dry. Dopamine Scientists discovered in a brain scan that newly-in-love couples have high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical stimulates the ‘desire and reward’ centre by triggering an intense rush of pleasure whenever you’re with your partner. It has the same effect on the brain as using cocaine! Serotonin This is one of love's most important chemicals. It may explain why, when you’re falling in love, your new lover keeps popping into your thoughts. It really explains our war between focusing on other things, and failing miserably and relentlessly. People experiencing new love show lower levels of serotonin than others, identical to patients in obsessive compulsive disorder cases. No wonder. I knew I wasn’t losing it.
Stage 3: Attachment Oxytocin
Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released during orgasm, that deepens feelings of attachment, and makes couples feel much closer to one another. The more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes. And it isn’t just restricted to sex, it is released when people snuggle up/cuddle, or simply bond socially; in fact, even playing with your dog or getting a head massage causes an oxytocin surge. Vasopressin Another important hormone for long-term commitment is released after sex. Its potential role in long-term relationships, however, is that it creates devotion and dedication towards the partner, and thus establishes stability. Endorphins Endorphins overrun your body by this time, creating an overall sense of well-being and security, that is conducive to a lasting relationship. Animals and humans are programmed to secrete endorphins in situations of social comfort, which helps them feel less anxious, and provides a sense of well-being. Attachment, in the form of a human chemical bond, is controlled internally by the release of endorphins in the brain.
Some doctors caution that these physical responses to love may also work to our disadvantage. 'Love is blind' is a valid scientific notion, because we tend to idolise our partner and see only the things that we want to see in the early stages of the relationship, because of these hormones. Outsiders may have a much more objective and rational perspective than the two people involved, but who listens to them! All I can say is, whoever called love a silly business clearly didn’t know a thing!