Sweaty Palms. Racing heart. Flushed cheeks. These are all typical signs that you may be in love or at the very least, lust. Ever wonder how your brain works when you’re in love? Have you ever stoppedfor a second to think about the science and psychology of falling inlove or why you are falling in love with that special someone?
The term “crazy in love” is perfectly fitting because when we are in the process of falling in love, we are in fact at the mercy of our own body chemistry.
The release of oxytocin in the brain —the love hormone — is what fuels lifelong pair bonds.
“Love and attraction are weird and mysterious things.”
“Love is an emotion that has developed because evolutionary survival is about perpetuation of genes rather than welfare of individuals.”
There’s a lot we don’t understand — and a lot that’s idiosyncratic to individual people and couples.
We feel some strange or mysterious feelings for someone positively (can be different or same gender). Its a kind of attraction and thins feelingshits up the pleasure center of the brain.
We call it love. It feels like love. But the mostexhilarating of all human emotions is probably nature’s beautiful way of keeping the human species alive and reproducing.
With an irresistiblecocktail of chemicals, our brain entices us to fall in love. We believewe’re choosing a partner. But we may merely be the happy victims ofnature’s lovely plan.
Have you ever stopped for a second to think about the science and psychology offalling in love or why you are falling in love with that specialsomeone? Did you ever notice love is sort of a mysterious yet naturalemotion in us and it must have to do something with our chemistry to one another?
The love hormone acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain, whichis produced in nerve cells rather than glandular cells, like mosthormones, according to Psych Central. It is believed romantic gestures such as cuddling, hugging, or kissingcould boost oxytocin levels in the body, which help enhance socialbonding between individuals.
It’s not what you say…
Many Psychologists have already shown it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you love or attract to someone.
The 3 stages of love
Helen Fisher of RutgersUniversity in the States has proposed 3 stages of love – lust,attraction and attachment. Each stage might be driven by differenthormones and chemicals.
Stage 1: Lust
This is the first stage of love and is driven by the sex hormones testosterone andoestrogen – in both men and women. I call it the premature stage oflove. We think this stage of love we may decide with emotional feelingswhere most of the time you may decide to turn wrong.
Stage 2: Attraction
This is the amazing timewhen you are truly love-struck and can think of little else. This phase is said to beone of the beautiful moments of life. This is the phase when a personactually starts to feel the love. His or her impatience for attractingsomebody leads to excitement, and the individual is left with no otheroption but to only think about that specific person. Scientifically, it has been concluded in the study that there are three more sub-stages of attraction that portray drastic changes over the individual’spersonality. The three sub-stages of attraction are adrenaline,dopamine, and serotonin.
The initial stages offalling for someone activates your stress response, increasing yourblood levels of adrenalin and cortisol. This has the charming effectthat when you unexpectedly bump into your new love, you start to sweat,your heart races and your mouth goes dry.
Helen Fisher asked newly‘love struck’ couples to have their brains examined and discovered theyhave high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemicalstimulates ‘desire and reward’ by triggering an intense rush ofpleasure. It has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine!
Fisher suggests “couples often show the signs of surging dopamine:increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention andexquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship” .
And finally, serotonin. One oflove’s most important chemicals that may explain why when you’re falling in love, your new lover keeps popping into your thoughts.
New couples exalt therelationship itself. “It’s very common to think they have a relationship that’s closer and more special than anyone else’s”. Psychologists think we need this rose-tinted view. It makes us want to stay together toenter the next stage of love – attachment.
Stage 3: Attachment
Attachment is the bondthat keeps couples together long enough for them to have and raisechildren. Scientists think there might be two major hormones involved in this feeling of attachment; oxytocin and vasopressin.
Oxytocin – The cuddle hormone
Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm.
It probably deepens thefeelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex. The theory goes that the more sex a couplehas, the deeper their bond becomes.
Oxytocin also seems to help cement the strong bondbetween mum and baby and is released during childbirth. It is alsoresponsible for a mum’s breast automatically releasing milk at the meresight or sound of her young baby.
Diane Witt, assistantprofessor of psychology from New York has showed that if you block thenatural release of oxytocin in sheep and rats, they reject their ownyoung.
Conversely, injectingoxytocin into female rats who’ve never had sex, caused them to fawn over another female’s young, nuzzling the pups and protecting them as ifthey were their own.
Vasopressin is another important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex.
Vasopressin (also calledanti-diuretic hormone) works with your kidneys to control thirst. Itspotential role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole.
Prairie voles indulge in farmore sex than is strictly necessary for the purposes of reproduction.They also – like humans – form fairly stable pair-bonds.
When male prairie voles weregiven a drug that suppresses the effect of vasopressin, the bond withtheir partner deteriorated immediately as they lost their devotion andfailed to protect their partner from new suitors.
And finally … how to fall in love
Find a complete stranger.
Reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour.
Then, stare deeply into each other’s eyes without talking for four minutes.
York psychologist, Professor Arthur Arun, has been studying why people fall in love.
He asked his subjects tocarry out the above 3 steps and found that many of his couples feltdeeply attracted after the 34 minute experiment. Two of his subjectslater got married.
Also read: Body Language: How To Tell if a Woman is Attracted to You?
A final thought on why do we fall in love:
In male-female bonds, the lovehormone plays a vital role in the human sexual response cycle. Oxytocinchanges the brain signals that are related to social recognition viafacial expression — due to activity in the amygdala — a part of thebrain that plays a role in processing emotional stimuli.
Romantic relationships can leadto the addiction of a specific person such as being obsessed withthinking of that person all the time and the capacity for risk-taking to get to that person. These behaviors are thought to reflect those ofsomeone who is addicted to a drug.
The same brain chemicals — largeamounts of dopamine and norepinpherine — and the same brain pathways and structures are active when in love, and when being high on crackcocaine. Therefore, this leads to the belief that addictive drugs affect the brain in ways similar to love, Marsh says, which can help explainthe painful, withdrawal-like symptoms of a breakup.
Although muchis known about neurotransmitters like oxytocin, there is still somemystery left behind as to what sets off these feelings of love and whowe fall in love with. Researchers still do not know enough about lovelike other emotions, which makes the process of falling in love acomplete mystery.