Falling in love may appear to be a state of dreamy bliss but scientifically it is an infusion of various hormonal chemicals. With such a strong concoction of hormones racing through your bloodstream, it causes you to behave in all sorts of unusual ways. Although love itself is experienced differently by each individual, the chemistry behind the feeling has the same biological explanation. Love on the brain are chemicals in the bloodstream.
Helen Fisher Research
Falling in love has been compared to feeling giddy and scientifically the brain of someone falling in love is virtually the same as the brain of someone losing control. One of the best known researchers in the field of the science behind the love factor is of course Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Helen Fisher’s research has led her to conclude that there are 3 distinctive phases involved in the science of falling in love and furthermore there are 3 different sets of hormones involved during the 3 phases throughout the whole process of falling in love and staying in love.
External Signs of Love:
Sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, increased blood pressure, flushed cheeks and dilated pupils all signal the arousal of a person.
Internal Signs of Love: Biochemistry – The hormones involved in the emotion of romantic love.
Image Source: www.smh.com.au
1. Lust – Testosterone and Oestrogen
Although testosterone is a hormone mainly associated with men, when it comes to attraction and love, it also plays a major part in the body of a woman. Testosterone and oestrogen are the precursor that encourages you to look for a partner and lust over them in both men and women.
2. Attraction – Neurotransmitters – Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Serotonin
This second stage is the one we are all familiar with when we become love-struck. It is the stage which overwhelms a person and affects everything they do because all they can think about is the person of their desire. It is an overwhelming wonderful feeling but simultaneously can be frustrating and draining. Nothing else seems to matter and daydreaming about the loved one is uppermost on the mind.
Adrenaline is released during the initial stages, bringing about the physical changes in the body as it increases your stress levels causing you to sweat and keep the heart racing and even your mouth goes dry.
Neurotransmitters give you a feeling of euphoria and allow you to keep your attention focused on the person of your desire:
a) Norepinephrine is a stimulant keeping you alert, thereby causing lack of sleep during those early weeks of obsession with the loved one. It also allows a person to remember in detail everything about the person they are obsessing over.
b) Phenylethylamine (PEA) – This causes the feeling of giddiness, excitement and euphoria. When PEA levels fall, the resulting effect is a depressive state of mind.
Dopamine enhances the release of testosterone and affects various parts of the body e.g. sweat glands and the senses more and everything around you looks more attractive as your senses have a deepened sense of appreciation. Dopamine affects the mood and the emotions, making you feel happier than usual.
Serotonin – This makes the person you lust after remain constantly on your mind. A feeling of intense pleasure is ignited when these hormones are at play thus setting off the reward system to want more of the same.
The neurotransmitters carried in the blood stream and transmitted to various parts of the sensitive body causes them to send messages back to the brain. So even anticipation can cause a biological response and a stimulation of the reward system which may make us ultimately to seek more of what makes us feel “good”. Initial stages of lust can cause the reward system (controlled by the nervous system) of the brain to feel satisfaction even with the smallest of gestures such as a touch or even looking at the photo of the desired person.
3. Attachment – Oxytocin, Vasopressin
Attachment is the final stage in keeping a couple together long enough to bring up offspring. Attachment happens as it is impossible to remain in the attraction stage forever and the following two hormones take over:
Oxytocin – Promotes bonding which grows deeper with the passing of time, during intimacy between couples. This hormone is also released during the breast feeding stage of a mother and child, helping the bond between them to grow strong. When the feelings of lust calm down they are replaced with the this chemical
Vasopressin – Helps long term commitment. The main role of this hormone is to control the kidney function.
Research has further found that overall men tend to be attracted the looks of a female and a woman is heavily influenced by the smell of a man. She is especially attracted to men who have a different immune system to herself which makes him a more attractive potential partner. The male sweat androstadienone causes the mood of women to improve and increases arousal levels.
Dr Helen Fisher found that “This stimulation sparks the release of brain chemicals called monoamines.” This refers to serotonin and dopamine which cause the feeling of excitement to excel, allowing you to feel “love”. It is a time when all our senses seem to come alive and we experience everything far more intensely than we did before.