What Happens When We Fall In Love?

What is love? Abstractly, some may say it's a wonderful, emotional adventure with another person whose soul connects with yours in a way that no other ever has, while others might think of it as a companionship centered around concepts like trust, security, and happiness. No matter what love may be to you, one thing is concrete and certain: it has one heck of an impact on the activity in our bodies and minds.
Sweaty palms, an increased heartbeat, and a euphoric surge of dopamine in the brain; These are just a few of the many things that love and attraction can do to us. But what else are these powerful emotions capable of?
In honor of Valentine's Day, we're bringing you everything you need to know about what goes on inside your body when you fall in love.

The Addiction Of Love

Many people describe being in love as an addiction, and it's no surprise as to why. A 2010 study conducted by Syracuse University actually found that looking at your loved one activates an area of the brain known as the dopaminergic subcortical system. This area of the brain is the same region that becomes activated in cocaine addicts when they get their fix, releasing a cocktail of euphoric chemicals that bring about a whirlwind of emotions and physical reactions. Among these chemicals are:
  • Oxytocin, which is responsible for that warm, "heart-melting" feeling so many of us experience when first falling in love.
  • Dopamine, which is the "feel-good" hormone behind feelings of pleasure.
  • Adrenaline, which increases our heart rate, giving us that excited and anxious feeling around the one we're attracted to.
  • Vasopressin, which can prompt feelings of territoriality and is responsible for the jealousy and anger some may experience upon seeing their loved one move on to someone new after a breakup.

According to clinical sexologist Kat Van Kirk, PhD, the release of these chemicals during different stages of attraction and attachment is also the reason that the more time you spend with your significant other, the more time you want to keep spending with them. Now do those unexplained feelings of obsession for your loved one make sense?

Love Spells Don't Only Happen In Fairytales

  • Does the apple of your eye make you nervous, and you can't understand why?
  • Is there a specific someone you can't seem to get off of your mind?

When you start experiencing a strong attraction for someone, there is an increase of blood flow to the region of your brain responsible for pleasure. This rush of blood causes your brain to release hormones that excite us, such as adrenaline and norepinephrine. These hormones incite feelings of nervousness, causing those embarrassing sweaty palms, flushed cheeks, and that rapid, uncontrollable heartbeat. So the next time you can't seem to keep your cool, just remember it's usually inevitable.

But what about the times when you just can't seem to get that special someone off of your mind? Adrenaline and norepinephrine are also to blame! They are the reason behind an uplifted mood upon seeing the one you admire, as well as the heightened attention and focus you begin to have on that individual.

"You Give Me Butterflies"

Falling in love can make us uneasy for a number of reasons - getting serious with your partner can bring about stress, worries, anxiety, and even self-doubt. We've all experienced that sensation of winged insects fluttering about in our gut when we start thinking about the person we admire: Will the two of us make it? Does he/she really like me, or is this all in my head? How can I make sure not to mess this one up?

If you're one of the people nervously asking yourself these things in the mirror - calm down, and don't sweat it. Put the blame on a hormone called cortisol.

When we become overly-excited or nervous about something, our bodies respond the same way they do when we are stressed: by releasing the "stress hormone", cortisol. When cortisol is released, it causes the blood vessels surrounding our gut to contract, and gives us those uncomfortable butterflies in-turn.

"I've Only Got Eyes For You"

Studies have found that our pupils dilate when we become excited or nervous - two very common emotions in newfound romance. So, the next time you catch your loved one looking at you wide-eyed, give them a kiss. Kissing the one you are romantically involved with has been found to stimulate the release of endorphins, which can give us a light feeling of a calming "high".

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