Love is one of the most extraordinary sensations a human being can experience. Corn, have you ever broken your soul Have you broken your heart to pieces?
The love drug: why is love addicting?
The chemistry of love is able to make you feel on the rise, take you on a descent, or make you feel like someone’s ape. This love is like a drug is totally real, and it has some really curious side effects.
As a study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine points out, when love is broken, such as when a person is addicted to drugs, the consequences of addiction are so strong that they can lead to serious depressive and obsessive behaviors. As we saw in a recent article, love can lead to emotional dependence. In the following lines, you will know why.
The chemicals and hormones that love generates
Love releases dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, so when we fall in love we feel energized, energized, and our perception of life is magnificent. But the neurochemical effects of falling in love happen in spurts and over time, just like when a person uses drugs for a long period of time for an extended period, tolerance comes along or what is commonly referred to as habituation.
When the chemical cascade diminishes, many people interpret it as a loss of love (MacDonald & MacDonald, 2010). What is really happening is that the neural receptors have already got used to this excess chemical flow and the lover has to increase the dose to keep feeling the same. It can turn a natural fluctuation into a crisis, and the beautiful phrase can come: “I don’t feel the same anymore. But leaving a relationship isn’t always that easy.
The brain needs a recovery process to return to normal chemical flow levels and it needs time to regain its stability.
Oxytocin: A hug is worth a thousand words
The chemical cascade can make us lose our minds, but why is it happening?
Expert neurologists like Gareth Leng believe that oxytocin helps forge permanent bonds between lovers after the first wave of emotion. The hormone works by “altering the connections” of billions of neural circuits. This hormone is known as the confidence or cuddle neurotransmitter and is released in large amounts during orgasm and in smaller amounts when holding your hand or when animals lick their babies.
Oxytocin is an endogenous substance (secreted by the body) and acts like a medicine (exogenous substance introduced into the body from the outside), releasing transmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine (norepyrephrine) or serotonin. These neurotransmitters allow phenylethylamine to flood the brain. This chemical compound belongs to the amphetamine family and has a brain duration of about 4 years according to the theory of Donald F. Klein and Michael Lebowitz which appeared in the 80s. Chocolate is rich in this compound, so it is common for excessive amounts of being consumed during the love affair.
Reptiles release oxytocin during sex, but mammals produce it all the time.. This is why reptiles stay away from other reptiles except during mating, while mammals cling to parents, litters or flocks. The more oxytocin is released, the more you feel united with the other person. But keep in mind that the levels of segregation of neurotransmitters or hormones also depend on our beliefs and our perception of things. The ideas, prejudices, values, experiences, expectations or fantasies that we have can cause us to release more or less chemicals. This process follows a fixed pattern: more contact, more oxytocin, more trust (more strengthening of neural connections). Expectations or imagination also act as a form of contact and follow this pattern.
But we do not realize that obviously, lovers do not always live up to the expectations of the other, whether they are realistic or not. This can lead to a state of frustration. Outraged, contact with an ex-partner can rekindle this pattern or connection between neurons, which is why most love psychologists recommend all-or-nothing therapy to overcome a breakup. By not keeping in touch with the loved one, the bonds weaken and over time, relapses become less frequent.
Oxytocin also plays an important role in jealousy. For the mammalian brain, any loss of confidence is a life-threatening emergency. When a sheep separates from the herd, oxytocin levels drop and cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is the sensation we experience in the form of fear, panic, or anxiety. It works for sheep by motivating them to reconnect with the flock before eating it alive. In humans, cortisol turns frustrated expectations or lack of confidence into emergency situations.
Serotonin: the neurotransmitter of happiness
Achieving respect is good because it stimulates the release of serotonin (Cozolino, 2006). In the animal world, social domination leads to more mating opportunities and more offspring. Animals don’t dominate for conscious long-term goals, they dominate because serotonin makes them feel good.
You will see this in many people, and by itself you have to admit that the romantic attention of a person of higher status triggers strong feelings and makes you feel good. The problem arises because the brain always wants more respect for getting more serotonin. Your partner may give you this feeling at first and may give you the respect you need or help you feel respected by others.. But his brain takes the respect it already has for granted, and over time it wants more and more to get a bigger dose of good feelings. This is why some people are always more demanding of their loved ones, and others, are constantly looking for partners or lovers of higher status. Self-esteem plays an important role in this and, in order not to fall into error, it helps to better understand the origins of our neurochemical impulses.
Serotonin acts on emotions and mood. It is responsible for well-being, generates optimism, good humor and sociability and is known to play an important role in inhibiting anger and aggression. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and obsession (symptoms of lack of love). Antidepressants are responsible for increasing serotonin levels to correct neurochemical deficiency, which is why Prozac (the most famous antidepressant on the planet) is called the happiness drug.
Constant positive experiences and positive thoughts also increase serotonin levels. On the other hand, unpleasant thoughts, bad news, talking about sad and worrying things or getting angry completely inhibits the activation of serotonin.
Dopamine: lovers of love
Dopamine is linked to pleasure, and it is the neurotransmitter which plays an important role in gambling, drug use, and also in love. When we fall in love, dopamine is released, which makes couples euphoric and energetic. “If someone is unique in their life and focuses on that person, it is because the dopaminergic system has been activated”, explains Helen Fisher (2004), anthropologist and biologist.
Dopamine is important because it is involved in the reward system. Pleasure makes us feel good, whether we are having sex, eating food, and doing things that allow us to survive. But both in drugs and in love, when the external (drug) or internal (oxytocin) stimulus goes away, it can create serious problems for a person. Then the monkey and the obsession appear.
Noradrenaline: the dose of adrenaline
Norepinephrine or norepinephrine is the neurotransmitter that induces euphoria in the brain, exciting the body and giving it a natural dose of adrenaline. This makes the heart beat faster, blood pressure rises and makes us breathe harder so that more oxygen reaches the blood. It causes the symptom of sweaty palms and redness of the early stages of love.
The drug of love against reason
Animals are surprisingly demanding with whom they mate. Free love is unnatural. In each species, the sex has a bit of foreplay. Animals only have sex when the female is actively fertile, with the exception of bonobos (which do so for food and to resolve conflicts). Female chimpanzees only have sex every five years. The rest of the time, they are pregnant or breastfeeding, and without ovulation, males are not interested. When the opportunity presents itself, it is an important event. Natural selection has produced a brain in humans that has evolved to maximize reproduction, and happiness neurochemists have evolved to promote reproductive behaviors. It doesn’t make much sense in a world with pressures on birth control and sustainability. But in the wild you had to focus on breeding lots of babies. Therefore, natural selection created a brain with happy chemicals to reward reproductive behavior.
Love promotes reproduction, which causes a lot of chemicals that produce happiness. Sex is only one aspect of reproductive behavior. Love motivates you to travel the world to be alone with that special someone. Of course, that reason is above these biological banalities, but happiness neurochemists make you feel so good about being in love, that the brain is looking for ways to make the most of it. Neurochemists do their job without words, and we search for words to explain the insanity of our motives. Sometimes it is easier to deceive or manipulate than to try to figure it out.
To summarize, we want to be happy and have as many happiness neurochemists as possible. We expect this from love and other aspects of life. But no matter how many neurochemicals we get, in the long run the brain gets used to falling in love like when there is tolerance to the drug. Knowing why this is happening can help you manage your behavior despite confusing neurochemical signals.
There is good news. Don’t blame yourself if it’s not the same as the first day with your partner. You have to know how to distinguish love from falling in love. Love has to do with beliefs and values and falling in love is a series of chemical reactions produced in different regions of the brain that make us have an idyllic view of a person. Still, that’s not bad at all, you just have to live with the operating system that has kept humans alive for millions of years.
- Fisher, H. (2004). Why we love: the nature and chemistry of romantic love. New York: Henry Holt.
- Izard, CE (1991). The psychology of emotions. New York: Plenum Press.
- Colomi, RE (1982). Link theory. Buenos Aires: new vision.