Monday, October 25, 2010

The Chemistry of Love

What exactly is in Cupid's arrow?

According to an article on YourTango, falling in love takes a fifth of a second.

When you fall in love, twelve areas of the brain sync up to release "happy" chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine and adrenaline. Like a love potion concocted by the brain itself, these chemicals induce feelings of euphoria in the brain's cognitive centers that manage metaphors, language comprehension, visual processing and body image. The whole process occurs faster than you can even blink.

This article explored "love at first sight" vs. love that grows over time suggesting that the "realization point" -- the point we realized we were attracted -- feels like an epiphany. (I guess that's when all that "chemistry" happens.)

It's interesting that (if I'm understanding this right) the "love" chemicals are induced in the cognitive centers that "manage metaphors, language comprehension, visual processing and body image." There's a specific part of our brain that manages metaphors? And a part of our brain manages "body image"? Weird.. I wonder if these are the same areas of the brain that get affected when we get drunk. It could explain why we don't know what we're talking about (let alone use a proper metaphor), can't see straight, and why we think everyone is so much better-looking (body image impairment) when we're drunk or in love.

Anyway, back to chemicals. Here's another article about the chemistry of love that explains the roles of estrogen and testosterone (for the sex drive) and how dopamine (pleasure) and norepinephrine (racing heart) combine to create "elation,intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, loss of appetite and focused attention." Oxytocin apparently is released during the big 'O' (which may be a good mnemonic device if you're ever getting quizzed on this stuff) which helps create an emotional bond. Endorphins are another hormone released during sex,producing "a general sense of well-being, including feeling soothed, peaceful and secure."

And once again, the subject of dwindling romantic love rears it's head:

The feelings of passionate love, however, do lose their strength over time. Studies have shown that passionate love fades quickly and is nearly gone after two or three years. The chemicals responsible for "that lovin' feeling" (adrenaline, dopamine, norepinephrine, phenylethylamine, etc.) dwindle. Suddenly your lover has faults. Why has he or she changed, you may wonder. Actually, your partner probably hasn't changed at all; it's just that you're now able to see him or her rationally, rather than through the blinding hormones of infatuation and passionate love. At this stage, the relationship is either strong enough to endure, or the relationship ends.

The article also mentions the addictive quality.. a "love high".. and how some people go through relationship after relationship to get a love fix.

As I concluded from the discussion of limerence, this does not sound healthy... it sounds a lot like drugs... Feels great, but it's totally irrational, addictive, and doesn't last.

Now that I realize love is like drugs (note the metaphor) I'm feeling much better about the fact that it is currently missing from my life. Yippee!

1 comment:

human pheromones said...

To accept that chemistry of love for desire might be a natural part of love, but that the total feeling was more spiritual, an intense one-ness, didn't jibe with classical teachings.