What falling in love does to your brain and body
Although we often associate love with our heart, the brain and body are really the powerhouse behind this exceptionally strong phenomenon.
Although our first instinct is to associate our hearts with love, the real culprit of these fluttery heart feelings are in fact a product of our brain’s activity. As our brain puts us in euphoric states that linger overtime, we are experiencing something like a reward system in our brain involving a neurotransmitter called dopamine.
As even thinking about that special someone can trigger a dopamine release, we often find ourselves feeling excited and eager to go to any length to fulfill this desire. According to Healthline, researchers explain that this biological process is what gets us hooked on seeing this special someone: it’s simple, we feel good, and we keep doing it to feel that rush.
Apart from dopamine, oxytocin surges also play a huge role in our brain forming attachments to that special someone, forging feelings of safety, comfort, and trust. Nicknamed ‘the love hormone’, oxytocin often gets stronger past the first rush, and strengthens after physical romantic interactions. Beyond this, oxytocin also decreases our interest in finding other partners. Since we feel so close and good with that special someone, we hope to get closer and closer with them overtime and toss away our search for new love.
Beyond chemicals and hormones in our brain, love also has us acting differently. From sacrificing things for the happiness, betterment, and/or support of our partner, our vagus nerve tends to sync with the other person’s. This pushes us to want to keep them from sadness, distress, and pain.
But let’s be real—if you’ve ever been in love, you know that that special someone is constantly circling through your thoughts. Maybe you even dream about them. According to research, the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain is related to obsessive-compulsive behaviours—circling thoughts that are quite normal when you first fall in love with someone. As they stay on your mind day and night, you desire to spend time with them and bond, increasing your chances of forming a relationship.
Beyond this, the oxytocin and dopamine increases can not only improve your mood, but also lead to lower stress levels. Having someone you’re close with and can trust is one of the biggest things that falling in love does for us.
There are also documented links to improved physical health—a decrease in risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, improved immune health, and quick recovery from illnesses are all in the line-up for love’s by-products. That being said, a healthy, loving relationship has been shown to be linked with a longer life span. There is also evidence that people feel less pain while they’re in love and use love as a distraction from that pain.
Although this all seems like a walk in a rose garden, unfortunately, these things can also get to the point where they’re harmful. Some relationships can actually cause stress and manifest feelings of anxiety, uncomfortableness (those butterflies in your stomach, they may not always be good!), lack of sleep, and loss of appetite due to constant thoughts, and poor judgement when you find yourself getting a little too consumed in the love story.
Opinion Editor (Volume 49) | firstname.lastname@example.org — Kareena is a third-year student completing a double-major in Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies and Philosophy, and minoring in Forensic Science. She has previously served as the Associate Opinion Editor for Volume 48. Through her involvement and contributions with The Medium, Kareena hopes to foster a safe and trusted space, while encouraging others to let their voices and stories be heard. When Kareena is not writing or studying, you can find her watching true crime mysteries or cooking.