The Science of Love

I read an article in the paper today which talked about how love is really just a chemical reaction, and possibly explains why it's so addictive.

When you are in the first stages of love, your body releases dopamine which is a pleasure chemical and produces a feeling of bliss. It also releases norepinephrine which is similar to adrenaline and causes you a racing heart and feeling of excitement. These two chemicals produce elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, loss of appetite and difficulty in concentrating. At this stage as well, people may find that they have lower levels of serotonin. Lower levels of serotonin can also be found in OCD sufferers, and could explain why people obsess about their partners.

As a relationship develops, further chemicals are thrown into the mix. During sex oxytonin is released which creates an emotional bond. In addition, there is vasopressin which is a hormone associated with the formation of long-term monogamous relationships. Interestingly though, oxytonin and vasopressin can interfere with the pathways of dopamine and norepinephrine which could explain why passionate love can fade as attachment grows. Endorphins are also released which are the body's natural painkillers and give a sense of peace, well-being and security.

Of course I don't believe that love and attraction are merely chemical reactions - there is so much more to it than that. But I think it goes a long way to explain why love can produce such strange and compulsive feelings at times - the feeling of being in love can in some ways be likened to a drug addict who is seeking their next hit. It's something that you can't control and which takes over your whole life - and now it looks as if there is a scientific reason why.


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