Why We Are Addicted To Love
Your Brain System
Without getting too technical, when you are in love with someone your brain gets pumped with dopamine. Dopamine is a natural stimulant that is produced in the VTA or ventral tegmental area. Once produced in the VTA the dopamine gets pumped to other parts of the brain and creates the blissful feeling of euphoria and love. The best part about this is that not only do you feel love when you are with the person you are in love with, you feel love when you are just thinking of them, smell something of theirs, or read a text message from them.
“You can think of love as an intense obsession, but it’s really an addiction. You think about them all the time; you become sexually possessive; you get butterflies in the stomach; you can read their emails and texts over and over again.” — Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist
It has also been found that not only does the ventral tegmental area of our brain gets stimulated when we have fallen in love but the nucleus accumbens also gets a hit. The nucleus accumbens is the part of the brain that favors addiction. It is the same part of the brain that lights up when we feel a rush from gambling, drinking or stealing. The nucleus accumbens fires off for people that have recently fallen in love and that is why love can be seen as an addiction because chemically we feel the same way as we would with any other addictive activity. Then how does something so scientific feel like such magic?
“You can know every single ingredient in a piece of chocolate cake and still sit down and eat the cake and feel that joy. The same with love. There will always be magic to love.”- Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist
I suppose no matter how much we learn or study about the brain on romantic love there will always be a simplicity to it. Love is such a magical feeling that no matter how much we learn and know about the chemical ongoings in our brain we still feel just as giddy, just as blissful. That is the beauty of it all. We can “know” or think we “know” a lot about love and the romantic brain but at the end of the day, it will all feel the same, just love.
Love & Sex
What about sex? Is casual sex still a thing or is that not allowed anymore because our brains will trick us into falling for anyone that we sleep with? Well, technically yes, our brain can make us fall in love someone that we set out to just have casual feelings for. With that being said, you should not sleep with someone unless you are open to falling in love with them. The only way to avoid this is when there are natural and clear barriers. For example, if you live in Australia but are on holiday in Europe, you can sleep with someone in Europe and have the physical barrier of distance keep your relationship casual. Otherwise, you may fall in love with the person you just thought would be a casual hookup because there is a chance of seeing them again and feelings can arise just from the sight or thought of that person after you sleep with them.
“So there are all these potential chemical triggers that can get activated when you have sex with someone, whether it’s “casual” or not. Something like one-third of people who’ve had a “friends with benefits” relationship has fallen madly in love with that person.” — Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist
Therefore, all the times your parents told you to wait until you were emotionally ready to have sex, they were right. You can’t have a casual sex life without the risk of falling in love. Sometimes it works out and you can keep it casual but most likely you will end up in love or heartbroken so before you sleep with someone keep all of this in mind.
Men vs. Women
Once love has befallen us, men and women, both react differently. Men tend to be more open and share feelings after they feel safe with a woman and are in love. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more open with their girlfriends so they don’t necessarily divulge every bit of their lives and feelings to the man they are with. This is why studies have shown that men are 2.5 more likely to commit suicide after a relationship ends than a woman is because they do not have the outlet for emotions that they once did. Men’s support network is much more limited so if things end then it can go dark much faster than with women.
A Healthy Heart
After learning that love is an addiction, regarding brain chemicals and the dopamine that is released, is it safe to love? Of course, just because love can be addictive doesn’t mean that it is bad. You can love and be loved in a healthy way. You just don’t let the addiction turn into an obsession. That is when things become unhealthy. Love can feel so good that you become obsessed and feel like you need it every second.
Not only does your mind get all warm and fuzzy when you fall in love but love is also good for your health overall. When you find love you are able to have health benefits beyond just euphoria. You will live longer, especially males if you have a love in your life. Your brain is affected almost immediately. You also become a bit hazy in the mind. When you are in love your focus can be blurred and somewhat a flawed judgement. It is similar to an opioid high.
“Scientists have suggested that this system may have evolved to help us choose the best mate by giving rise to rewarding feelings when we see that potential partner.”- Caroline Gregoire, blogger
Different stages of life and love can also alter your brain chemistry depending on what point of your life you are in and how long you have been in love. If you have been in love for twenty years, you still get surges of euphoria when you see your partner or even just the thought of them can bring you happiness. Your brain has been completely changed and has remained altered for the length of your relationship. That is why when a relationship ends it still hurts for awhile after a breakup because your brain needs to rework itself completely to adjust to the new life.
In summation, your brain is the true defining reason why you fall in love and why love makes you feel so much wonder. Love is a chemical reaction in your brain and after that reaction, you will continually feel that feeling throughout your relationship. Pick up a shirt of his and you will feel a rush of love. And if you have not met anyone yet considers joining Hily. An online dating app where you can fall in love today!