Human interaction is not as simple as it seems. Everything we do is connected to both our brain and body. The most basic functional unit of our body might just be the answer to why, how, and when we fall in love.
We’re taught the basics of chemistry in school, like how oxygen and hydrogen make up water. But if we advance our learning and understanding of the minute processes that make up simple objects, we may be able to better understand our relationships.
If you dig down further, you will see that chemistry plays an integral part in our personalities. That is why mental and personality disorders are considered medical problems—because they can be broken down by anatomy and chemistry.
People who suffer from depression experience a drop in dopamine, and people who are addicted to certain substances experience fluctuations of dopamine. That’s just an example, but you will see how it plays out when it comes to interacting with people.
We are who we are because of these processes. And it’s these same chemical processes in the brain that determine whether we like one person or “type” of person in particular.
How does chemistry play into romance?
Not many people acknowledge that the chemical processes in our brains are what cause us to act a certain way. They don’t just influence our decisions, but are rather what cause us to make those decisions.
In terms of love and relationships, chemical processes play an important part. The simple explanation is that a gland inside our brain secretes certain hormones that make us contemplate, react, and take action.
When we start getting involved with someone, our brains undergo a complete overhaul. The feelings we experience on a daily basis shift to accommodate the new emotions that we are processing. [Read: The little things in love that make romance better]
Most experts say that being in love is one of the most dangerous feelings a person can experience. It is the equivalent of being hopped up on cocaine. Once it stops, you experience withdrawal that can be similar to that of a substance abuser.
What are the chemical processes involved in romance?
Don’t write off romance just yet, because there’s more to it than being addicted to the feeling of being in love. There are so many chemical processes involved in interacting with people, making it such a complex matter. This is why we sometimes think of love as having a “magic” to it.
The various stages of love and attraction
#1 When you start to like a person. This is driven by the hormones testosterone and estrogen, for men and women respectively. No matter what your sexual orientation is, these are the two most basic substances that get you riled up about someone you like.
When you start to like someone, there will be a surge in the amount of the hormone your body produces. This is most likely triggered by visual stimuli *i.e. their physical appearance* but it can also be triggered by the pheromones that they emit. [Read: 28 hush-hush signs someone has a big crush on you]
Pheromones are emitted through the sweat glands. Contrary to popular belief, they are not the natural odor that we emit. Body odor is simply the waste secreted by bacteria and fungi on the body.
The moment you feel an attraction for someone, you will start to secrete more of your own pheromones in the hopes that their body will respond to yours.
#2 When you feel infatuated. This is what you initially assume to be love. It can be love at first sight, or love that happens in a longer span of time. We can’t readily confirm that it is, indeed, love, since there’s no scientific basis for that yet.
For now, certain parts of your brain are secreting adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin because of your infatuation. Adrenaline gives you a heightened and intense feeling. It’s what you can call a rush of emotions. [Read: Infatuation vs. love: 14 ways you can tell the difference]
Dopamine gives you a happy feeling. It’s the main component that gives drug users their high. It is also the happy feeling you get from strong painkillers like morphine, which is, unsurprisingly, a byproduct of cocaine and heroine use.
Serotonin’s job is to balance a person’s mood. If it falls below a certain level, you will undergo mild depression. Extreme deficiency can cause more serious mental problems. When you’re attracted to someone, your serotonin levels increase. This is actually the reason why more dopamine is released.
#3 When you fall in love. Without having to confirm the science, you can develop romantic feelings identifiable as romantic love. This phase is when your body has grown accustomed to the increased levels of the hormones mentioned above.
Scientists believe that the hormone oxytocin is involved in the development of romantic feelings between two human beings. It is the hormone that allows you to create a romantic bond with your partner. [Read: 19 sure signs of falling in love and what to watch out for!]
The secretion of oxytocin transmits a signal to your brain saying, “This is your mate. You love them.” This, in turn, is what makes you feel like you’re in love. The downside is that you’re now technically “addicted” to your partner. With all that dopamine running through your system, this effect isn’t at all surprising.
Don’t feel disheartened by this piece of information, as this is just the science behind it. Love is still a powerful emotion, and no amount of chemistry can take away from that.
#4 When you feel horny. Once you’re all lovey-dovey and googly-eyed, the next step in the relationship is to become intimate with each other. It’s not mandatory, but your body might feel otherwise. When you feel highly attracted to your partner, your body will start to undergo the first stages of sexual arousal. [Read: How to create sexual chemistry and make it stay]
This is when the penis and the vulva start filling with blood. It’s more noticeable in men than it is in women, due to the visibility of the sexual organs in men. The cause of visible arousal is an increase in the hormones testosterone and estrogen. When someone is aroused, the body gears up to increase that initial burst of lust. That’s where sex *or the thought of sex* comes in.
#5 When you feel heartbroken. When your heart gets broken, the first thing your brain does is find ways to protect itself. That’s where the five stages of grief come into play. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In terms of brain chemistry, the pain that you feel starts to trigger a massive dump and surge of different hormones.
Dopamine levels gradually decrease, which causes a person to undergo theoretical withdrawal. This is what causes the stages of denial and anger. The bargaining stage is caused by the loss of dopamine. That’s because your brain is itching to get its fix. During this time, you might start acting *for lack of a better word* crazy. [Read: 10 quick pick-me-ups for the recently heartbroken]
This is where your personality comes into play. You either take a healthy path toward moving on, or push through with risky behavior, substance abuse, and acting out. We hope you’re the type of person who leans toward the former!
#6 When you feel unappreciated. Feeling unappreciated is almost the same as feeling rejected. The same chemical processes are happening in both circumstances. The most active substances that are involved are dopamine and cortisol.
Dopamine doesn’t just affect people who are in love. It can also be secreted when you feel happy about other things. One such thing is being appreciated by the people around you—more specifically, the people you love. [Read: How to get your self-esteem back after a breakup]
When they stop giving you the affection that you’re used to getting, you may experience a feeling that is slightly less intense than a heartbreak. Your cortisol levels will rise as well, because your body doesn’t know how to process the lack of stimuli from your partner *i.e. their attention*. Your brain can only control so much, and that does not include how other people treat you.
#7 When you fall out of love. According to some scientists, many people experience the feeling of “mate rejection” when they fall out of love. This is when your brain starts reprogramming your emotions to prepare for a breakup.
This theory was tested by giving subjects serotonin-suppressing antidepressants. This type of drug interaction can cause the dopamine production in the brain to decrease. [Read: 12 signs that you’re starting to fall out of love]
The results showed that testosterone levels decreased, meaning that the attraction for their partner decreased as well. They also found that it triggered a need for sexual variety in men. This may correlate to the study of knowing when and why men cheat.
The basic gist of it all is that when a person falls out of love, the hormones that aid in dopamine secretion and production have either stopped functioning or have drastically decreased. [Read: 13 subtle changes in your partner that are red flags]
#8 When you realize that it’s okay to fall in love again. When your brain has fully recovered from the heartbreak you’ve experienced, it’s finally ready to repeat the cycle of falling in love.
There may still be some aftereffects of the trauma you’ve experienced, but it’s safe to say that you can just as easily fall in love again. It may be a little slower this time around.
[Read: Love chemistry and sparks in love]
Knowing how the brain works can be helpful, as it allows you to comprehend just what is happening when you’re falling in love. Using the outline above, you can identify the stages of your romantic relationship and gain your footing as you shift in and out of attraction, love, and heartache.
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