The love cocktail

Have you ever been in love? We aren’t talking the calm, appreciative love you feel for a friend here; we are talking the intestine-melting, vision-singeing, and thought-frying state you find yourself in when you “fall” for someone. If your answer is “Yes” then you will know the mind and body changes that being “in love” brings. Now a new report has spelled out the hormonal and chemical changes within you that drive those changes.

Taking a step back from being in love yourself, do you know someone who is “in love”? Being totally candid with yourself for a moment, if you were given the option of chewing on aluminium foil while shaving your legs with a cheese grater or spending time as the “third wheel” with two people newly fallen in love, which would you choose? If you chose foil and grater then you are of sound mind because surely there are few more humiliating and simultaneously nauseating manifestations of the human condition than new love…provided of course you are on the outside of that love. Inside that love of course, is a wonderful, mystical, enchanting place that the rest of the world just doesn’t understand and it all floats blissfully on a soup of neurotransmitters and hormones.

In a new report researchers have pointed out that there are three phases to “love”; lust, attraction, and attachment and each phase has a different biological profile.

In “lust” levels of dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenalin increase. Dopamine creates feelings of euphoria while adrenaline and noradrenalin are responsible for the beating-of-the-heart, restlessness and overall preoccupation that go along with falling in love. In this phase you also have lower serotonin levels, which is common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders and may explain why you can concentrate on little other than your partner during the early stages of a relationship.

In the attraction phase blood flow increases to the pleasure centres in your brain which is why you feel a fixation on your partner.

Then you develop a tolerance to this heady chemical cocktail and possibly also to the object of your desire. Equally though you could progress into the attachment phase where the feel good hormones ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) and oxytocin flood the body creating an overall sense of well-being and security that is conducive to a lasting relationship.

So that is the chemical and biological underpinning of what has been summed up by many a poet as “Wow!”. It appears that love may well be a many-splendoured thing but it is also a many-chemicaled thing. You should feel free to dive into that seething biological stream with the eager anticipation and disregard for danger typical of any white-water rafter. However, you would be well advised to wear a helmet and emotional life-jacket (even if only to advertise the fact that you are, temporarily at least, on a sabbatical from normal life).

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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