Love is an inevitable part of the human experience, and ironically, the least understood.
Love on the brain? Ever since the beginning of time, we have been trying to understand what this all-consuming, life-changing feeling is all about. But we haven’t reached satisfactory answers, or a definition of love that everyone can agree on. One thing we all agree on, though, is that love comes from the heart, right? Think again, because this tenet has been proven wrong.
Dr. Helen Fischer, an anthropologist and expert on romantic love, conducted thousands of fMRIs, and found that when one is in love, it is the hypothalamus that gets activated. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotions, sleep, hormones and physical expression of emotions. So, that urge you feel to hug, kiss and make love to your partner comes from here. Every time you cuddle or have sex with your partner, your body also releases oxytocin, which is the hormone responsible for attachment. This is how someone comes to be “special” to you.
The hypothalamus is also the pleasure-and-reward centre of the brain. When you’re in love, a large amount of the happy hormone called dopamine is released. This is registered in the hypothalamus as a reward, which kicks off a mechanism similar to addiction. In the presence of the object of your desire, happy hormones are released and you feel great. In their absence, the level of these hormones dips … and you feel like shit. All you want then, is for your lover to come back. Sounds like addiction, right?
According to Dr. Helen Fisher, love has the three characteristics of addiction: tolerance, withdrawal and relapse:
Tolerance means that you want to see more and more of your partner to feel the same level of happiness and satisfaction. You want to go from dinner dates every weekend to mid-week lunches, to nights over, to moving in together.
Withdrawal means that when your partner is not around, you don’t feel good. You feel low, unhappy and crave them.
Relapse is extremely common. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as actually getting back with your partner, but even when you’re reminded of them, you are relapsing.
Have you ever wondered why you feel more energetic and generally healthier when you’re in love? That sparkle in the eyes of those in love isn’t mythical or just a fancy twist of words. Love is a visceral experience, and your body chemistry changes because of it. It is an antidote to illnesses and actually increases one’s lifespan. It makes sense that the pain of losing a loved one is so extreme, and hard to bounce back from. Because just like love, breaking up is also biological.
Curated by Erbe