11 September 2011

The Science of Falling in Love

"Love is a temporary disease curable by marriage"
Let me begin by apologizing to those who are much passionate about their lovers and associated fancies, for rationalizing their feeling. How many of you have thought about the fact that the much-praised, much-glorified, much-romanticized thing called 'falling in love' is basically chemical in nature? Now let us have a talk on the science of falling in love:
According to Dr. Helen Fischer, an anthropologist and researcher in Rutgers University, USA, love has three distinct stages namely
1. Lust
2. Attraction and
3. Attachment
       If these three stages of your love happen with the same person, you have a very strong bond.
       After seeing the meaning of 'lust' in your English dictionary, don't misinterpret the first stage. Lust is your 'desire to experience love' and for most of you people, that stage might be long gone during your teenage days. For your romantic partner, you may or may not feel lust, both being normal according to Dr. Lisa Diamond (Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol 13 no. 3) Lust is driven by the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.
       Attraction is what we refer to as 'love' in common language and what we write stories and songs upon. This stage is a playground of a large number of intense chemical reactions. Most often, this begins in the form of infatuation- an unbearable attraction towards someone. This stage is carried out by a virtual explosion of a few neurochemicals that are similar to the stress hormone adrenaline. Yes, it means a pleasant stress: your knees shake, palms sweat, heartbeat and pulse shoot up, you breath heavily and so on. This is caused by the release of a natural chemical called Phenylethylamine (PEA, nicknamed 'the molecule of love'). The release of PEA can even be triggered by very simple things like meeting of eyes or touching of hands. (Since the sense of men are more visual in nature, it is observed that men get love-stricken easily.) Assisted by the chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrin, PEA creates a state of emergency in your body! At that time your condition will be no different from a drug addict. You get addicted to these chemicals. It seems your entire existence depends on the source of their release, that is the person who triggered it. As long as these chemicals are there in your body, you feel energized or even floating on air and you can talk with your partner for hours on end without fatigue. Put the blame on these chemicals, all the attributes of social obligations, other relations, sense, sensibility etc you had kept in mind for matching get neglected and you fall in love with a person without any of those qualifications. Literally your mind soars with these chemicals.
       Researchers in the University College of London discovered that people in love show lower levels of serotonin similar to the case of those affected by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That explains why people in love often get obsessed by their partner. Researchers also found that the neural circuits associated with the way one assess others are suppressed. That means your way of assessment get tampered and you tend to idealize your partner and you don't see any flaws in her or him! 
       Attachment, actually, is the stage of real love. You enter that stage after passing the fantasy world of attraction. Feelings of passionate love in the attraction stage (or the chemicals responsible for that) are not long lasting. They diminish after 3 or 4 years. After that, suddenly your lover has faults and maybe you complain that she or he has changed a lot. But actually they might not have changed at all! Only thing is, you have started seeing him rationally without the blinding chemicals. Thank to the hormones Oxytocin, Vasopressin and Endorphin, otherwise your relation will come to end soon. These chemicals are released when having sex. Oxytocin is called cuddling hormone and it promotes the need to be physically held, have close contact with the mate and makes both the partners more caring. Endorphins are chemicals that make a relationship steadier, intimate, dependable, warm and a great sharing experience. They do not induce an 'emotional high' as the PEA does, but induce calmness and stability. Hence they are the reason why people stay married. They trigger grief on a spouse’s death or long separation. Vasopressin is another hormone responsible for long-term relations and also for the monogamy. Vasopressin helps you cling to your partner, even in spite of small adjustment problems. According to Dr. Fischer, Oxytocin and Vasopressin interfere with the pathways of Dopamine and norepinephrine thus explaining why passionate love fades as attachment grows. Endorphins are body's natural pain killers. They also produce a general sense of well-being, including feeling soothed, peaceful and secure.
        Next time when you are enjoying your time with your partner, thank these chemicals for the pleasure part.

1 comment:

  1. This is very interesting :) - makes life a lot easier than before..