Love is a phenomenon that strikes at least once in our lives. As Valentines Day comes upon us, though, it might make one question: what is the science behind why we fall in love?
Science has long since tried to crack the code behind the butterflies that often flutter in our stomachs when we lock eyes with the one we love.
What is it? Why does it happen?
An assortment of chemicals light up our lives by creating a chain reaction that is triggered in our bodies.This reaction is our brain’s very own love potion, brewed carefully and quickly just for us.
On average, according to a study by Richard Schwartz and Jacqueline Olds, our brains give us anywhere between 4 seconds to 1 minute to figure out if we’ve been struck by cupid’s arrow (source).
Basically, love is a chemical reaction that can’t be fought. It’s natural. It’s real.
HERE ARE THE 3 SCIENTIFIC STAGES THAT HAPPEN WHEN YOU FALL IN LOVE:
This first stage of love has a huge impact on who we choose to date. It’s not possible to tell someone’s personality before you ever speak to them (unless you’re a mind-reader), so people often approach, or swipe right on, their partners based solely on the fact that they’re attracted to the way they look.
Lust occurs in the hypothalamus. This is the area of the brain that’s responsible for estrogen and testosterone production.
A hormone closely related to dopamine and norepinephrine is also responsible for lust. The effects of norepinephrine, or noradrenaline as it’s sometimes called, makes you feel alert and energetic. It can also decrease appetite and lead to a euphoric state of mind. It’s the reason why, when you first meet that special someone, you can’t stop thinking about them, why your palms get sweaty, why your stomach hurts when they’re not around. Falling in love often feels the same as a hangover or an anxiety attack. Norepinephrine is the reason why.
Attraction, the second “stage” of love, is a formula derived from serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
This formula is what triggers a sense of infatuation. Basically, these three chemicals in our brain cause a reaction very similar to a drug. It gets us high on someone else. The common side-effects include: a surge of energy, increase in productivity, increase in sleep, and dilated pupils.
The final stage of falling: love. This is often considered the most long lasting reaction, because once you get here, you’ve reached the ultimate, all-consuming kind of love.
The chemicals involved in this process are called Oxytocin and Vasopressin. These are peptide hormones consisting of a chain of amino acid residues, the same as proteins.
Oxytocin is one of the most powerful hormones released in the human body. It formulates attachment to another person and plays a key role in the engagement between two people. Vasopressin usually performs its operations in the kidney and is actually a tool that our bodies use to control thirst. However, when it comes to love, the secretion of vasopressin between two people plays a huge role in attraction, attachment, and a feeling of security.
This may not seem very romantic – the secretion of chemicals in your pituitary gland – but these chemicals are the reason for that palm sweaty, heart heavy kind of love.
In many ways – it’s actually very romantic. Our bodies are our very own Cupid and our hormones, our arrow. We should thank our bodies for bringing that special someone into our lives.
On this Valentines Day, remember: Science is what lies behind all of the chocolate and romance.