What Does Love Do to Your Body?
February 14, 2018
Are you in love? How does it make you feel? Do you feel lighter on your feet? Have you been sleeping better recently? Maybe you feel nervous when your partner isn’t around? You surely feel something, and you’ve probably attributed it to simply being in love. That’s the simple explanation, though. Love, like most emotions, causes physical and chemical reactions in your body. Love, unlike most emotions, causes very strong physical and chemical reactions. Love can make you lightheaded, but will keep you from getting headaches.
The Butterflies and Signs of Love
Before you’re in love, you probably start with a date. Going in for a kiss. Watching your partner from across the room, worrying if you’re being creepy. Wondering if you’re smiling too much while they talk. When preparing yourself to interact with someone you’re attracted to, you might notice that your palms are sweaty, your knees are weak, your cheeks are flush, and your heartbeat is racing. This isn’t normal nerves: a sudden rush of adrenaline and norepinephrine is rushing over your body. Naturally, you will have a feeling of craving, and feel the need to focus all of your attention on one specific person.
On that first date, you can probably tell if you’re in love or not. You’ll start by having lingering thoughts that the person is unique, or “the one.” It will be hard to find anything negative about them. Your emotions will be suddenly out of control. You’ll start to think about the future.
Then it will get more intense. First, your pupils will dilate, as if they’re locking onto their target. Then, you’ll start to see signs that you’re sick. You’ll lose your appetite, your stomach will do flips, and there will be a general unease — this is when the real butterflies start to kick in. It’s almost impossible to test what exactly this is, but doctor’s have a good guess. (As wonderful as it would be to capture the moment people fall in love in a laboratory, the romantics of the world will note that it’s very difficult.) “Lovesickness,” as it’s commonly known, is likely caused by the stress hormone cortisol retreating into the stomach, causing the dilation of blood vessels. This will go away with time, but may come back during big moments — like your wedding.
Love is a Drug
Love is a lot like being drunk. When your drunk, your inhibitions are limited. You feel less fear, and less judged. You’re likely to be more angry, aggressive, or bashful. Alcohol isn’t the only way to get this feeling, though. You can get it naturally with oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel like a superhero. Oxytocin is also referred to as the “love hormone,” because oxytocin is released in droves when you fall in love.
Oxytocin can do more than just make you feel drunk. Do you remember the episode of The Incredible Hulk where a mother lifts a car off of her son? It was an adrenaline rush, the episode explains — a mother can do anything for her son. This may seem entirely impossible, but it’s actually been known to happen. Referred to as “hysterical strength,” the hormonal combination of love and fear allows us to perform seemingly superhuman tasks.
There’s still more, though. Much like too much alcohol can lead to alcoholism, love can leave you with a new addiction — your partner. According to a study performed by Rutgers University in 2010, the release of dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline, and vasopressin when you’re in love is very similar to drug addiction. They are released in many ways at many times, and (just like with drugs) consistent exposure leads to addiction.
Together and Apart
If love is a drug, then you can have withdrawal symptoms. When your partner leaves, there is an increase in corticotropin releasing factor. This hormone leads to a spike in anxiety and depression, which can explain why you’re more nervous when your partner isn’t around. Long distance relationship require learning how to cope with this, though the connection can go beyond physical. Couples may attach through voice, text, and several other mediums.
Non-long distance relationships have their coping mechanism, too: kissing. Each time you kiss someone you’re in love with, it releases positive hormones like dopamine. While there is diminishing returns over time, the feeling will never truly fade for two love birds. People in love may sleep better, as well. The presence of your partner while you’re laying down will help your heartbeat relax. Sleep together long enough, and you’ll notice that your heartbeats match.