Is love a lie? Great question! We like to joke about it, because nihilism is one (1) free and legal coping mechanism that’s available to us all at any given time of the day and night, but what do we really think? Today we’re attempting to find an answer, once and for all, for the record and for the good of the people. On which side of this proverbial and eternal fence will we land? Keep reading to find out!
We do wild things when we’re falling in love, and if you’re queer, I’m willing to bet that your greatest hits are especially outrageous. Maybe your first date turned into a week-long slumber party, or maybe you moved across the country for some babe you met on Goodreads. If your romantic shenanigans make your cheeks flush with embarrassment, you’re not alone. We all get a little giddy when we’re falling in love, and for that, we have science to blame.
Love is pure. Love is real. But mostly, love is a bunch of neurotransmitters. Here are some scientific explanations for the weird things that happen to your body when you’re smitten.
1. You can’t stop thinking about your crush.
Your crush is topping the hell out of your hedonistic brain. Thinking about your person triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates your brain’s pleasure center. Every thought about your person gives you another dopamine hit, which is basically a braingasm. When you get to talk to your sweetheart or see them IRL, your brain is flooded with even more dopamine. More time with your crush = more reward (i.e. bigger, better braingasms). Your brain wants to keep the good feelings going, so your mind keeps wandering back to the source.
2. You’re so excited and you just can’t hide it.
You might describe this feeling as “butterflies in your stomach,” your heart “skipping a beat” or “SHEER PANIC.” You can thank adrenaline and norepinephrine, the hormones that are responsible for getting you AMPED. Your body releases these hormones during times of stress, like when you narrowly avoid an oncoming car or when you brush arms with that hot cashier when she’s handing you your change, giving you sweaty palms, a racing heart and digestive upset.
3. You feel, as Beyoncé once said, “drunk in love.”
When you’re falling head over heels, your oxytocin levels surge. Our bodies produce the hormone oxytocin during sex, childbirth, breastfeeding, cuddling and other forms of physical and social bonding. Research shows that oxytocin and alcohol have similar effects on the brain. Both mellow us out and lower our inhibitions, but fortunately, only one of them gives you a hangover.
4. You get giant heart eyes.
Oxytocin can make your pupils dilate, and some studies suggest that pupil dilation also occurs when sighted people are looking at someone or something that sparks their sexual interest. This effect is called “mydriasis,” and it explains why you might get giant anime eyes when you’re staring at the object of your affection.
5. You feel like you’re addicted to your person.
Well, that’s because you are. Remember your friend dopamine? When you’re not in the presence of your sweetheart during the early stages of love, your brain isn’t getting those dopamine hits, so your body releases Corticoliberin, a stress response that makes you feel anxious and depressed. You won’t be satisfied until you get more time with your person.
6. You feel physically better.
If you experience chronic pain, you might get some relief when you’re in love. Participants in a study for the Scandinavian Journal of Pain reported that the presence of a loved one decreased acute pain, and according to a Stanford study, the parts of the brain that “light up” when you spend time with someone you love are the same parts that “light up” when you take pain relieving medication. Even just thinking about your person has some effect. In the wise words of Ke$ha, “Your love is my drug.”
If you’re feeling a sense of physical well-being in your happy, loving relationship, you might actually be healthier overall. Some studies suggest that being in a fulfilling, long-term, relationship can lower your blood pressure, decrease your risk of heart disease and strengthen your immune system.
Have you experienced any of these effects? Drop your thoughts in the comments.
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