The Real Love Drug… Neurobiology’s Best Kept Secret — From the moment he first saw her in the distance something about her stood out and at the same time, something stirred deep within him.
It caught her by surprise, but when he came into view, there was something in his walk, the way he moved that caused her to look again, and deep inside something stirred within her.
The Real Love Drug — Neurobiology’s Best Kept Secret
Attraction…mankind has been trying to understand it for as long as the human race has existed. We all say we want to find that special chemistry with a person, but do we really know what’s in that real love drug?
While history is full of theories as to why certain men are attracted to certain women, it took until the 20th century to realize there is actually a chemical science, a real love drug behind love and attraction. Finding your ideal mate in life simply boils down to neurobiology and the understanding of both your partner’s, as well as your own attachment styles.
When two people meet, and electricity fills the air, something amazing happens – we experience a “drug” overdose. Inside our body, primary chemicals flare up and mix the same way a martini does when shaken. Testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin come together to form the perfect “love drug”. The amazing complexity of this mixture is found in the way these magical ingredients reveal varying effects at different times. It’s Mother Nature’s way of slapping you on the back and saying, “Don’t be shy…go say hello!”
One might think the testosterone element is only for men while the estrogen portion is for women, but that would be an incorrect assumption. Both testosterone and estrogen exist in men and women. When falling in love, Scientists have discovered that testosterone levels in men lower, while in women they rise. No one needs to worry about these hormone imbalances lasting as each one returns to the same levels as people who are not in love in approximately two years’ time. This is typically when the relational honeymoon is over and the style of relational love takes on a new appearance, paving the way for a long-term romance.
Neurochemicals such as dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin also play major roles in the love connection. Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher and her colleagues performed extensive research into the role of neurochemicals in the dating game, publishing their paper in 2002. In 2010, Fisher and her team studied the brain scans of volunteers who were looking at photos od their loved ones, and during this process Fisher’s team noticed how certain parts of the brain—the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area “lit up”. Both of these brain areas are dopamine rich regions, and as such are known as your brain’s pleasure centre.
Dopamine is responsible for that incredible ooey-gooey rush of pleasure a man or a woman feels on that first date. It makes you loose track of time, lose your appetite, forget your own name, and how to speak like a normal human being. The more dopamine in your system, the more your body wants it. This relational chemistry is actually a relational stage known as infatuation.
Noradrenaline is the neurochemical that triggers a sudden rush of adrenaline into your system. Remember all those times you found your heart pounding, your hands sweaty, and you paced back and forth before “the big date”? Blame it all on noradrenaline. You’re energized, anxious, and very attentive to detail all at the same time, but hold on…noradrenaline doesn’t last forever, and as it fades, so to does your attention to relational detail.
Serotonin – now that’s the most interesting component of the love drug blend. Serotonin effects our moods and social behaviour, our ability to sleep, our memory, our appetite, our sexual attraction, and it can make a brunette feel as if he’s/she’s experiencing a blonde moment. The challenge for those who struggle with chronic depression, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is that their brains run continually low of serotonin often requiring them to take prescription SSRI’s. So if your partner is taking SSRI’s then consider them lucky, while recognizing you might soon be getting lucky in a whole different way. To bring balance to the grand scheme of things, romantic attraction also lowers our serotonin levels, so while one partner may be low and rising in serotonin via a prescription, the other partner’s serotonin might be lowering to meet them somewhere in the middle, and in the world of dating…magic always happens in the middle. Interestingly enough, as with estrogen and testosterone levels, serotonin levels return to normal about two years into a relationship.
Kicking into gear down the road after a couple has begun to form a relational bond are oxytocin and vasopressin, these two neurochemicals are the bridge builders which carry a couple from the infatuation stage into the long-term relationship stage.
The Real Love Drug — Neurobiology’s Best Kept Secret
So, for all you single adults trying to muster the courage to foray into the dating world, the next time you find yourself out on a date, and you tell your dating partner you’re looking for chemistry, go with your brain, and not your gut, because…when it comes to your body’s chemistry, NO means NO!