Love Is A Drug? What Is The Love Hormone?
Updated September 04, 2018
For many, love is an unexplained emotion that almost seems supernatural. It's irrational, comes out of nowhere, is powerful, and it can be fickle. Many have tried to understand what love is, and for some, it makes us human.
However, when you look at love scientifically, it's chemicals in the brain. Everything you experience is brain chemicals, and love is no exception. This isn't to devalue the power of love but simply explain it. In this post, we'll look at the science of love, and tell you how it's just like a drug.
We should begin this article by talking about oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. Despite its name, oxytocin is involved in other emotions besides love. It's a motherly hormone, which releases during childbirth. Other emotions associated with oxytocin include empathy, sex, relationships, and trust. It's produced in the hypothalamus, which is a section of your brain. Typically, females experience the chemical more.
The love hormone name comes from the fact that levels increase during sex, particularly during orgasm, as well as intimate activities like hugging, kissing, and cuddling.
As A Drug
Oxytocin has been shown to benefit many people, including those with autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, and other mental disorders. It's also sold as a drug. This drug is called Pitocin, and it has many uses. Oxytocin can help women give birth, and it reduces the negative side effects associated with birth, such as bleeding. With that said, it's monitored carefully during injection, as too much can damage the uterus.
Strangely enough, oxytocin may be used to finish a miscarriage or induce one. If you're having trouble miscarrying, the doctors maybe give you a shot of oxytocin to finish it.
Oxytocin And Love
Of course, we came here to learn more about how it's linked to love. It has been discovered that couples, usually in the early stages of romance, have a higher oxytocin level than those who are single. Early couples are more sexually involved, so the increase of oxytocin makes sense.
Biologically, why does oxytocin increase when we have sex? It helps erections last longer, and it's released during orgasm. Some believe that it helps sperm reach the egg easier.
Oxytocin can affect your emotion as well. Certain behaviors can change due to oxytocin affecting them. High levels can lead to trust, relaxation, and anxiety, which can be a good treatment for those disorders.
It's a complex chemical and one that is still not fully understood. It has many functions, and not all of them involve love, despite what its nickname suggests. And it's just one chemical that can affect how your brain behaves. The brain is more complex than having just one chemical for one emotion. Many chemicals can affect one emotion, and we will discuss it below.
Testosterone And Love
Another hormone involved in males when it comes to love testosterone. Testosterone, as you probably know, makes the man competitive, and lower levels are linked to a low sex drive, depression, and fatigue. Over time, testosterone levels go down, so it's a bit difficult to manage them.
For men, they need to have good amounts of oxytocin and testosterone. When it comes to oxytocin, you can talk more to your spouse, cuddle more, kiss, and just be intimate with each other. As for testosterone levels, you can increase them through hormone therapy, exercising, or hanging with other men. Also, testosterone can increase through validation. Winning at life, including seeing a sports team win, can increase testosterone as well.
Hormones At Different Stages
Your hormones can change depending on what stage of love you're at. Let's look at some of those stages and see how those chemicals change.
Lust is a stage that can be its own thing, where you're sexually attracted to someone, get in a sexual relationship with them, and then the relationship falls apart once the lust is gone. However, lust can also be the beginning of a new relationship. Lust, in this stage, involves the release of estrogen and testosterone. We discussed how testosterone affects the sex drive, and estrogen helps women as well. However, women also release testosterone during a sexual encounter.
When you truly fall in love with someone, this is the next stage. This is when that person is always on your mind. They keep you up at night, they may eat less, and they're just drunk with love. This stage involves chemicals as well, and let's look at the three that are released:
- Dopamine is the chemical associated with reward. You receive a gift or experience a high-risk reward, and then the chemicals hit you. Dopamine is one of the reasons why people have drug addictions. They receive a large rush of dopamine when they first use it, and then they spend their lives chasing the dopamine rush afterward. In a relationship, there is risk and reward, such as asking the girl you love out and having her say yes.
- This is a neurotransmitter that has been connected to arousal and readiness.
- This is a chemical in your brain that has been linked to lowering depression, making you feel less anxious, keeps you focused, and keeps you calm. When you're attracted to someone, you feel like you're at peace, and serotonin is to thank for that.
This stage of romance is important. Once the love drunkenness is gone, what then? If there's no attachment, then the relationship won't last. Commitment is when you want to build a future with this person, and chemicals are being released into your brain at this time as well, including:
- The love chemical returns, and it's especially prevalent when a couple has a child. The want to build a future with this child is quite strong, and because of that, oxytocin will continue to be produced.
- This is a chemical associated with the kidneys, but scientists have discovered a link between vasopressin and committing to someone.
The brain is quite incredible, releasing chemicals for different situations at different times. Even during heartbreak.
Your Brain On Heartbreak
When heartbreak occurs, your brain has different chemicals as well. Let's go back to dopamine. As mentioned before, dopamine is associated with reward, and it's how many get addicted to drugs. When you fall out of love, you're no longer experiencing that dopamine rush, so your body panics and tries to find a way to get it back.
Some people will find some desperate ways to get that feeling back. They may turn to getting into a messy rebound relationship or trying to get their ex back desperately. Once the dust settles, your brain goes back to normal, and you may look at the relationship with disgust or embarrassment. Love is blind, and one of the reasons it blinds is due to the chemicals you're experiencing.
Other hormones that are released at this time include adrenaline. We all know that adrenaline is linked to fight or flight sensations, and this is yet another reason why you may try to fix your relationship or get into a new one ASAP. Cortisol is another hormone that can affect you. These hormones can make you not sleep at night, make your heart beat oddly, and even take over your immune system. Ever got sick after a breakup? This is why.
Of course, you shouldn't use your chemicals as an excuse to do something that you may regret. You still can control your actions, and you can fix your emotions by talking to friends or trying to go on casual dates to numb the pain. We understand that breakup is hard, but don't stalk your ex, don't try to get into a serious relationship when you aren't ready and do not try to let the pain bring you down. If you still don't know what to do…
In the end, love is nothing but chemicals, and if you need to have someone explain how love works, or tell you how you can deal with your problems, then you may want to talk to a therapist for more information. A therapist can tell you why you're experiencing the emotions you're feeling, and help you when you're dealing with heartbreak. The chemicals in your brain can blind you, and it can be rather difficult for you to be able to focus and figure out what to do next. A therapist can teach you how to be more mindful and how to be rational when the chemicals want you to do something silly.
If you're having trouble with your relationship, the chemicals in your mind can make you feel irrational and can worsen the argument. A therapist can be able to be the cool head who can calm you and your partner down and come up with a compromise the two of you can reach.
Don't let the chemicals take over. Control them, and you can live a better life for that.