What Happens in Your Body When You’re in Love
When you have “chemistry” with someone, the science is real: Love alters your body’s chemistry.
According to Psychologist Richard A. Carroll, PhD, Director of the Sexual Disorders and Couple Therapy Program in the Northwestern Medicine Department of Psychiatry, the mental, emotional and physical state of being in love can be broken down into three independent but overlapping categories:
- Limerence, or infatuation
- Sexual desire
“Limerence and sexual desire are what gets us together. Attachment is what keep us together,” he says.
Love happens less in the heart and more in the brain, where hormonal releases and brain chemicals are triggered. Depending on the category of love you’re feeling, your body will experience changes in the following hormones and neurochemicals, which have a powerful effect on feelings, thoughts and behavior:
- Testosterone. Increases and decreases in this hormone affect sexual desire.
- Dopamine. This hormone motivates you to pursue a reward. Some people can become addicted to the dopamine surge associated with love, which can lead to affairs or serial dating.
- Serotonin. Decreases in this hormone can lead to obsession.
- Oxytocin. The “cuddle hormone” is associated with romantic bonding as well as bonding between mother and child. Too much dopamine and oxytocin can cause irrational behavior like binge eating, substance abuse and jealousy.
All of these hormones can have a powerful effect on behavior. Here’s what’s really happening in your head when you’re head over heels.