Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Is there any better feeling than falling in love? The sun is a little brighter, your coffee tastes a little better, and nothing can get you down. Oh, you hit my car when you were parallel parking? No worries. I’ve been meaning to take it in for an oil change anyways! While that euphoric, loving feeling is amazing, it’s also exhausting. Our brains are releasing a flood of new hormones making us feel happy, anxious, and sometimes just downright insane. Oftentimes our rational minds can hardly keep up with the racing thoughts and sweaty palms. It’s important to remember that a lot of what we’re feeling is just our biology. So don’t worry, you’re not nearly as needy as you’re feeling right now. Here are just a few of the new feelings you’re probably experiencing.
You’ll feel crazy
Queen Bey is not the only one feeling crazy in love. The dizzying amount of hormones coursing through our bodies when we’ve met that right someone truly makes us a little nutty. Donatella Marazziti, professor of psychiatry and director of the laboratory of psychopharmacology at the University of Pisa, has found through her research that people falling in love have lower levels of serotonin in their brains. Want to know another group of people who have low serotonin? Individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder have the same brain findings. This can help explain why you can’t help but overanalyze every text you get. You probably know you must sound crazy as you force your friends to listen to the voicemail you just received. “Wait, does he really sound sick, or do you think he’s blowing me off?” We can go ahead and blame our hormones for making us so neurotic. Psychiatrists actually prescribe serotonin for their OCD patients, because it has an “anti-obsessional effect.” Don’t worry, though. You won’t be like this forever. As your love grows and relationship deepens, your brain returns to its normal levels. In addition to those crazy feelings, you could start feeling dizzy, too. “When we feel that initial attraction to someone, a cocktail of chemicals, phenethylamine, dopamine, and oxytocin are released,” sex expert Simone Bienne told Cosmopolitan. “They keep your senses extra alert and give us the urge to bond and attach. As these secretions increase, our attraction to the object of our desire intensifies, and we get more and more of those dizzy feelings.”
You’ll want to be together all the time
You know that magical time in a new relationship. You literally cannot see this person enough. Your sole focus is on being together, and when you’re actually apart and hanging with your friends, you’re looking for an excuse to bring up your new love in the conversation. This constant urge to be together can leave us feeling a little needy, so it’s helpful to know that it’s just biology. Psychologist Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D. wrote in Psychology Today about why we can’t stand to be apart. “Increased testosterone levels in women during the early stages of romantic love make them more sexual and aggressive,” she explained. “while decreased testosterone levels in men make them more emotional and receptive at this time.” These hormonal changes make women feel more sexual and men more empathetic. This is a recipe for both sides quickly becoming obsessed with each other.
You’ll actually feel addicted
When you’re falling in love, you often don’t even realize that you’re changing. Blow off my friends to stay in and watch a movie with my new boo? Yes! What could go wrong? The need to be together 24/7 can put you at risk for making some bad decisions early on. A 2005 study that looked at the brains of couples falling in love can help explain that obsessive need to be together all the time, even at the expense of the rest of your life. One of the study authors, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, PhD spoke with Health about their findings. When these study participants were shown pictures of their new loves, their brains let out a flood of dopamine. This is the feel-good hormone that provides a reward response. “That someone takes on special meaning to you and you focus on this individual because the dopamine system has been activated,” Fisher said. “It is what triggers very goal oriented behavior, where no one else matters but your new partner.” Our brains are in overdrive and are only concerned with getting more dopamine (triggered by seeing your new partner). The study authors provided an example to give us some perspective on the obsession level. When we see our beloved, our brains act the same way as if we had just tried cocaine! As Meghan Laslocky, author of The Little Book of Heartbreak: Love Gone Wrong Through the Ages, explained to Berkeley University, “Take this to its logical conclusion and, as far as brain wiring is concerned, when you’re in love, it’s not as if you’re an addict. You are an addict.”
You’ll feel butterflies
We’ve all felt those butterflies before. You weren’t expecting to see your new love interest, but as you’re walking down the street you look up, and there he or she is! Immediately you feel ecstatic, nervous, crazy. You’ll also feel your stomach flip over. There is actually a physical reason for this.
When we’re falling in love, our brains release oxytocin and cortisol. Oxytocin is a loving, feel-good hormone, and cortisol is the stress hormone. This explains why we can feel so happy and nervous at once. So when you look up on the street to see that special someone, your brain immediately starts pumping out those hormones. When the cortisol enters our bloodstream, it causes the blood vessels around our gut to constrict. This constricting sensation causes nausea or “butterflies.”
You’ll feel happy
One chemical responsible for that euphoric feeling is oxytocin. This is the bonding hormone released after an orgasm or while nursing your baby. “Oxytocin, a bonding chemical that makes us enjoy sex, is designed to keep people together for as long as it takes to have loads of sex, a baby, and to raise it to safe levels,” Dr John Marsden, senior lecturer in addictive behavior at the National Addiction Centre, told Cosmopolitan. “Therefore, your body changes quickly with the emotion of love. The brain has internal drug factories, which makes us ecstatically happy when we are with the person we are falling in love with.”
What about falling out of love?
So if this hormone rush causes us to be crazy when we’re falling in love and happy, just imagine how crazy you can be when you’re falling out of love. You’re still experiencing these physical changes, but instead of that exciting new love, you’re feeling alone and depressed. Author Meghan Laslocky wrote an article for Berkeley University about this sensation. “You’re still in love and want to reconcile, but you’re also angry and confused,” she explained. “Simultaneously, you’re jonesing for a ‘fix’ of the person who has abruptly left your life, and you might go to dramatic, even embarrassing, lengths to get it, even though part of you knows better.”
How to stay yourself
While falling in love is fun and exhilarating, it can really wreak havoc on the rest of your life. It’s clear that when our hormones are going crazy at the beginning of a relationship, our brains are screaming at us to spend more time with our new love. Our brains need that next ‘fix’ and will do whatever it takes to get it. Psychologist Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D. shared with Psychology Today that during this time, we can easily start to lose ourselves. Most of us lead pretty busy lives, so dropping everything for a new relationship can cause issues. “You are adding a dating relationship to your normal, busy routine,” she said. “Your normal responsibilities at work and home may fall to the wayside, as you put more energy into solidifying your love relationship.”
Dr. Khoshaba also explained that we feel a new sense of vulnerability at the beginning of a relationship, and that can feel scary. “Loving asks you to lower your defenses and loosen up your personal boundaries so that you can merge your needs and desires with those of your lover,” she added. “This process can be threatening and make you feel unsafe.” We often end up creating issues and drama during this time, because we are so uncomfortable with this new vulnerability. This can quickly spiral into us completely losing ourselves.
She recommends being aware of this risk and following a few simple rules. First, keep your normal schedule. Don’t completely turn your world upside down just because you’re in a new relationship. Also make sure to take excellent care of yourself during this time. Eat well, get enough sleep, and try to fit in some exercise. When anxious thoughts enter your mind, try to look at them objectively. The fact that he hasn’t called in an hour could mean he’s over you, or could simply mean he hasn’t left the gym yet. Don’t jump to crazy. Finally, make sure to always stay your awesome self. “Don’t lower your defenses, personal boundaries, and expectations to the extent that you are denying what you really desire and need,” urged Khoshaba. “This never works out well. You want to build an authentic relationship attachment, rather than one based on fantasy alone.”
Read More: http://www.thelist.com/31624/really-happens-body-youre-love/?utm_campaign=clip