We all know that falling in love or being is love isn’t simple, even with how quickly love can consume us. Likewise, the biology of love is also not a simple game. The biology of love is rooted in hormones, chemicals that are transported in our body to cells and tissues to stimulate an action. These hormones guide us to have physical responses (think sweaty palms and heart pounding) or behavioral responses (think wearing a perfume or cologne to impress a mate).
There are many love hormones, each with a unique marker and similarly, a unique response in our body. Whether we are over the moon because we are smitten with our new sweetie, or on the other side of the fence because our heart has been recently broken, hormones play a big part in our biological and behavioral responses. The hormone causing your reaction, when it comes to love, depends on which division of love you are experiencing: lust, attraction, or attachment.
Lust is a very primal instinct within all of us. Lust is the intense desire to reproduce in order to spread our genes onto the next generation, ensuring that our species survives. Lust is guided by the sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone. Although commonly thought to be assigned masculine or femine, we all have both sex hormones in our bodies just in varying concentrations. When our testosterone is out of balance we may have a decrease in libido, decreased ability to maintain muscle mass, depression, fatigue and insomnia, just to name a few. Similarly, when our estrogen is out of balance, we may experience an increased risk for osteoporosis (bone loss), indigestion, irregular periods, acne, or breast tenderness. Being out of balance can definitely take its toll on our new and current relationships.
Attraction is another segment in the game of love. Dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine are the hormones in our body that are involved in our love attraction stage. These hormones all deal with a chemical “reward” response in our bodies, leading us to feel exhilarated when we see our special someone, energetic–enabling us to stay up all night engulfed in ecstacy, or so euphoric that we forget to eat. Although being in love and staying in love is always the goal, falling out of love is also a possibility that many of us fear. To make the biology of love more complicated, the same attraction hormones, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, in their various quantities, are the same hormones that have us reacting with jealousy or irrationally as we fall out of love or feel insecure in our relationship. All is not lost though, staying attracted to someone long enough can push us into another division of love, attachment.
Attachment generally builds as we become more and more connected through relationships. We can release the attachment hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, with people beyond romantic relationships too, like friends and family. These hormones can support our good feelings, ideas and beliefs we have about people close to us. Interestingly, these hormones can be stimulated by touch or any of our other senses. Sometimes, our bonding happens when we least expect it, such as during childbirth or breastfeeding. Again, love, like our hormones, are very complex.
We all have the desire and ability to love and be loved. Being in love can be one of the most magical and sensational experiences while having our heart broken can be devastating. The best thing we can do for ourself, in either situation, is to ensure our hormones are balanced so our bodies can function in the most efficient way. It is important to get your hormone levels checked so you can ensure your quality of life is at its optimum and/or you are happy and healthy for the ones in your life that love and care about you.
Written by Shantee Scheel