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Love, not Just a Feeling but a Function of Chemicals

I know we all love with our “hearts” but have you ever wondered how much more there could be to falling in love?

Love is a wonderful feeling like no other, as a matter of fact even the thought of love produces that feeling of excitement. The definition of love is very variable but it is basically a strong affection towards someone.

Love has been regarded as the most powerful emotion and in truth everybody is bound to fall in love at least once during his/her lifetime although there have been reports of many cases of people who fall in love up to 10 times in a week.

Love as a matter of fact is not just a feeling and like every other emotion it’s the function of various neurochemicals acting on different centres in the brain to produce that heightened positive feeling towards someone and the accompanying behavioural changes.

Falling in love just doesn’t happen at once (except in some special cases) it’s a gradual process and science has been able to classify falling in love into three stages.

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This is the stage of physically attraction. Lovers are physically attracted to each other and this is usually a major factor in starting a relationship. This stage is basically governed by the sex hormones testosterone in men and oestrogen in women although research suggest that testosterone is also secreted in women and could increase their sex drive. This is probably the reason why in most relationship that builds up the love, the first actual feeling is that of lust.


I personally refer to this stage as the crazy stage. In this stage of love, the neurotransmitter (a substance that is responsible for transmission of nerve signals between two neurons) dopamine is involved. Dopamine has been associated with addiction due to the fact that it stimulates the reward system of the brain to cause a sense of pleasure whenever the body is stimulated by the substance or focus of the addiction. In the case of love, just been around the person could stimulate dopamine release which now causes that sense of pleasure when lovers spend time with each other. Research has shown that dopamine may stimulate the release of testosterone which explains the increased sex drive between lovers who just met.

Another very important neurotransmitter at work here is serotonin. Reduced levels of serotonin which is a mood stabilizer has been implicated in OCD. Reduced levels of Serotonin has also been observed in new lovers who have graduated to this stage of love. This explains the behavioural similarities between lovers at this stage to that observed in cases of OCD.

At this stage, lovers feel very possessive of each other. They become obsessed with each other and are said to be addicted to each other. This is basically because of the effect of the different levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain at this particular stage. Also there’s usually an increased level of stress hormones which could explain the increase in heart rate, sweating and other behavioural changes associated with stress experienced when lovers get close to each other or even think about each other.

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An article I read a while ago described this stage as the friendzone stage. I personally see it as the matured stage of love. In this stage, there is a deep bond formed between lovers and they lose that obsessive feeling over each other and begin to see their relationship as more than just lovers but as very close friends. This is basically due to the changes that occur in the brain driven by the reduction in dopamine and stabilization of serotonin and more importantly the release of the love hormone oxytocin.

Oxytocin is the primary hormone of childbirth due to the fact that it causes contraction of the uterus and relaxation of the cervix to propel the baby out of the womb during childbirth. Oxytocin also causes milk ejection in a lactating mother to enable her breastfeed her child. Oxytocin is secreted in both men and women during sex particularly during orgasm. In women it causes antiperistaltic (upward) contraction of the uterus to propel sperm towards the fallopian tube for fertilization and in men it cause the contraction of the penile urethra to propel sperm into the deep aspect of the vaginal canal. This is probably why a woman is most fertile at the point of orgasm.

The function of oxytocin in relation to love is that it causes the formation of bonds between lovers due to its influence on the limbic system of the brain. This bond formation now differentiates this stage of love for the other stages. Like I stated earlier they begin to see themselves as more than just lovers and usually their relationship is no more driven by just physical attraction but by that sense of companionship.

The function of oxytocin in bond formation explains why people who engage in casual sex with a single partner usually end in a relationship. This is because bond formation that occurs during sex due to the large amount of oxytocin released. This could also explain why partners who having difficulty in communication are advised to have more frequent sex with each other.

Love is a beautiful thing and the understanding of the medical basis of love could help foster a better and long-lasting relationship.

Have a great weekend!

by Osinusi Ifeoluwa

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