By Evanthia Vasiliki Tagari,
Ah, butterflies in the stomach, palpitations, insomnia… Do they remind you of something? Definitely yes, and this is probably the last time you felt in love. The truth is that love is a rather strangely beautiful emotion that at some point in our lives we all wonder why and how it happens to us. But in reality, even science cannot give a complete explanation for the chemical background that causes this great disorder in our brain and body. Nevertheless, the “tangle” is slowly unfolding and studies that are happening around the world have identified specific responsible molecules for our spiritual excitement.
But let us start from the beginning and consider the nature of the human being. More specifically, according to the principles of biology, human is a social animal, with a highly developed brain which gives him a developed mental capacity to communicate, to express himself, to create bonds with other living beings, to reproduce and to be organized by families to nations. So, these highly sophisticated and complex capabilities of his brain are coordinated, and lead to the explosion of emotions or otherwise to the release of those chemicals that characterize the feeling of love in general. Of all this class of hormones, the title of the most characteristic goes to oxytocin, a peptide hormone and neuropeptide normally produced in the hypothalamus of the brain and released by its posterior pituitary gland. This has a decisive role in social ties, in reproduction, in childbirth as well as in the period after it. Other hormones that follow oxytocin and its action include dopamine, or the pleasure chemical, norepinephrine, which has a similar function to adrenaline as it increases the excitement and heart rate in our body as well as the pharynx. Of course, these chemicals are not produced uncontrollably in our body, but there is a definite control by the brain itself, which reacts according to its biological needs as well as the stimulus of its environment.
So in the early stages of love with the other person, the combined action of dopamine with norepinephrine is what causes the excitement, longing, loss of appetite and insomnia while you are thinking of the other person, that promotes the body in a higher spiritual condition of pleasure. Note that men produce these hormones more easily because they enjoy more as visual beings the face of their erotic object. Estrogen and testosterone, two hormones that lead to wider sexual desire and especially testosterone, act on the same wavelength, stimulating the erotic mood and libido. Deepening a couple’s relationship, now, oxytocin is produced during orgasm, helping to initiate an emotional bond between them. Therefore, in addition to the occasional pleasure caused by the hormones mentioned above during sexual intercourse, oxytocin causes stronger emotional bonds in the human brain. So, the more sex a couple experiences in their relationship, the greater the bond that develops between them. The excess oxytocin that is produced gradually, compared to its normal levels in the body, is the one that maintains the faith between the individuals of a couple and finally keeps them together for many years from the beginning of their flirtation. In addition, endorphins or natural body painkillers are produced during sex, bringing peace of mind as well as security with our sexual partner.
Nevertheless, anyone will not disagree that over the years the erotic passion weakens and many times – especially in long-term relationships – a different form of love prevails. The latter is usually more substantial and profound but others describe it as somewhat boring. The scientific explanation for this phenomenon is that a complex of the hormones oxytocin and angiopressin, an antidiuretic hormone associated with the formation of long-term, monogamous relationships, interferes with the pathways where dopamine and norepinephrine are normally found and cause emotional ecstasy. Of course, this does not happen in all couples out there but mainly the weakening of sexual passion occurs in people who do not experience sufficient sexual intercourse which activates, in addition to other hormones, a part of the brain called the posterior hippocampus which is associated with the sense of excitement.
Finally, the above hormones not only affect our relationships with people of sexual interest but affect our entire psychosynthesis. More specifically, people with active dopamine and testosterone centers tend to have more energy, mood and confidence as opposed to people in whom the presence of serotonin is crucial characterizing them for their obedience and calm. It is also known, beyond the “sterile” chemicals in our bodies, that the feeling that we love and are loved is related to the wider ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and healthy psychological boundaries with other people. In essence, the latter finding is due to the oxytocin production mentioned above. Love as it is, with chemical explanations or not, blooms our soul and it is worth following it even if the conditions are not favorable. Because where else will you find something that calms and rekindles your soul at the same time as love?