How does the brain work when we “fall in love”?
The main characteristics of falling in love are symptomatic. When we fall in love we can feel nervous or the well-known “butterflies in the stomach feeling”, as well as being afraid of rejection, frequently thinking of him/her, loss of focus, among other things. But do you know how our brain works during this whole process?
Substances like dopamine, OxyContin, and vasopressin make the brain work differently while in love. According to science, it is a transitory, behavioral, and neurochemical process where a great amount of dopamine is release on the nucleus accumbens and involves a decrease of the prefrontal cortex activity, associated with reasoning. That’s why during this process some negative aspects about said person are “erased”.
Research sustains that this process lasts three years because dopamine gradually decreases and the brain desensitize emotions. The stage where more amounts of dopamine is released is between 16 and 23 years of age, making being in love more intense between 22 and 23 years old. As time pass dopamine liberators change and is release on less quantities.
During this period, if partners are still together, OxyContin, and serotonin are released. This hormones give warmth and stability. This makes the partnership to have good possibilities of having a long term relationship. If the brain do not adapt to this period, generally the person choose to seek for another partner helping him/her to release dopamine.
According to a study of the Brigham Young University, 80% of people below 18 years old experience a sentimental relationship, this can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and even suicidal thoughts on individuals. More than 80% of teenagers want to marry and 90% of them want to remain married with the same person throughout their lives.
In Mexico, the majority of the population 15 years old or more is in a relationship. The National Survey of Occupation and Employment (ENOE, 2017) showed the following data: 58.1% of said people are married. 31.4% are single, and 10.5% are separated, divorced or widowed. These numbers change according to population age.
All biochemical processes vary according to stage of relationship. Sometimes someone can feel “in love” and as time passes, this feeling can end up dead or changed. Many factors contribute to love, like culture, but remember that to love someone else, it is important to love yourself.
Reviewers: Brenda Giselle Alvarez Rodriguez (Public Health Research Unit), and Cassandra Saldaña Pineda (Knowledge Management Unit).
CONACYT, Universidad Iberoamericana, INEGI.
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