Day 23 #Nando25 Challenge: The Chemistry of Love + Infatuation

The #Nando25 Challenge Idea: Do you really have control over how you react when in the presence of someone you find attractive? Can you choose who you love? What if I were to tell you that the connection between your heart + love was only a fairytale made up by romantics and the actual organ used to fall in love is your brain? In today’s challenge, I reference Dr. Daniel Amen’s book, The Brain in Love and I want you to remain coachable while I explain the beautiful yet complex + wondrous concept of the chemistry of love + infatuation.

The Lesson: When you zero in on another person and feel that “instant spark” those fireworks, it’s actually dopamine shooting through your system. Your brian creates a large enough dose to stop you in your tracks and get the heart beating tripple time. It’s dopamine that lights up the pleasure center that also houses motivation + reward. Not wanting to be left out of all the fun, your brain stem also participates by releasing phenylethylamine (PEA) which is an adrenaline-like substance that speeds up information between nerve cells and slaps you right upside your head to make sure you’re  paying attention to your “love target”.

There are several other chemicals at play–but before I get into them, I want you to understand that when something chemical happens inside your system–feelings of love, infatuation or attraction, you can only stand back and watch it unfold, because you are not equipped to interfere with it–you can control actions–but not how you’re feeling, because brain chemistry has occurred + taken over.

I want you to read that over again.

When something chemical happens inside your system–feelings of love, infatuation or attraction, you can only stand back and watch it unfold, because you are not equipped to interfere with it–you can control actions–but NOT how you’re feeling, because brain chemistry has occurred + taken over.

In the initial stage of love, infatuation or attraction, there are several chemicals at play and more importantly, the amounts being produced and shot throughout your system. The human mind has several chemicals at play–let’s call this state, The Balanced State. When a single person is in the balanced state, their brain chemistry is balanced which makes them function. They can sense danger when crossing the street, they can sense when someone might be lying to them at work, they may also be able to tell if a person is a heartbreaker. Think about it–you’re at a bar and you meet a sleazy man who obviously read a book on the worst pick up lines because he’s trying them on everyone at the bar, including you. But you don’t feel attracted to this guy so you roll your eyes + shoo him away. But if someone who finds him attractive listens to his cheap romantic one-liners, they are in danger–why? Because they are no longer at that balance state–their brain chemistry has just exploded and they are on their way to heartbreak. And I will tell you why.

Infatuation: Often referred to as the “intoxicated stage”
1. Will call in sick to work to be with the guy you just met
2. Stay up late talking for hours on the phone
3. You don’t care about sleep
4. Send massive amounts of texts + e-mails to one another
5. You engage in behaviors you don’t normally do

Infatuation occurs in the brain’s reward center but you have one part of the brain that is looking out for you–it’s called the Prefrontal Cortex. This part of the brain is acting like the “love boss,” putting pieces together, filing away things they said to you, creating a strategy to keep them around, making sure you stay cool–but your infatuation chemicals sometimes override your Prefrontal Cortex and then all that gets thrown out the window. It’s chemicals like epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin and PEA that take over and shake things up a bit.

Your brain is constantly trying to keep itself balanced, at the balanced state, but sometimes you will release a large amount of dopamine all of a sudden and then it throws things off balance. What causes that dopamine surge? Simple things like, getting a text from them that says, “I miss you.” Or Seeing them after 2 days–your heart skips a beat and you think–”OH MY GOD!” That’s really just a major dose of dopamine your brain released.

This explains why we can “fall in love” 50 times a year when dating. It also explains why we are so hard on ourselves when we’ve been lied to or cheated on–because we couldn’t see it–our Prefrontal Cortex was trying to do its job–but you just kept releasing so much serotonin or dopamine that your PFC just walked out and quit (sort of).

1. Epinephrine + Norepinephrine: These are considered excitatory neurotransmitters because they cause the adrenaline rush: your heart beats faster, blod pressure shoots up and you’re actually ready to face a life threatening situation — or you’re falling in love. These two chemicals give you that feeling of excitement + they help facilitate sexual arousal + orgasm.

2. Dopamine: associated with pleasure, motivation + concentration. People feel “sexy” when the brain shoots this through your system. You know when you have your “I am a sexy bitch” days, it’s not the new hairstyle, or the clothes, it’s your levels of dopamine. Don’t you feel silly now? And low levels of dopamine are associated with depression, ADHD, some drug addicts (that’s why they chase the high–to balance out their dopamine levels). Can someone say Whitney Houston?

3. Serotonin: Produced in the brain stem + midbrain, it’s the “feel good” neurotransmitter. A normal serotonin level allows people to have a healthy mood and equally healthy motivation. When you feel like no one will ever love you and that you’re not worthy of a loving, lasting + honest relationship–sweetie, it’s your serotonin levels–they are LOW as HELL! Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, impulsivity + excessive activity in your brain’s anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG) which gets you stuck in negative thoughts and that’s where you live–in desperate + lonely-ville.

4. Phenylethylamine (PEA): This “love molecule” speeds up information to the brain which triggers the rest of the chemicals to be released and caused the “love/infatuation explosion” in your system. It wants to create that feeling of euphoria + infatuation when you’re highly attracted to someone. It’s actually trying to help you out–don’t have the player, hate the game.

Once we experience the chemical explosion–how do we decide if we want to keep the person around? The question is to commit or not to commit? This questions can also be answered/determined through chemistry. Research shows that men who are more willing to commit have LOWER levels of testosterone. Want more proof? An American study found that men with HIGH testosterone are 43% more likely to get divorced AND 38% more likely to have an affair. Men with HIGH testosterone are also 50% LESS likely to ever get married. So all the “players” you’ve been dating–you’re not going to be “the one” for him. You may be one of HIS ones, but not the one he will settle down + marry. I have a four letter word for that–NEXT!

Bring in the Oxytocin!
Oxytocin is my favorite love chemical of them all. Why? It’s so sexy + bold. It’s the love chemical that bonds two people together and builds that romantic link between couples. This is also why men sometimes feel more vulnerable + actually want to talk after sex–their brian just released a LARGE amount of oxytocin into their system and they can’t help but feel close + want to bond. Do you ever wonder why most men spill their guts after sex? This is why. Brain Chemistry–love it or leave it. I also have a theory that this is the reason most men confess all their sins to hookers or escorts–because their oxytocin levels spike after sex. There is also a downfall–because of the increase of oxytocin after sex, men are also prone to falling asleep afterwards, oxytocin levels increase by more than 500% after sex. This also might explain why in a crazy world, a man will request sex even while in an argument with you–in their head, this will “fix” the problem but in reality are they are really trying to do is feel closer to you.

Oxytocin also blocks off negative memories. This is why we fall for men that are bad for us–yet when the sex is good–we are powerless. It’s that damn oxytocin. (I said it was my favorite, I didn’t say it was the fairest of them all) Scientist have proven that we are willing to accept social risks because of the affects. This is also why people are willing to have unprotected sex even though the dangerous of STDs are a risk. It’s the oxytocin high we’re chasing. Damn you oxytocin!

Now–do you still believe you’re in control when you fall in love? What about infatuation or lust?

The #Nando25 Homework:
1. Think about the last time you fell in lust or were infatuated–how do you see that episode now? Write down a few things you now see more clearly in your #Nando25 Day Journal.

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2 Comments

  • I do believe I am still in control. But it is requires a huge amount of effort to make sure you don’t make a complete fool of yourself or more importantly don’t disadvantage yourself in some way. When I am fell in love with my partner, whom I still adore, I was definitely aware of a wash of very powerful feelings and sensations coursing through me – thanks to your awesome post I now know just HOW powerful – and yes they did make me do things that I wouldn’t ordinarily have done, I still did my best to make sure I didn’t inadvertently harm myself emotionally, or physically by doing something I’d regret.

    So I think you can stay in control to the extent that you can stop yourself hurting yourself. But especially when you have met that really special someone, letting yourself go can be a joy and a thrill. While I was always cognisant about looking after myself, letting myself fall into this relationship, and overcome any irrational fears, was helped infinitely by the powerful feelings that pushed me forward. I was happy to give into them in that respect.

    So while I agree you can’t change how you feel, you can enjoy the ride just by remaining vigilant about what matters to you in life – go with the good stuff, and avoid letting the emotions take where you don’t want to go.

    Thanks for such a great piece!

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