If you’ve ever fallen in love, you know full well how powerful its effects can be (for better or worse!) As it turns out, science has revealed that there’s a good reason why love is such a big deal. The effects it can have on us, especially our brain, is like no other. It creates not only euphoria, joy and fulfillment, but it can also create chemical dependency in our minds. Some researchers even compare the effects of love to hard drugs in terms of its addictive quality.
If you’re still not convinced of the power of love, continue reading to learn about the surprising effects of love on the brain.
4 Effects of Love on the Brain
1. Love Creates a Chemical Flood in the Brain
During the infatuation stage of love, which some scientists refer to as ‘limerence,’ the brain releases a number of key hormones that give you a powerful feeling of excitement. One of these is oxytocin, or ‘the love hormone,’ which promotes a sense of closeness or connection. Others include dopamine, the ‘pleasure hormone’ as well as testosterone and estrogen. At this time the body also activates an area called the striatum, which is the pleasure center arias of the brain. All of this activity creates the lovesick feeling that you get when your relationship is brand new, and you still see the person in an ideal state.
2. Your Brain Can Get Hooked on Love
Everyone knows that when you’re in love you can become obsessive. You may think of the person constantly and wish that you could continually be in their presence. There’s a good reason for this–research has shown that love can actually cause the brain to respond the same way as it does to cocaine addiction.
But, according to Anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, love is much more than a cocaine high. In a 2008 Ted Talk on the effects of love on the brain, Fisher said, “It’s an obsession…you lose your sense of self. Someone is camping in your head.”
3. Love Can Rob You of Focus
Coming out of an intense relationship can sometimes feel like waking up from a dream. You may wonder, “What have I been doing all this time?” As it turns out, being in love is not always our most productive state of mind. Neuroscientists have argued that periods of infatuation or highly-emotional love can actually reduce our cognitive control and thus our ability to pay attention.
4. Love Could Boost Your Brain’s Empathy Center
One of the good effects of love on the brain is that it activates the brain region associated with empathy. Studies show that love actually stimulates the growth of gray matter associated with emotional processing. At the same time, love decreases the activity in the brain connected to self focus.
The Effects of Love: Tough But Worth It
Although the short-term effects of love can be difficult or in some cases harmful for your health, the long-term benefits of a loving relationship have been proven time and again. According to the University of Utah Health Dept., people in loving relationships enjoy longer life expectancy, fewer doctor visits, lower blood pressure and stronger immune systems. There is plenty of evidence out there that love is worth fighting for. It could leave you happier and healthier in the end.