Lovesickness- Stirred Up By Your Own Body’s Chemistry

Toxic Love Cocktail

What grownup hasn’t experienced, at least once, that giddy, first stage of falling-in-love in which you can’t eat, sleep, or concentrate on anything except the object of your affection? During those times, your body doesn’t do what you want it to, because, as scientists have learned, it is busy concocting a dangerous drug that may cause you to feel mildly or seriously ill, even to the point of losing a considerable amount of weight and neglecting all your responsibilities. This mixture of neurotransmitters, composed of phenethylamine, dopamine, norepinephrine, and oxytocin, produces great spurts of energy, mood elevation, appetite suppression, and general feelings of well-being. The reward center of your brain responds to this concoction in the same manner it would if you had smoked crack cocaine.

Physical Symptoms of Lovesickness

Can you remember—if you’ve ever experienced a crazy, whirlwind infatuation—the feelings of highs (when you were with the person) and lows (when you couldn’t see him/her for a period of time, regardless of how brief)?  If you have, it’s quite possible you evidenced physical symptoms, e.g., nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, pounding heart, chest pressure, etc. These are actually some of the same ones associated with panic attacks. And lovesickness does present itself like fear, anxiety, and panic in brain scans. But, with lovesickness, the symptoms (that make us quite ill) can hang around for weeks, months, or longer.

The Natural Way

It all makes sense in the big (evolution) picture. Scientists explain that nature expects us to be attracted to a mate and become “lovestruck,” concentrating intensely on that human being, all in preparation for procreating the species.

Can some people become so ‘lovesick’ that they need to see a doctor? To take medication? Or to undergo psychotherapy?

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One Response to “Lovesickness- Stirred Up By Your Own Body’s Chemistry”

  • A few emails and a Face Book Page post have been on the topic of intervention. I don’t believe falling in love is something to be treated (in terms of the feelings).

    I have found when someone being in love with someone who reciprocates or prior to knowing whether the “target” shares those feelings that behavioral tendencies often exist, which can negatively impact decision making.

    Therefore, similar to negative emotional states, some positive states can lead to maladaptive behavior. So, there isn’t a need (a reason, or even a possibility) to change the feelings, but some monitoring and slowing down of the decision making process may be a reasonable measure during these times.

    I would really be curious to hear what roles people believe could be negatively impacted by being in love, i.e., would you want your surgeon to be in the earliest stages of intense romantic love (I guess Grey’s Anatomy may have caricatured this) or a state leader (think Hugh Grant’s character in Love Actually)?

    If you have any thoughts, or if anyone has any research that evaluates decision making/performance in vocational or other realms that is impacted by romantic feelings, I would be very interested. Please post a comment here or email me any authors or citations.

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