Falling in love can make you feel like an entirely different person, but that heady, almost drunk sensation might not be entirely in your head.
Falling in love can actually yield bodily changes, such as palpitations and obsessive thinking, which are a natural reaction to the new hormones you're experiencing. In fact, studies have found that you can expect more than just daydreaming and inability to concentrate when you fall in love...
In 2019, researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles took blood samples from 47 young women as they began new relationships over the course of two years and found that the effects were physical as well as mental. “Falling in love is one of the most psychologically potent experiences in human life”, the scientists wrote. “New romantic love is accompanied not only by psychological changes.”
The researchers discovered that falling in love with someone can cause genes to produce interferon – a protein that’s usually deployed to protect the body. What it means is that falling in love can be "consistent with innate immune responses to viral infections." So your soulmate is basically an extra layer of shielding for your immune system - cool, huh?
And that's not all; a 2012 study of 225 adults who had coronary artery bypass grafting also found evidence suggesting love can lead to a longer life. People who were married when they had the surgery were 2.5 times more likely to be still living 15 years later.
Dr Ann Donnelly MB MRCGP - a GP, with experience in Occupational Health & Holistic Healing - shares with Cosmopolitan what's known to scientists about falling in love. "Surprisingly, although romantic love has been well studied, it remains one of the least understood areas of human behaviour and something each of us deserves to know more about. We are all familiar with how we feel when we fall in love but the ‘chemistry’ behind it is quite revealing."
She continues: "Romantic love triggers primitive areas in the brain releasing a cocktail of chemicals leading to both physical and emotional responses. Our hearts flutter, our cheeks flush, and our palms may feel sweaty while emotionally we get mixed feelings of passion & nervousness."
The hormone changes when you fall in love, according to Dr Donnelly, can include:
Dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure, is triggered leading to the type of high we associate with drinking alcohol. You may find yourself ‘walking on air’.
The magic of romantic love is further enhanced by the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin. Both are released during intimate contact where skin meets skin and during sex. Notably oxytocin is also released during breast feeding and helps with bonding between mum and baby, so it’s not surprising that it deepens connection after sex. It also helps create a feeling of calm and relaxation. Vasopressin has also been associated with long term bonding.
Meanwhile, cortisol levels increase in response to any stressful thoughts like ‘does she/he like me?’ This can lead to a lower serotonin level and subsequent overbearing thoughts akin to infatuation.
Romantic love also deactivates a neuronal pathway responsible for negative emotions like fear and critical judgement. We may find ourselves overlooking obvious hinderances to long term connection, like lack of compatibility. We are blinded by our infatuations. However, as time moves on and love proves itself, emotional ups and downs ease and the influences of cortisol abate. This leads to more comfortable feelings.
As well as that, the 'glow' you experience in love is very real. "If anyone says you are glowing as you fall in love they are probably right," explains Dr Donnelly. "We all have experienced pink cheeks when we exercise vigorously, and this is related to adrenaline release. This same adrenaline can also surge through our body at the very sight of our love interest, causing facial flushing and a healthy love glow." Nobody can say the human body isn't clever...
So it seems that while falling in love can change all of your plans, it can also change lots about yourself without you noticing. If you're experiencing this, embrace those changes; it's a special time!
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