Want to get high but not into illegal drugs? Try falling in love because studies show it has the same effect on a person as taking cocaine.
Clinical neuro-psychotherapist Dr Trisha Stratford says it all starts with one look. “Romantic love is an inherit drive,” she told The Newsroom. “If we look at someone and they return our gaze it gives us the signal that there’s the possibility of a desirable outcome.”
She goes on to explain that after the initial look, lovers can affect each other without even being in the same room. “When two people are in a relationship, they’re connected, without even touching – they’re impacting each other’s body and each other’s brain.”
Everyone knows how we influence each other’s body – there are the physical symptoms of attraction, such as rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms and dry mouth. But most of us don’t think about what’s going on in our brains; the chemical reactions that occur when you’ve met the person you think might be the one.
Firstly, adrenalin and cortisol are increased causing the physical symptoms. Then dopamine is triggered and causes people to act and feel like that they’re on cocaine.
When The Newsroom spoke to Christina and Brandon, who have been dating for a year, they confirmed these crazy feelings. The two met outside a classroom at their university, and during a late night study session sparks flew.
“I felt this incredible wealth of ecstasy and joy,” explained Brandon. “And I knew I wanted to be more than friends with Christina.” A friendly slap from Christina gave Brandon the opportunity to hold her hand and she didn’t pull back.
Secondly, serotonin is released, the chemical that causes you to constantly think about your new love. In fact studies conducted by Dr Donatella Marrazziti in Pisa, Italy showed couples that were dating for less than six months had the same low levels of serotonin as a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). For Christina, she knows all too well the affects of serotonin. “I knew I liked Brandon when all I could think about and talk about was him,” she explains. “My family and friends got a bit sick of it!”
The final chemical explosion happens after you’ve been seeing each other for a while, when hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin are released in the brain causing the pair to form a strong attachment bond. Oxytocin is released for both men and women during an orgasm and allows their bond to strengthen. It’s also known as the “cuddle hormone”, which might explain why Christina says she and Brandon like to constantly be touching, “even if it’s just hugging or standing side by side.”
The kidneys release a hormone called vasopressin which controls your urges, if you catch our drift.
At the same time these hormones are being released, your brain is also concluding whether or not they’re a worthwhile mate. Most of us have heard the old saying “it’s all about a person’s personality”, but it turns out that’s not quite true. We actually decide in the first 1/200th of a second whether we like someone or not. And, surprisingly, 55 per cent of what attracts us to a person is body language; 38 per cent is their tone and speed of voice and 7 per cent is what they say.
While Dr Stratford believes you need that initial attraction in those first few seconds for a relationship to develop, there are personality traits that people find most attractive that can prolong a relationship. “One study [of] over 30 cultures looked at the things we look for in a partner and they are warmth, kindness, intelligence and a unique personality.”
For Brandon, there’s one other factor. “There are some things we see eye-to-eye on and some things that we are just polar opposites on. But it’s this dynamic relationship I share with her is [I] guess what I find most attractive,” Brandon explains.
So how did Brandon and Christina know it wasn’t just a fling? “From day one, I gave Christina everything I had to offer (physically, emotionally and sometimes even financially!) Because I wanted to,” says Brandon. While for Christina, it was because she was happy. “He has an ability to make me feel happier and feel special,” she says. “That’s how I know I want to build a permanent relationship with him – we simply make each other happy.” – Bianca Mureddu
Top photo from Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos’ Flickr phototream.