By RACHEL WHITE
Of all the highs, synthetic and otherwise, love is our favorite drug.
Metaphysically speaking, “romantic love” is an obsessive connection, consuming people with optimism to form a romanticized view of reality.
Characterized primarily by extreme craving, intense motivation and compulsive thinking, the intoxicating effects of infatuation mimic that of an obsessive-compulsive mind on cocaine.
While sex may satisfy our basic biological needs for reproducing, romantic love strives to refine our selection process in mating, providing optimal odds for ideal conception.
Chemistry of courting
From the sweaty palms, pounding heart and racing thoughts, love’s addictive effects are easily observed through the physical angst of initial attraction.
Communication studies performed by UCLA Professor Emeritus of Psychology Albert Mehrabian demonstrate that mate-screening within the mind emphasizes the subliminal side of our interactions.
Verbal exchange allots for just seven percent of attractive-factoring during an initial encounter. By contrast, 55 percent of match-determining comes from body language and 38 percent is based on vocal tones and pitch patterns.
With infatuation taking a mere 90 seconds to four minutes to initiate, attraction is a subconscious process of selection.
Thus, contrary to cynics, romantic chemistry prompts love at first sight.
Once sight has played its seductive role, touch takes control through the chemical courting of caressing and kissing.
Saliva stores immense amounts of testosterone, the hormone of sexual desire.
During a kiss our cheek cells, conveniently designed to absorb the hormonal exchange, send testosterone directly to the brain.
Male bodies utilize this saliva-swapping system as means of injecting testosterone to trigger sex drive in their partner.
Hence men’s preference for “sloppier kisses,” according to studies by biological anthropologist Helen Fisher.
Why I’m a dope for you
Love is an addiction that begins in the brain.
Being in love releases four core chemicals: dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and oxytocin.
Each assists in creating the insatiable drive and pleasurable pursuit of attaining life’s grandest prize: a perfect mate.
Dopamine and norepinephrine make up the most addictive agents of love’s chemical construct.
Individuals in love receive a constant surge of dopamine throughout their brain.
Dopamine acts as a natural stimulant within the brain, encouraging the desire to “win” through pleasurable sensations such as elation and arousal.
As levels of dopamine increase, pain and aversion centers within the brain begin to decrease activation.
Norepinephrine, an adrenal hormone, acts as the physiological respondent to love. It provides elevated energy levels for achieving one’s desires.
This surge serves to lower thresholds at which reward regions fire.
The resulting chemical imbalance distorts lovers’ perceptions of life for the better and rose-tints the bitter.
Parting’s sweet sorrow
Alas, as with any great rush, the higher we fly, the farther we fall.
In order to maintain a high, we need a consistent dose of our chosen stimuli to keep the rush alive.
Its absence leaves the brain’s chemical craving unsatisfied.
The body then begins to withdraw from its former euphoric state.
After a devastating breakup, overactive levels of dopamine reach catastrophic proportions.
Identified as the “protest stage” of rejection, the brain becomes hyperactive with motivational energy to win back what was lost. That stimulates erratic behavior in a heartbroken brain.
Examples include obsessing over the lost love, calling and incessant emailing, or refusing to believe it’s over.
Like all chemical dependencies, the brain never develops complete immunity towards craving love. It simply adapts, evens out and learns to live without.
Consequently, a brain never falls “out of love.”
In fact, heartbreak only intensifies romanticized longings of a lost love.
Thus, our brain’s lust for love brings out the dope in all of us.