Feature: Love...a Chemical Imbalance?

Sometimes I wonder what is the point of endless wooing musical pieces that capture the heart of a woman? Why would one want to hear romantic poems and declarations of love until their ears bleed scarlet valentine hearts and crimson red roses? Why would any woman desire to be swept off her feet and whisked away into some wonderful "paradise" ? But most importantly what woman would want a man who would dare to love her enough to lay down his life for her? Beats me, but so many women seem to desire it! (I hope by now you've sensed the incredulous amounts of sarcasm oozing out of the past few statements). The truth is that every woman wants to feel important. Every woman desires to be desired, to be needed, to be loved.

But as much as love is emotional, physiological, and physical, science has proven that it is also chemical. Surprised? Come on, what hasn't science proven? (They have an answer for even the unexplainable, but that's another topic entirely.) Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who studies love at Rutgers University, has categorized love into 3 stages: lust, attraction, and attachment. Each stage has its own chemical breakdown:
  • Lust responds to testosterone in both men and women. Yes, women have testosterone too, generally much less than men, but some women have more than others.
  • Attraction is marked by high levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, and low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
  • Attachment is associated to varying levels of the hormones vasopressin and oxytocin.
Testosterone is the "male" hormone, an instantaneous hormone that responds best to physical properties such as looks. Dopamine works in the pleasure pathways of the brain and is activated by things that make us feel good. But funny enough dopamine is also activated by nicotine, cocaine, and chocolate. Norepinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is activated by heart-pumping emotions, like fear, and helps us respond immediately in emergency situations. Vasopressin, in high levels, can increase pressure in certain blood vessels. And lastly, oxytocin, which is released during childbirth and nursing, affects social behaviors such as bonding, love, and trust.

Someone once said, "dopamine brings people together and oxytocin keeps them together." And at the end of the day every woman and man-- don't be fooled, men need love too--want to know that their chemicals are in balance...not imbalanced.

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