9 Side Effects of Love and the Science Behind It

Love is one of those central things in life that affects us all in one way or another. It has been a subject of poems, novels, songs, movies, etc., but it is only recently when science put its weight in and delve into the hidden secrets and workings of love. This list is all about the side effects of love and the scientific explanation behind it, in the hopes that someone reading this may find some kernel of understanding that may help him in his own quest for love.

 

9              It May Kill You

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                One of the chemicals that causes the effects that we call “love” is a little organic compound called Phenylethylamine (PEA for brevity); it is a derivative of the amino acid phenylalanine and under the category of monoamine alkaloids and is naturally produced in our body. One of its jobs is to cause the release in our brain of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine (AKA noradrenaline). Dopamine, as we all know, affects the pleasure center in our brain; norepinephrine, on the other hand, is what makes it dangerous and may potentially cause death.  The chemical norepinephrine along with its sister epinephrine (AKA adrenaline) are responsible for the flight or fight response mechanism in our brain which causes the heart to beat faster and use more oxygen, and increasing the risk of heart attack for those who are already old or has serious heart problems. So, if you do not have any heart problems you do not need to worry, just enjoy that giddy feeling of having butterflies in the stomach, also a side effect of norepinephrine.

8              Makes You Act Stupid

            

               Some of us, in our time, had committed incredibly idiotic things in the name of love. It may range from simple breach of normal behavior down to the Romeo and Juliet extreme variety. Those that say they never did were probably never had been in love. It is one of those things that go in pairs: coffee and cream, milk and Oreos, love and stupidity. The culprit in this particularly nasty side effect is Phenylethylamine, the chemical we mentioned above, as well as adrenaline.

                These two chemicals are very much in abundance whenever someone is feeling “in love”, and their combination makes the most stable and logical minded among us act like Borat Sagdiyev all in the name of love. Phenylethylamine is a neurotransmitter which speeds up the flow of information between nerve cells and is released in the limbic system. Essentially, the limbic system is responsible, among others, in controlling our basic needs as well as our emotions, behavior and sensations of pain and pleasure. Now, when you throw in PEA into this part of our brain it’s like putting it into hyper drive complete with nitro boosters, making the compulsions to satisfy our “need” out of control. Adrenaline, on the other hand, is the neurotransmitter responsible in the “flight or fight” mechanism in our sympathetic nervous system, when it is pumped up into our brain it makes us particularly impulsive and irrational. It basically tells our brain to better do something quick because we are in a life and death situation.  When, adrenaline is sprinkled into our already PEA dazed brain it makes everything go supernova; a drug concoction worthy of a Rock Star’s stamp of approval. So, when you want to give the one you love some flowers to get into her good graces you will be compelled to do it, at all cost, because the compulsion is too strong. Like what happened to this man. This throws Anakin Skywalker’s actions into a new light.

7              Love Addiction

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                Love Addiction is a “human behavior in which people become addicted to the feeling of being in love.” We may even have experienced a form or two of this kind of addiction but there are some people who are suffering its extreme form, you may even know of someone who is. Love addiction is an unhealthy form of obsession whereby a person gives unhealthy amount of time and effort to the one he loves to the extent that he will seriously neglect to take care of himself and his own well being.

              The culprit for this kind of behavioral dysfunction maybe traced back to a combination of past psychological trauma (e.g. abandonment issues or low self-esteem problems) and the chemicals Dopamine and Serotonin. Dopamine, being the chemical that makes us feel happy, is an essential ingredient in love, while serotonin has the effect of making us obsessed towards the one we love. Unfortunately, for those who are susceptible to addiction it can have horrifying consequences. Because dopamine gives us that sense of pleasure or heady rush of happiness, and serotonin makes us obsessive-compulsive, some people crave to have it and have it more and as constantly as possible; the kind of thing any junkie will find familiar and sympathize with. Love addiction has become so rampant in recent years that several treatment centers have cropped up to cater to the demand for therapy for sufferers. If you are one, try checking this out.

6              Women Becomes

More Masculine

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             Have you noticed those times with couples in love where a woman seems to be more aggressive or competitive or have a higher sex drive than normal? We have seen so many examples in movies or experienced it firsthand that sometimes we just take it as part of the backdrop and never really question why. Well, some scientists did ask why and found out it has to do with the hormone testosterone. This change in testosterone production in women helps make certain behavioral changes that will make them in sync with their male partners, some scientists speculate that it is nature’s way to ensure that a couple will stay together in a longer period of time so as to increase the possibility of pregnancy. Some of these behavioral changes involve subtle things, like more tolerance for male idiosyncrasies thus allowing for a less stressful and more harmonious relationship, or to the extremes (check this video out for a more graphic example).

        This increase in testosterone levels is a good thing for men because it triggers an increase in the sex drive of their partners, ergo: they will have sex and lots of it.  However, this increase in testosterone production only lasts for a short period of time that may range from a couple of months to several years; fondly called by scientists as the “honeymoon stage” in a relationship.

5              Men Becomes

More Feminine 

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                Unlike number 7, love has an opposite effect in men. When a man is in love his testosterone levels drop significantly. This change in hormonal production, often times, becomes the butt of jokes between male friends when a man becomes less manly and becomes more domesticated or mellowed down. It has even been constantly used as a gag in romantic comedies whenever a super testosterone pumped man becomes suddenly as soft as a kitten when his love interest comes in. Well, now you know the science behind it.

               Women need not be bothered with the thought that their man becomes less manly for with this decrease in testosterone levels means that there will also be a corresponding drop in their men to look around for a different  tail to chase. Basically, there is a trade-off when it comes to love, men will have more sex and women can be assured that their men will not be looking around to have it with someone else. However, this change in testosterone production is only present during the honeymoon stage in a relationship; then it’s back to square one.

4              Makes Us Smarter

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                It turns out that falling in love makes us act idiotic but staying in love may actually make us smarter. If someone is in a loving and long term relationship our body produces less cortisol, the stress hormone, this is not the case when falling in love where the cortisol levels are much higher.  The reason for this decrease in cortisol is oxytocin (the chemical responsible for trust, bonding and long term loving relationships) which in certain cases inhibits the release of cortisol.  Cortisol is a very bad thing for intelligence; in essence, it can cause impaired learning and inhibits memory retrieval of already stored information. While cortisol is bad for intelligence, oxytocin on the other hand makes a person more open to receive new information and facilitate learning and memory specifically for social information.

3              Losing Friends

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                This is one of the side effects of being in love that really makes life harsher for those that are around you, aside from the puke educing public display of sickly sweetness that most people “in love” do. A research done by the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University confirms the thing that we all suspected for sometime already, that being in love destroys friendship: two close friends, in fact. The reason for this is time allocation. When we are in love we focus more time and attention to the one we love thus having less time for anything and anyone else.

2              It Makes Us Pee

Less Frequently

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                This kind of side effect can only manifest in long term loving relationship since it involves oxytocin which due to its similarities with vasopressin (it primarily functions are to retain water and to constrict blood vessels), it can reduce the excretion of urine a little.

1              Better Orgasms

and Harder Erections

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                This may be, for some, the greatest side effect of love – better sex. The mechanism behind orgasm, especially for women, involves not just sexual stimulation but also the need to feel comfortable and secure with the sexual partner involved. Because oxytocin actually causes us to feel those kinds of “feelings” it allows us to enjoy more having sex with the one we love. It turns out that oxytocin also aids in the constriction of blood vessels thus allowing for a harder and longer lasting erection both for the penis and the clitoris. Because oxytocin allows us to be trusting, especially to our mate, it may lead to a more adventurous sex life because it makes us comfortable to do things with our partner that we might be uneasy to do with someone else. Since the presence of oxytocin also triggers the release of dopamine in our brain it means we get more fun and excitement out of sex with the one we love than with others. So, in a way, when we are in love we may have limited our sexual partner to just one but it also means we get better sex out of it. In this case, like most others, quality is better than quantity.

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