NONHLE SITHOLE

Surprisingly, the answer to the question of why love makes people act ridiculous or more out of character than usual is one best explained by neuroscience. Studies have found that the brain releases chemicals that are responsible for these changes. These chemicals act like drugs that cause people to experience a variety of feelings which results in their behaving “strangely”.

The organ that is most often associated with being in love is the heart. The brain is overlooked and not perceived to play a significant role. By interpreting MRI scans, doctors have picked up brain activities that show that the brain greatly influences the state of being in love. According to an article by Victoria Fletcher on DailyMail.com titled “Crazy in love: what happens in your brain when you really do have chemistry”, MRI scans show that a person’s brain shuts down only when they are shown a picture of someone that they adore, causing them to dismiss all criticism or doubt. The brain stops functioning normally and its ability to reason is affected. The level of a chemical called dopamine increases in the brain during this phase. It floods the left-side of the brain, which is responsible for rationalisation, impairing a person’s ability to make sound judgements. This is how people end up doing things that are out of character or even acting ridiculously for the ones they love. They go out of their way to please the person because of the chemical imbalance in their heads.

High levels of dopamine create a state that is similar to states experienced during cocaine use. It creates a sense of euphoria that is addictive and increases the desire to see more of the adored person.

Since being in love is like taking a drug, it becomes difficult for a person to move on after a breakup. An article on ABCNews.com reports that research has found that the part of the brain that is active during the pain a person experiences after a breakup is the same one that is associated with motivation, reward and addiction cravings. The symptoms are also similar to the stages of withdrawal.

Poems, songs and movies are just some of the things that have been written to try to explain the phenomenon of being in love. Artists try to make sense of why they cannot get the person out of their heads and why there seems to be no escaping the situation they have found themselves in.

A side effect of high levels of dopamine is the lowering of the level of another chemical called serotonin. This is the same chemical that is lacking in people who suffer from OCD. Less serotonin makes a person obsess about the person they love. It is responsible for you missing the person and thinking about them constantly. The mind keeps drifting uncontrollably to thoughts about them. Throughout history people have had similar experiences. In the 1900s Edward the Prince of Wales gave up his throne to marry a woman whom he felt he could not live without.

The chemical adrenalin is responsible for causing the heart to race and the sensation of butterflies in the stomach each time a person sees their loved one. Natural adrenalin prepares the body for stress, which is why it causes these sudden drastic changes that seem to engulf the admirer in such a short space of time.

So the next time you act in a way that makes you want to kick yourself in the name of love, don’t take it too personally. Be comforted in knowing that it is not entirely your fault, it is fuelled by the spontaneous chemical reactions that take place in your brain.

 

Photo: Kirsty Mackay

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