According to research, it takes between 40 seconds and nine minutes to decide if you like someone. Most people believe that they choose the person they fall in love with. Is this really true? 

Everyone knows no two people experience falling in love in the same way – however there has been significant research that explains the reasons why we fall in love in the first place. Using MRI scans of the smitten, Dr Helen Fisher of Rutgers University found that a complex interplay of chemicals cause us to be “in love”, and has proposed 3 stages of love – lust, attraction and attachment.

The first step of falling in love is lust, the feeling of sexual desire. This is due to the increased production of the hormones testosterone and oestrogen. However, research shows that the effects of lust are usually short lived, unless an attraction starts to blossom.

This brings us on to step two of falling in love: attraction. Have you ever noticed when you are in the early stages of love that everything seems so much better? This is all down to a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is released when you do something pleasurable; studies have shown that dopamine is at higher levels in those in love. Good news for those of you who are partial to a glass of wine (or should I say frostyjacks?) – liquor both lowers inhibitions and may increase the production of dopamine.

liquor both lowers inhibitions and may increase the production of dopamine

Moreover, we all have that friend who is seemingly “addicted” to their boyfriend/girlfriend; tests show that taking opium drugs, such as cocaine, have similar affects on the levels of dopamine as love. Dopamine also has evolutionary purposes; it helps us to become more attached to our partner, meaning we are more likely to survive as a couple and reproduce.

love2

Another chemical which causes us to fall in love, or the lack of it I should say, is serotonin. It is present in much lower levels in those experiencing the first blush of love compared to the singletons among us. The hormone serotonin not only causes you to be more anxious, it is also the reason why you become infatuated. Research has shown those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders also have very low levels of serotonin. This may explain why when you fall in love, you cannot think of anyone else but your dreamy partner.

The hormone serotonin not only causes you to be more anxious, it is also the reason why you become infatuated

The final “attraction” chemical is one we are most familiar with – adrenaline. This fight or flight hormone is the whole reason behind the blushing, heart in your throat moment and the ridiculously sweaty palms you get when you see the person you like.

After the bout of initial infatuation, long-term attachment is the next thing on your tick list. In order to achieve this, the “cuddle hormone” or oxytocin must be released. It cements the trust and bond between two people, and is released when a couple spends time together in close proximity.

So it seems that falling in love is not as random as it might seem – more a calculated chemical balance that stems back to an age-old evolutionary purpose.  Research is ongoing into the infinitely complex business of falling in love but just because lust, attraction and attachment all boil down to chemical reactions, don’t let it take away from the magic of it all.

Rebecca Thorington

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