This is Your Brain on Drugs


This is Your Brain on Drugs
The myth of falling in movie-love

The thing about fiction is that it is, well, fiction. In the movies, we see tiny snippets of real life between dramatic and romantic perfection. Even when things aren’t perfect in romance movies, somehow everything always feels so damned perfect. But falling in love or not, in real life, ultimately, somebody has to do the laundry, somebody is going to leave the top off the toothpaste, somebody is going to leave the toilet seat up, and somebody has to get up at 2am, then again at 4am, with the baby, or the 4 year old who is having a nightmare. We have to go to work. Walk the dog. Pay the mortgage. Get the kids to school. Then to soccer. Baseball. Dance class. Meet the teacher. Pick up the babysitter. Your mother is coming for the weekend. His brother is crashed on your couch. Someone needs to get the car fixed and clean up after last night’s meal that was thrown together from a box of instant-something in the ten minutes you had when you both got home after a very long day at work. How long does this list go on in your house? See? You don’t have TIME for love.

The point is that, in general, life is not all that romantic.


Inevitably, that “this is it” feeling that comes with new love fades into something that feels so desperately ordinary, or worse—it crashes completely. Either way, you are left mourning it for the rest of the relationship, sometimes the rest of your life.

And what does that sound like? In addiction circles, they call it “chasing the high.” That first experience was so hot and intense, it leaves you forever trying to get it back.

According to an early article in The Economist, scientists are finding that “...after all, love really comes down to a chemical addiction.”

Here is the science of it. You’re addicted to oxytocin, a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It has even been dubbed “the cuddle chemical.” Research has found that it is released during touch, even hugging between people. It is thought to contribute to recognition, bonding and trust, and it is even known to contribute to maternal, nurturing behavior.

That’s not all. There are other drugs at work when you fall in love. You might recognize the surge of adrenaline, which is what kicks your heartbeat up several notches and has you a little short of breath. The neurotransmitter dopamine is busy stimulating desire and has you looking for pleasure. And the ever-important serotonin is increasing your overall sense of well-being and general happiness. All in all, no wonder you’re in a state of euphoria.

Ultimately, your body can’t sustain the increased and dramatic level of intensity that comes with falling in love. So if falling in love is nothing but a really good chemical reaction, what is left when the drugs fade to realistic levels? What happens when you crash off your high and you’re dragged back to dreaded reality?

This is where real love comes in.

This article was originally published at Bobbi Jankovich. Reprinted with permission.
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