#1 YOU FEEL “ADDICTED”
Falling in love, and its effects on the body, are strikingly similar to being addicted to drugs. Chemicals that cause a euphoric high – adrenaline*, dopamine*, oxytocin*, and vasopressin*, are all released at some point during intimacy. Dopamine is the brain’s pleasure chemical, and is what causes feelings of elation and energy around our loved one.
Helen E. Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, states “Romantic love is an addiction. It’s a very powerfully wonderful addiction when things are going well.” Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of the brain in love bear strong resemblance to those experiencing a high.
Lovers are also like drugs, in the sense that the more time you spend with them, the more hooked you become.
Hamish: “Matthew…leave the witch and the manuscript alone.”
Matthew: “I don’t think I can Hamish. I’m … craving her.”
(Hamish) wasn’t surprised that his friend craved Diana Bishop. A vampire had to desire another creature more than anyone or anything else in order to mate, and cravings are rooted in desire… – A Discovery of Witches p.101
#2 LOVE LOWERS YOUR INHIBITIONS (“FEELING DRUNK”)
Just as having one too many cocktails lowers anxiety, fear, and inhibition – and makes you more boastful and confident – the “love drug” oxytocin produces the same effect. Researchers at the University of Birmingham observed the effects of alcohol and oxytocin on the brain, and though they impact different parts of the brain, the effects are very similar.
Matthew had woven his fingers through my hair, his thumbs pressing against the base of my skull. I was caught again, and a feeling of stillness came over me, spreading out from his cold touch. Was I drunk from two glasses of wine? Drugged? What else would explain the feeling that I couldn’t break free. – Diana – A Discovery of Witches p.175
#3 YOUR PUPILS DILATE
When you feel strongly attracted to someone, no matter the time or place, a reaction occurs within the brain’s sympathetic branch, the SNS. This stimulation causes pupils of the eyes to dilate (become wider).
After a deep breath, I stood, the water streaming over my naked body. Matthew’s pupils dilated suddenly, his body still. Then he stood back and let me step out of the tub before he wrapped a towel around me … – A Discovery of Witches p.356
#4 YOU MAY EXPERIENCE A FLUSHED FACE, SWEATY PALMS, OR A RACING HEART
Becoming anxious (sometimes, very anxious) before an important event (e.g. a big date, wedding day) is more than a nervous “twitch.” An influx of the brain chemicals adrenaline and norepinephrine can produce physical sensations, such as craving and desire. Also, your brain will focus intently on the person of affection.
I was sticking a pair of silver earrings through my ears when there was a knock at the door. My chest fluttered at the sound, as if this were a date … – A Discovery of Witches p.139
#5 YOUR STOMACH MAY ACT UP
When you really begin to like (perhaps love) someone else, the brain may release the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can cause the stomach’s blood vessels to constrict; perhaps leading to feelings of nausea and lack of appetite. This physiological response may explain why many couples don’t eat much on their wedding day.
Matthew groaned. “I’m not hungry.” “You’re famished,” Hamish said sharply, taking in the color and texture of Matthew’s skin. “When was your last real meal?” “Weeks ago” Matthew shrugged with his usual disregard for the passage of time. “I can’t remember” – A Discovery of Witches p.96
#6 YOU EXPERIENCE “WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS”
Corticoliberin is a peptide hormone released during a stress response. Also known as the “corticotrophin releasing factor,” separation from our loved one for any period of time can exacerbate any stress response. The “withdrawal symptoms” of anxiety and depression are similar to those of an addict weaning off a drug.
(Marcus to Matthew) “Does Diana know what being apart will do to you?” Marcus still had nightmares about Ysabeau and how much she suffered during Philippe’s capture and death. It had been like watching someone go through the worst withdrawal imaginable… – The Book of Life p.289
#7 PHEROMONES ARE TRIGGERED – AND SENSED
Pheromones are “smell chemicals” that animals, including humans, excrete and sense. Biologically, this changes the behavior of another animal. In more humanistic, simple terms, we are attuned to our partners pheromones, which increases sexual desire.
Dr. Fisher states: “Once you fall for someone, their smell can be a powerful thing. Women will wear their boyfriends T-shirts, and throughout tales in history, men have held on to their lover’s handkerchief.”
“You smell of willow sap. And chamomile that’s been crushed underfoot” He sniffed again and smiled a small, sad smile. “There’s honeysuckle and fallen oak leaves, too,” he said softly breathing out, “along with witch hazel blooming and the first narcissus of spring. And ancient things – horehound, frankincense, lady’s mantle. Scents I thought I’d forgotten”…”What about me?” he asked, his eyes holding on to mine “Cinnamon…and cloves…” – A Discovery of Witches p.145
#8 OUR BRAIN CHANGES (AND “LIGHTS UP”)
Fisher’s first groundbreaking study was in 2005, when she analyzed the brain images (like the one Matthew gave Hamish as a birthday gift) of individuals in love. A total of 2,500 brain scans were taken. Each participant were shown a picture of their “special someone” then a picture of an acquaintance. The images revealed drastic differences.
The first noticeable effect was the flood of “feel-good” dopamine chemicals in certain regions of the brain. Other noticeable differences involved two other areas of the brain: the caudate nucleus* and ventral tegmental* area. The former is strongly linked with reward detection, and the latter is associated with “pleasure, focused attention, and the motivation to pursue and acquire rewards.”
… Clairmont seemed to have made a scientific and medical reputation at the same time by studying how the brain’s frontal lobe* processes urges and cravings. He’d made several major breakthroughs related to the role that neural mechanisms play in delayed gratification responses, all of which involved the prefrontal cortex* … – A Discovery of Witches p.45
*Adrenaline is a hormone released from the adrenal glands and its major action, together with noradrenaline, is to prepare the body for ‘fight or flight’.
*Dopamine is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter—a chemical that ferries information between neurons. The brain releases it when we eat food that we crave or while we have sex, contributing to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as part of the reward system.
Oxytocin is a hormone secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland, a pea-sized structure at the base of the brain. It’s sometimes known as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone,” because it is released when people snuggle up or bond socially.
Vasopressin, also called antidiuretic hormone, hormone that plays a key role in maintaining the concentration of dissolved particles, such as salts and glucose, in the serum, and therefore in maintaining the volume of water in the fluid space that surrounds cells.
The caudate nucleus plays a vital role in how the brain learns, specifically the storing and processing of memories. It works as a feedback processor, which means it uses information from past experiences to influence future actions and decisions. This is important to the development and use of language.
The ventral tegmental area (VTA), a group of neurons at the very center of the brain, plays an especially important role in this circuit. The VTA receives information from several other regions that tell it how well various fundamental needs, and more specifically human needs, are being satisfied.
The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls important cognitive skills in humans, such as emotional expression, problem solving, memory, language, judgment, and sexual behaviors. It is, in essence, the “control panel” of our personality and our ability to communicate.
The Prefrontal Cortex receives input from multiple regions of the brain to process information and adapts accordingly. It contributes to a wide variety of executive functions, including: Focusing one’s attention. Predicting the consequences of one’s actions; anticipating events in the environment.
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