This month we have a guest blog written by Mary Gales-Wenz. Mary has a passion for educating individuals about the brain, working with soldiers, and is part of the Minnesota Mental Health Initiative. Thank you Mary for sharing your writing.
February 14th is Valentine’s Day and it is a day to celebrate love. For some who are in a loving relationship, it is a time to acknowledge that love. For some it is a reminder that they are currently not in a loving relationship.
What is this thing we call “love”?
“The brain is an incredible creation; it begins working long before your birth and doesn’t stop until you fall in love”.
The infatuation syndrome is truly an example of Mother Nature at her finest. All the predictable behaviors that accompany the falling-in-love experience are brought on by a naturally orchestrated, drastic change in brain chemistry.
When you meet a strong candidate for love, your limbic system is flooded with a powerful chemical concoction-so powerful that scientists now believe that the euphoria of infatuation is a bona fide, altered state of consciousness! It is induced by the action of phenylethylamine (PEA), which is a naturally occurring, amphetamine-like neurotransmitter.
Michael Liebowitz, a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, explains that when we come into contact with a person who highly attracts us, our brain becomes saturated with a love cocktail comprised of PEA and several other excitatory neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine. PEA, known as the “love molecule” works in concert with dopamine and norepinephrine and triggers incredible side effects.
Symptoms include: a delightfully positive attitude, increased energy, decreased need for sleep, and loss of appetite; euphoria, exhilaration, excessive energy, and other excitatory responses.
Sound familiar? It’s clear that what we call being in love could also be called being under the influence.
The euphoria of infatuation lasts about 6 months and then it slowly begins to wane. By the second year, scientists tell us that lovers are on their own without the aid of Mother Nature’s love potion. But you can keep love alive by continuing the loving behaviors. True love is not just a strong feeling. It is an ongoing decision to act in a loving way. Love begets love.
Pat Love, Ed.D (2001). The Truth About Love: New York: Simon and Schuster