Daydreaming about the person when you should be working? Imagining your futures together? These dizzying thoughts may be signs of love. In fact, scientists have pinned down exactly what it means to "fall in love. Studies led by Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and one of the leading experts on the biological basis of love, have revealed that the brain's "in love" phase is a unique and well-defined period of time, and there are 13 telltale signs that you're in it.
The belief is coupled with an inability to feel romantic passion for anyone else. Fisher and her colleagues believe this single-mindedness results from elevated levels of central dopamine — a chemical involved in attention and focus — in your brain.
They also focus on trivial events and objects that remind them of their loved one, daydreaming about these precious little moments and mementos. This focused attention is also thought to result from elevated levels of central dopamine, as well as a spike in central norepinephrine, a chemical associated with increased memory in the presence of new stimuli.
You bounce between exhilaration, euphoria, increased energy, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, trembling, a racing heart and accelerated breathing, as well as anxiety, panic and feelings of despair when your relationship suffers even the smallest setback. These mood swings parallel the behavior of drug addicts. And indeed, when in-love people are shown pictures of their loved ones, it fires up the same regions of the brain that activate when a drug addict takes a hit. Being in love, researchers say, is a form of addiction.
Feel good studio, Shutterstock. Central dopamine may be responsible for this reaction, too, because research shows that when a reward is delayed, dopamine-producing neurons in the mid-brain region become more productive. Intrusive thinking, as this form of obsessive behavior is called, may result from decreased levels of central serotonin in the brain, a condition that has been associated with obsessive behavior previously.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is treated with serotonin-reuptake inhibitors. Sol Vazquez Cantero, Shutterstock. For instance, Fisher and her colleagues looked at the brains of individuals viewing photos of a rejected loved one, or someone they were still in love with after being rejected by that person.
The functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI showed activation in several brain areas, including forebrain areas like the cingulate gyrus that have been shown to play a role in cocaine cravings.
ArrowStudio, LLC , Shutterstock Planning a future They also long for emotional union with their beloved, seeking out ways to get closer and day-dreaming about their future together. Another love expert, Lucy Brown, a neuroscientist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, says this drive to be with another person is sort of like our drive toward water and other things we need to survive.
This puts romantic love in the company of survival systems, like those that make us hungry or thirsty," Brown told Live Science in It helps us form pair-bonds, which help us survive. We were built to experience the magic of love and to be driven toward another. Even so, being yourself may be your best bet: In another of Fisher's studies, presented in at the "Being Human" conference, she found that people are attracted to their opposites, at least their "brain-chemical" opposites.
For instance, her research found that people with so-called testosterone-dominant personalities highly analytical, competitive and emotionally contained were often drawn to mates with personalities linked to high estrogen and oxytocin levels — these individuals tended to be "empathetic, nurturing, trusting and prosocial, and introspective, seeking meaning and identity," Fisher said in The longing for sex is coupled with possessiveness, a desire for sexual exclusivity, and extreme jealousy when the partner is suspected of infidelity.
This possessiveness is thought to have evolved so that an in-love person will compel his or her partner to spurn other suitors, thereby insuring that the couple's courtship is not interrupted until conception has occurred. A study found that 64 percent of people in love the same percentage for both sexes disagreed with the statement, "Sex is the most important part of my relationship with [my partner].
For her book "Love and Limerence," the late psychologist Dorothy Tennov asked men and women in Connecticut to respond to statements on romantic love. Many participants expressed feelings of helplessness, saying their obsession was irrational and involuntary.
According to Fisher, one participant, a business executive in his early 50s wrote this about an office crush, "I am advancing toward the thesis that this attraction for Emily is a kind of biological, instinct-like action that is not under voluntary or logical control. I try desperately to argue with it, to limit its influence, to channel it into sex, for example , to deny it, to enjoy it, and, yes, dammit, to make her respond!
Even though I know that Emily and I have absolutely no chance of making a life together, the thought of her is an obsession," Fisher reported in online in Nautilus.
Losing the spark Unfortunately, being in love usually doesn't last forever. It's an impermanent state that either evolves into a long-term, codependent relationship that psychologists call "attachment," or it dissipates, and the relationship dissolves.
If there are physical or social barriers inhibiting partners from seeing one another regularly — for example, if the relationship is long-distance — then the "in love" phase generally lasts longer than it would otherwise.