The role of dopamine in love is especially relevant: when we are in love with someone, we experience pleasant and satisfying emotions. These emotions immediately produce a release of dopamine in the brain, so that the same emotion produces sensations of pleasure.
One of the most common arguments among those who do not “believe” in love or the possibility of being in love with someone, is to say that love is nothing more than a chemical reaction of the brain.
This argument that many people interpret as flatly false is partly true, since love is itself an emotional reaction of people and emotions are controlled by chemical processes of the brain.
However, if we correctly examine the “quit” of the issue, the human body in its entirety works through chemical processes.
Dopamine in Love
In this way, not only love responds to chemical reactions, but any experience can be defined through the exchange of cells and mechanisms based on brain chemistry.
Regarding emotions, the chemical processes involved are mostly in the brain and play a very important role in their experimentation.
What is love?
Love is a universal concept relative to the affinity between human beings.
This concept can be defined through different points of view, both artistic and scientific, philosophical or religious.
Usually, it is interpreted as a feeling related to affection and attachment.
In addition, these feelings are those that originate a series of attitudes such as kindness, compassion or care, and a series of behaviors that have as their goal to express and externalize the emotions of love that are experienced.
So, when we talk about love we are referring to a series of emotions and feelings.
These feelings are experienced in the brain regions, provoke a series of thoughts and originate a large number of organic and behavioral modifications.
However, the aspect that allows us to understand why brain chemistry plays an important role in the development of love lies in the fact that it deals with a specific mental state that is characterized by experiencing a series of emotions and feelings.
What role does chemistry play in love?
All the feelings and all the emotions that human beings have are modulated by the functioning of the brain.
In fact, all thoughts, ideas, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors or behaviors that we perform also attend to the functioning of the brain.
If we were exquisite we could even affirm the ability to walk, the fact of being hungry, being able to see or smell, or so many other actions, are also controlled by the activity of the mind.
However, to not complicate us further, we will focus on the functioning of emotions and feelings, since love is precisely that, a series of emotions and feelings that are usually experienced with a remarkable intensity.
Considering the emotions, it must be borne in mind that the fact that a depression, an anxiety disorder or a bipolar disorder can be treated with drugs means that these pathologies are regulated by chemical processes.
The same goes for explaining feelings of love, since this emotion is experienced when a series of chemical brain processes are activated.
In the brain there are thousands of chemical substances, and each of them allows us to do or experience something.
In this way, while certain substances can enable us to see, walk or reason, others allow us to experience emotions, sensations and feelings.
In this idea lies the relationship between chemistry and love, since this emotion, as happens with all the others, is experienced through a series of cerebral mechanisms.
What substances participate in love?
The feelings of love release several chemical compounds and hormones that are in charge of producing the experimentation of a series of determined emotions.
In this way, love releases mainly dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.
This chemical process explains that the sensations of falling in love are more intense at the beginning and later they go down.
The reduction of excitement or intense emotions should not be interpreted as “falling out of love” or as a decrease in the sensations of love, but as a normal process of the brain.
In this way, the brain activity that produces love at the beginning is very novel and exciting. However, as time passes the brain becomes accustomed to these chemical changes and the sensations may be less intense.
The main chemical structures that are responsible for producing these feelings of love are:
It is a substance secreted by the body that is responsible for releasing transmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline or serotonin.
Human beings produce this substance constantly but there are certain situations that cause an increase or decrease in oxytocin. Love produces an increase in oxytocin.
So, when we are in love we release greater amounts of this substance so the neurotransmitters that modulates oxytocin also increase in our brain regions.
Serotonin is known as the neurotransmitter of happiness because, among many other actions, this chemical performs the function of acting on emotions and mood.
It is responsible for well-being, generates feelings of optimism, good humor and sociability, so that the greater amounts of serotonin we release, the greater the sensations of happiness we experience.
In fact, most antidepressants act by increasing the release of this substance in order to increase mood.
Positive experiences and pleasant situations produce a release of serotonin in the brain, so when we experience love emotions, serotonin levels increase.
Dopamine is a substance that is mainly related to pleasure and plays an important role in pleasurable actions such as eating, having sex, consuming certain drugs.
In this way, pleasurable experiences are translated into the brain in a greater release of dopamine so that emotions of love increase the levels of these substances in the brain.
What exactly is dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, that is, a substance of the brain that is responsible for connecting some neurons among others.
These substances are distributed by multiple brain regions and, in each area, they perform a different activity.
Above all, the dopamine located in the system of pleasure and reward, a region of the brain that is responsible for this, to provide sensations of pleasure.
These regions are activated by any stimulus perceived as pleasant. For example, if we eat when we are really hungry or drink when we are very thirsty, our brain immediately produces a greater release of dopamine in these regions.
The release of dopamine automatically translates into a sensation of pleasure, so our brain reinforces the behavior as it interprets it as pleasant thanks to the substance released.
This brain mechanism is what explains the addictions, either to substances or to any type of action.
In this way, when we smoke for example, the nicotine in cigarettes produces a release of dopamine in the regions of pleasure and reward.
If you smoke frequently, this release of dopamine will also occur repeatedly, so the brain will get used to releasing this substance habitually and create an addiction to tobacco.
Leaving drugs aside, dopamine is released whenever we do something that is pleasurable. Therefore, those things that make us happy, we will interpret them as such and try to do them whenever we can to feel good.
Dopamine and love
The same mechanism that we have mentioned about dopamine with respect to drug use may be applicable to love.
When we are in love with someone, we experience pleasant and satisfying emotions.
These emotions immediately produce a release of dopamine in the brain, so that the same emotion produces sensations of pleasure.
This brain mechanism could explain the maintenance of this type of emotions and feelings.
That is to say, if our brain did not release dopamine in the aspects related to love, we probably would not reinforce this emotion and perhaps we would not want to maintain it.
Put another way, when we kiss our partner and perform a behavior that allows us to express the emotions of love, dopamine shoots up in our brain.
The increase of this substance in the cerebral regions is the main factor that motivates the appearance of sensations of pleasure in those moments, so it acts as a mental mechanism that does not indicate that what we are doing we like.
Love relationships are built on many other things than a simple chemical reaction of the brain.
However, the release of dopamine plays a very important role at the individual level, that is, when a person experiences emotions of love.
So, the sensations of pleasure that we mentioned previously, could explain part of the need that a person in love has to see the person who loves or be with her.
The individual’s brain knows that when he is with his partner he will release greater amounts of dopamine, so he will look for those situations to experience pleasure.
In this way, saving distances (which are many), love can motivate the search for this emotion and the desire to be with the beloved in the same way that the drug can drive the addict to consume.
In both cases, what is produced is an increase in the sensations of pleasure based on an external stimulus, modulated by the release of dopamine.
This comparison may be a bit extreme, since evidently, the changes produced by drugs in the functioning of dopamine in the brain are very different from those that produce feelings of love.
However, they serve to exemplify how these types of feelings are experienced thanks to the production of chemical modifications in the brain. Therefore, dopamine can largely explain the emotions of love in the human being.
Dopamine and lack of love
Finally, the operation of this substance in the experimentation of emotions and feelings of love raises a final question: the role that develops dopamine when love or relationship ends.
At the end of an affective relationship, a state of decayed mood and certain symptoms usually appear.
The person can feel sad, discouraged, nervous, not wanting to do anything, without motivation or without hope for things.
Analyzing love as an object and concept, we can conclude that these sensations are caused by the loss of a loved one, the experiencing of a loss situation or the desire to have something that is not already possessed.
However, without having to objectify what is stated in the previous paragraph, these moments can also be analyzed from the cerebral point of view.
When love ends, dopamine decreases
As we have said, every sensation, emotion and feeling is produced by the functioning of a series of chemical compounds in the brain.
Thus, when feelings of sadness are experienced after a break, they also respond to certain brain substances.
Being with someone, we accustom our brain to release certain levels of dopamine.
In this way, when the relationship ends, these levels of dopamine disappear, since the external stimulus that motivated them is no longer present.
In these moments, the sensations appear opposite to those that produce the high levels of dopamine, reason why unpleasant sensations and of sadness are experienced.
Therefore, returning to bridge the gap, this brain reaction can be similar to what a person addicted to a substance experiences when he stops using.
The addict experiences discomfort and the typical dependence known as monkey when he stops taking the drug to which he is addicted mainly because he needs to restore his dopamine levels.
In love, the effects are less clear, but the obsession or the highly unpleasant sensations that appear after a rupture may respond, in part, also to these modifications on the functioning of the brain’s chemical substances.