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Finally there is scientific validation for the insanity one feels when we fall in love. Researchers have discovered that the brain’s chemistry of infatuation is akin to mental illness, which gives new meaning to the phrase “falling madly in love.”
The research findings, reported in the February issue of National Geographic, also found that the cocktail of brain chemicals that spark romance are not the same as the ones that foster long-term commitments. So as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, we might want to think (which is almost impossible when one’s brain is flooded with the delirium of passion) about the longer-term consequences of our libidinous desires.
Those who have felt the unrelenting craziness of passionate love know that reason and reality fly out the window once one’s true love enters the scene. Work, bill paying, responsibilities, sleep – even getting regular food – can all fall apart, and we find we have unlimited energies to devote to our beloved. The good news is that the brain has a built in protection mechanism. The insanity doesn’t last.
Researchers found that the brains of people in love respond similarly to when it gets a surge of dopamine. Cocaine users describe an increasing tolerance for the drug as time goes by, and a need for more and more of a fix, and lovers’ brains do the same thing. After a while the high just wears off. Although the loss of the rush can be a letdown, for those who need to hold down a job and keep the utilities on, it is probably a good thing.
That is not to say that passionate love cannot morph into long-term happiness. Many couples in the studies reported that their first blush of passion was overwhelming, but that as time went on the irresistible urge to bed each other became tempered by another desire, to talk to each other and spend time having fun together in other ways. The relationships that stand the test of time are the ones in which the lovers discover that they actually like each other, as well as drive each other mad with desire.
As each of you celebrate this day of love, we encourage you to enjoy the unquenchable thirst that our brain chemistry provides when we find the one that turns us into that lunatic we hardly recognize as ourselves. Relax and enjoy it. It should be a relief to know that you are not permanently insane, just crazy in love.
And if you’re lucky in love too, the one that drives you mad between the sheets will be the same person that you like talk to across the dinner table. We hope you enjoy this Special Love and Romance issue of Between The Lines and we wish all of you a Happy Valentine’s Day!