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The science of love

The Appalachian Online

Everyone knows what love is. It’s a feeling, a sensation from deep inside the soul, an overflowing of emotion and wonder at the very existence of another human being out there for you.

Love is a powerful force, capable of driving the strongest person to weakness and the weakest person to strength.

It has fascinated human beings since the dawn of time, with many great works being written around the concept.

There’s an entire branch of Hollywood dedicated to making movies focused on love, presented either in a comedic or dramatic fashion.

Going further back, many of the great stories of old were focused on love, most famously the Greek myth of the Trojan War, a devastating war fought over the love of a single woman.

It was Megara in Disney’s “Hercules” who put it best when she said, “people do crazy things when they’re in love.”

But why? Why does love drive people to the length that it does, and what happens in the brain that affects people so?

The answer to that is chemicals, science and a lot more chemicals.

“Falling in love causes our body to release a flood of feel-good chemicals that trigger specific physical reactions,” Pat Mumby, the co-director of Loyola Sexual Wellness Clinic and a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said.

Specifically the brain releases large amounts of chemicals, such as dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine.

Dopamine is what causes the sense of “euphoria” associated with love, while the adrenaline and norepinephrine cause the irregular heartbeat and restlessness associated with love.

Love is also responsible for lowered serotonin levels in the brain, which, according to Mary Lynn, the co-director of the Loyola Sexual Wellness Clinic and assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, is common in people with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Not only that, but according to a CNN article titled “How your body reacts when you fall in love,” the brain also releases large amounts of oxytocin, causing it to enter a similar state as the brains of those addicted to drugs (it also affects the brain comparatively to alcohol).

Essentially, being in love is the same as being a mentally-ill drug addict who’s had one too many. In short, it breaks the brain.

So it would stand to reason that no one should ever fall in love, right? Scientists should stop everything they’re doing and devote all their research to ending this thing called “love,” right?

Well, not really. In fact, falling in love is probably the healthiest thing an individual could do for themselves.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, marriage reduces the risk of heart attack for both men and women.

This study found that unmarried men were 58-66 percent more likely to suffer from ACS , or “acute cardiac symptoms,” while unmarried women were more 60-65 percent more likely to suffer from it.

Not only that, but love is also a powerful medicine, capable of aiding survival in case any forms of cardiac problems arise.

According to a study by Ellen Idler, a sociologist at Emory University, unmarried, single people who survived the three-month period following cardiac surgery were 70 percent more likely to die in the five years after than their married counterparts.

Love, marriage and committed relationships specifically also cause a reduced production of stress hormones.

A team of researchers from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University studied 500 individuals and found that those in committed relationships produced less cortisol than unmarried people.

So the question remains, is love worth it?

Even with the science of the issue aside indicating that love is worth it, most will say that love is definitely worth it.

Having been in love at one point in my life, I can say that it’s a better drug than anyone could possibly conceive.

It’s an intoxicating, steady ecstasy of highs and lows and that keeps you coming back for more and more. Its experiencing the entirety of another human being’s existence, their highs and their lows, accepting it and having the same done for you in return.

It’s the sheer absurdity of finding this one person amongst the billions of people on Earth who breaks your brain in such a way that only this one, single person is capable of.

Love is absolutely worth it.

Q Russell is sophomore journalism major from Charlotte, North Carolina.

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