The desire for love is one of the most primal instincts we have. After all, who can resist the rush of being in love? That feeling of being “on cloud nine” when we first fall for someone. If you think back to the beginning of your last love affair, you can probably remember that feeling well. There’s nothing else quite like it. But looking beyond this, what are the neurological signs that you’re actually in love?
Well, your body actually experiences significant hormonal changes when you fall in love. From intimate behaviors like cuddling and kissing to building a foundation of trust and security in a new, loving relationship, these all have an effect on our brains. Science is beginning to parse the neural systems, chemical messengers, and inner workings of the brain in different romantic states to discover what stems behind the scenes of these changes.
Here are some of the neurological signs that you could be in love.
You Feel Less Stressed
Love is a powerful emotion. It’s well-known that those in love can experience heightened levels of euphoria. There are also some lesser known benefits, including reduced stress.
Studies have shown that people in love tend to feel less stressed overall whilst in a long-term relationship. A study published in 2005 suggested that forming a strong bond with your significant other could reduce levels of anxiety. Stress is the body’s response to danger, so when you’re in love and feeling safe, your brain will produce more of a hormone called oxytocin, which in turn, lowers any stress you may be experiencing. Love should be an easy emotion with the right person, and once you find the one, your levels of stress should decrease significantly as you support one another.
You Feel Safe
One of the most common neurological signs of being in love is the feeling of safety. This can be strongly attributed to the lower stress levels you experience when falling in love. You might feel like nothing could go wrong when you’re with your partner. Interestingly, this feeling may extend to situations when you are apart. You might also feel safer when you’re alone, or even when you’re in a crowded room full of strangers.
As previously mentioned, oxytocin is the hormone released during physical contact such as hugging, kissing, and sex. A Harvard study reported that increased oxytocin can lead to a sense of calmness and security.
You Experience Emotional Changes
One of the lesser-known neurological signs of being in love is emotional changes. Love can make you feel more emotionally impulsive than usual which is why some people need reminders to take things a little slower when they first fall in love. You can experience heightened positive emotions that feel noticeably different than your typical state. Falling in love can often lead to exhilaration, euphoria, and increased energy as well.
This is especially true if you’re falling in love for the first time. This noticeable change in your emotional state isn’t completely permanent though. In a healthy relationship, these emotional changes will likely settle over time, leaving behind the positive emotions you feel towards your partner.
You Get Butterflies in Your Stomach
This is a common sign of being in love. Those ‘butterflies’ you feel in your stomach when you see your beloved can be attributed to the release of cortisol.
When you meet your partner and fall in love, your cortisol levels increase. Your brain also produces more serotonin and dopamine. And those butterfly feelings are actually a result of your brain sending a message to your gut.
Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, explains this feeling as, “Your limbic or emotional brain activates the vagus nerve that goes from the brain to your gut. When you get nervous, or when you get excited (as I explain to my patients, it’s the same feeling, but it depends on your interpretation of it) this nerve is stimulated that activates the gut.”
As for those tingles? These are easily explained. Your brain is flooded with oxytocin, which is also associated with feeling good. In fact, this may be one of the reasons why it feels so good to fall in love, as both neurotransmitters are associated with pleasure.
You Feel Happier Than Usual
When you’re in love, you may find that you can’t stop smiling. It’s hard not to feel happier than usual when you’re with the person you adore. You might even find yourself laughing more and feeling like all is right in the world as long as you have them by your side.
This can largely be attributed to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the brains’ reward and pleasure center. This can make couples feel happier around each other.
The Journal of Comparative Neurology published a study in 2005 which scanned 2,500 brain images of 17 individuals who claimed to be in love. They found that the participants who looked at their significant other during the scan showed higher brain activity levels in two areas that are highly associated with dopamine.
You Can Experience Emotional Dependency
When you fall in love, you may become emotionally dependent on your partner. You might suddenly feel like you need them by your side, and that it’s incredibly difficult to be apart for extended periods of time. This is something that usually goes away with time, but it never fades completely. Recognizing this feeling and knowing that it will lessen over time, can help you to maintain your independence and continue to make time for your own interests when starting a relationship.
A 2017 article from Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology suggested that feeling in love can become distracting for certain individuals. Fortunately, these preoccupying thoughts about your partner and being in love, will fade over time as you get accustomed to this new love in your life.
As you can see, falling in love goes beyond just a lustful attraction to someone. The brain releases specific hormones that can impact your emotions and your behavior.
The next time you start falling for someone, you may notice some of these tell-tale signs. Have you already experienced some?