Valentine's Day | 'Kuch To Hua Hai...': What Happens To Your Brain When In Love?

Your brain releases certain hormones that make you fall head over heels for someone.

5 min read

The Quint DAILY

For impactful stories you just can’t miss

By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy

If you’ve ever been in love, you might be familiar with a sort of a euphoric feeling, one that you don't get tired of easily. You feel like you finally understand what Javed Akhtar wrote about in the iconic Kal Ho Na Ho (2003) song Kuch To Hua Hai

Your heart might start beating faster, you might have trouble breathing when the person is around you, and you might even spend a few sleepless nights thinking about the person you love.

But did you know that all these 'feelings' have do to do with the brain than it has with your heart?

Yes, your brain releases certain hormones that make you fall head over heels for someone – and also the hormones that keep you in that very love.


The Three Stages Of Love, Actually

While movies would have you believe that you meet someone on the first day, fall in love, and get married by the third day, in reality, there are a few stages in between these events.

More often than not, love begins with a feeling of infatuation.

This infatuation, or the lust or desire to be with someone, is actually triggered by the production of reproductive hormones, namely testosterone and estrogen, which are controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain, explains Dr Sudhir Kumar, Neurologist, Apollo Hospital, Hyderabad.

A few weeks or months into the relationship, when the attraction deepens, the brain increases the production of two other hormones, adrenaline and dopamine.

What the adrenaline does is cause anxiety, excitement, and restlessness in the person, which is the ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling that we so often discuss.

Adrenaline induces the fight or flight response in the person, making them wonder if the other person likes them back, whether they want to spend time with them, etc.

While this anxiety might be pleasurable in certain cases, it’s still anxiety – making the pulse rate higher and breathing heavy in the aashiq. 

The other hormone at play during this stage is dopamine, which kindles desire and is involved in the brain’s reward department.

Dr Kumar shares that functional MRIs, over the years, have shown that when someone is shown a picture of the person they are romantically involved with, the part of the brain that produces dopamine lights up.

That’s because meeting someone you love or spending time with them makes you happy, which the brain construes as a reward, heightening the feelings of desire and pleasure.

A few more months or years down the line, when the attachment grows, the feelings of restlessness and anxiety are replaced by a sense of security and possessiveness. This happens because the hypothalamus in the brain increases the release of oxytocin and vasopressin.

Oxytocin, also known as the love chemical, is produced when there’s a direct skin-to-skin contact with someone you love – hugging your partner, kissing them, sexual intercourse, and orgasms, etc. Says Dr Kumar,

“This chemical strengthens and defines the gravity of love. There is a feeling of being content and calm, and the sense of security and bonding increases o its production.”

Vasopressin, on the other hand, induces feelings of protectiveness and possessiveness after sexual intercourse.


Is Love An Addiction For The Brain?

Interestingly, the brain releases dopamine when in love, and also when getting addicted to something. Dr Kumar shares that an experiment was done on two sets on male fruit flies. One set had been sexually rejected by female fruit flies and one set had mated with them.

Dr Kumar explains,

“The scientists on studying their behaviour found out that the male fruit flies who had been sexually rejected by females drank four times more alcohol than their counterparts. So the reward centre of the brain, which releases dopamine and induces pleasurable feeling, is the same. Dopamine releases the desire towards love and addiction. Deep love is in fact addictive scientifically.”

If love really is a chemical locha, does that mean if someone is on hormonal pills or anti-depressants, their feelings might change? That is a possibility, explains Dr Kumar.

He says, “Hormonal imbalance can impact how your brain perceives pleasure, desire, and rewards.”

And with so many chemicals are involved, love is also technically blind, especially to red flags. When someone is in love, the two neural pathways in the brain which are responsible for rational thinking get shut off, says Dr Kumar.


All Encompassing Or Not, Love Can’t Be Generalised

While the hormones released in the brain do take control of our romantic feelings, Dr Kamna Chibber, Head of Department, Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, feels that love can’t be generalised based on only these chemicals.

She says:

“People’s romantic expectations are often influenced by how/where they grew up, their peers, their past experiences, etc. There are psycho-social elements are play too.”

But she does add that in healthy long-term relationships where communication is good, people might start feeling more positive, joyful, and feel that their problems have a lesser impact on them now because of a support system, There could also be a change in how they engage with other people.

On the other hand, if the relationship is full of conflicts, with already low levels of serotonin, negative thoughts might start clouding the person’s mind, with a preoccupation about the uncertain future of the relationship.


And That's Not All

There are some other chemicals involved in love too. In the initial stages of love, while adrenaline and cortisol increase, inducing feelings of euphoria and passion, serotonin decreases and the amygdala in the brain becomes deactivated, lowering your feelings of fear or judgment.

Apart from this, the medial insula, the anterior cingulate cortex, and segments of the dorsal striatum in the brain are also responsible for love, more than your heart.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from fit

Topics:  Love   Valentine's Day   Brain 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!
More News