How Our Bodies Respond to Falling in Love: The Chemistry of Romance


Arvinda Dixit

Love is a very important theme in our popular culture. It is the main focus of many songs, movies, and works of literature and art. What is happening inside our body when we feel love?

Love is hard to explain, but it can be described as a strong feeling of deep affection. Science simplifies love as a mixture of chemicals that the brain releases.

Romantic love developed from the basic animal instinct to search for and keep preferred partners, according to evolutionary theory. Love helps people stay connected and dedicated to each other, especially when raising children from infancy. This ensures that our species will keep having babies, stay alive, and do well.

However, romantic love is more than just about reproduction. Some people believe that love should be considered a motivation, similar to hunger, thirst, sleep, or sex. Loving others and being loved has many advantages. These benefits include improved mental health, wellbeing, and immune function, as well as reduced chronic stress and disease.

What Happens When You Fall in Love With Someone?

How Our Bodies Respond to Falling in Love: The Chemistry of Romance

When someone starts to see another person as special and unique, that’s usually when they begin to fall in love. The beginning stage of falling in love is a very intense biological state, marked by heightened reactions and strong passion. Lust and attraction are caused by the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, which motivate people to engage in sexual activity.

When you fall in love, certain parts of your brain, like the limbic system and reward centers, become active. The limbic system plays important roles in controlling emotions and storing memories. This creates a happy feeling and clarifies why the memories linked to new love are very powerful.

Additionally, there is a rise in dopamine and noradrenaline. Dopamine is a chemical that makes us feel good and motivates us to pursue things we are interested in, like love. It can also make us think about and focus on that person a lot. Noradrenaline is a chemical that makes you feel really happy and excited. It also makes your heart beat faster, gives you butterflies in your stomach, and makes you feel more energetic.

Meanwhile, other parts of the brain become less active. When the frontal cortex is less active, it decreases negative emotions and judgments. This is why people may not notice any flaws in the person they are in love with at first. However, even though you may feel less judgmental, there are also higher levels of cortisol, stress, and feelings of insecurity during the early stage of falling in love.

How Does Your Body React When You Fall in Love?

Remember those feelings of butterflies in your stomach and a racing heartbeat from your first middle school crush? As an adult, your body gives subtle clues that you’re falling in love (or at least feeling lust). When a relationship begins, there are a lot of interesting chemical reactions happening in your body that affect your nerves and hormones. When you first meet someone and as your relationship progresses, there are changes happening in your body as you experience falling in love.

How Our Bodies Respond to Falling in Love: The Chemistry of Romance

It Feels Like a Drug Addiction

A study conducted at Rutgers University in 2010 found that Kesha’s description of love as a drug was not far from the truth. Researchers have found that falling in love is similar to the feeling of being addicted to drugs.

This is because it releases chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline, and vasopressin, which create a sense of euphoria. Kat Van Kirk, who has a PhD in clinical sexology and is a licensed marriage and family therapist, explains that these chemicals are released at various stages of attraction and help create a bond with your partner. She says that spending more time with this person is like being addicted to drugs.

Your Cheeks Flush and Heart Races

Before a big date, you might feel your heart beating faster and your hands becoming sweaty. According to Dr. Kirk, it’s not just a nervous tick that makes your anxiety increase. It’s actually the stimulation of adrenaline and norepinephrine. “According to her, this can cause a physical feeling of wanting and the urge to concentrate on that particular person,” she explains.

You May Feel a Little Sick

It is common to experience a loss of appetite or feel unsettled when you have recently started dating someone new. That means your body is telling you that you really like that person. “Lovesickness may actually be caused by the stress hormone cortisol, which contracts the blood vessels in your stomach and makes you feel sick,” explains Dr. Kirk.

Usually, this feeling goes away as you become more comfortable with your boyfriend or girlfriend. However, it could also partly explain why many brides and grooms feel like they can’t eat at their wedding.

It Feels Like Superpowers

Have you ever heard stories about moms who were so scared that they were able to lift cars off their children who were stuck underneath? It may seem crazy, but there are stories that suggest that feeling a combination of love and fear can give you a sudden burst of superhuman strength during an emergency.

It is very challenging to scientifically study a phenomenon called hysterical strength because it is hard to recreate the exact conditions needed for a study. Not only parents but also people who are in love, have experienced hysterical strength. “When you fall in love, your body releases oxytocin, which can actually make you more able to handle physical pain,” explains Dr. Kirk. Step aside, Prince Charming—love will come to the rescue.

Love May Mess With Your Hormones

How Our Bodies Respond to Falling in Love: The Chemistry of Romance

During the honeymoon phase of a relationship, which typically lasts for the first one to two years, your hormones become very active and can cause intense feelings of excitement and infatuation whenever you see your partner. A study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology in 2004 found that cortisol, which is the stress hormone, increases in both men and women. During this time, the level of testosterone, which is the male sex hormone, decreases in men and increases in women.

Your Sex Drive is the Highest at Beginning

A study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy suggests that at the start of a relationship, couples often have a strong physical attraction to each other. However, it can be challenging to maintain that same level of passion over time, especially for women. Researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada conducted a survey with 170 men and women who were in monogamous heterosexual relationships.

The survey asked questions about their satisfaction with the relationship, sexual satisfaction, and sexual desire. Researchers discovered that while men’s sexual desire remained consistent over time, women experienced a decrease of 0.02 on the Female Sexual Function Index for each month they stayed in a relationship.

How Does Romantic Love Change Over Time?

The first stage of falling in love and strong infatuation typically lasts for a few months.

During the next phase, there is a stronger bond, more dedication, and a deeper emotional connection. This is caused by the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin makes us feel safe and secure after the initial rush of cortisol and stress that comes with the uncertainty and risk of falling in love. Vasopressin helps animals stay alert and protective of their territory and themselves.

There is a balance between oxytocin and vasopressin that allows you to connect with others while also protecting yourself and the person you love.

Oxytocin is commonly referred to as the “hormone of love” because it helps people form social bonds and connections. Recent studies in animals indicate that oxytocin may not be necessary for long-term bonding between individuals, contrary to previous beliefs.

Having sex is different from being in love, but it does strengthen the emotional bond between two people. When we touch, kiss, or have sex, our bodies release oxytocin and vasopressin. These hormones help create feelings of love and commitment between a couple.

How Our Bodies Respond to Falling in Love: The Chemistry of Romance

What About the Negative Effects of Love?

Feeling lovesick, lovelorn, or heartbroken means that love doesn’t always feel great. Being aware of the negative effects of love can help you watch out for them and prevent any harm to yourself or your new relationship.

Increased Stress

Stress usually decreases over time in a long-term, committed relationship. However, when you initially experience love, your stress levels typically increase. Falling in love can feel like a big deal, especially when you’re not sure how the other person feels.

Feeling a little stressed can sometimes be helpful because it can inspire you to chase after what you love. If you’re unable to focus on tasks because you’re eagerly waiting for them to continue the flirty conversation from the previous night, it could be a problem.

Sleep and Appetite Changes

How Our Bodies Respond to Falling in Love: The Chemistry of Romance

Are you having trouble sleeping because you can’t stop thinking about someone special? Curious about how they feel about you? Perhaps you have already realized that they have similar feelings, but you are unsure about when you will meet them again. That’s just another form of pain.

Feeling anxious can also cause stomach discomfort and make it difficult to eat. When you’re thinking about love, you might not care about food at all. When your hormone levels change quickly, it can affect your appetite and ability to sleep. However, eating healthy and getting enough rest will help you feel more ready to handle whatever comes your way.

Physical Symptoms

When you experience the stress of love, your body produces norepinephrine and adrenaline. These are the same hormones that your body releases when you encounter danger or other difficult situations.

These hormones can cause various physical symptoms, such as the sensation of your stomach flipping or flopping. “Butterflies” might sound pleasant, but they can actually make you feel nauseous.

When you see or think about the person you love, you feel anxious and uneasy. You start to feel your heart beating faster, your hands getting sweaty, and your face turning red. You may experience some trembling or shakiness. You may feel like your words are coming out spontaneously.

How Our Bodies Respond to Falling in Love: The Chemistry of Romance

Love Addiction

Many people argue about whether individuals can develop an addiction to love. Simply put, it is possible to go through a pattern where you strongly desire the exciting phase of early love or a perfect romantic connection.

People who have love addictions may also feel the desire to end a relationship once they no longer feel “in love.” If you see these signs, it may be a good idea to take a short break from love and dating. Speaking with a therapist can provide you with additional understanding of this pattern.

Poor Judgment

Have you ever done something silly, maybe even a little dangerous, to impress someone you love? Perhaps you acted impulsively and did something that you wouldn’t normally do.

You are not the only one. When you feel intense love, certain parts of your brain that help you recognize danger (amygdala) and make decisions (the frontal lobe) temporarily become less active, which can make you less able to use these important skills.

If you choose to tell someone you love them in front of a hundred people at your best friend’s birthday party, the result might just be an embarrassing story that people will always bring up. However, not being able to judge properly can also lead to more serious problems, like having trouble noticing warning signs.


Love is a complex emotion that can be described as a strong feeling of deep affection, influenced by various chemicals released by the brain. Romantic love originated from the basic animal instinct to search for and maintain preferred partners, and it can be seen as a motivation for mental health, wellbeing, and immune function.

The initial stage of falling in love is marked by intense biological reactions, such as heightened reactions and strong passion, driven by hormones like estrogen and testosterone. The limbic system and reward centers become active, while dopamine and noradrenaline rise, causing a sense of happiness and motivation.

The body reacts to love, causing subtle changes such as feelings of addiction, anxiety, heart racing, and feelings of hysterical strength. These reactions can lead to improved mental health, wellbeing, and immune function, as well as reduced chronic stress and disease.

During the honeymoon phase of a relationship, hormones become active, causing intense feelings of excitement and infatuation. Sex drive is the highest at the beginning, but it can be challenging to maintain over time, especially for women. Romantic love changes over time due to the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which help form social bonds and connections.

Negative effects of love include increased stress, sleep, and appetite changes, physical symptoms, love addiction, and poor judgment. Stress can lead to feelings of infatuation, anxiety, and unease, while physical symptoms can cause physical discomfort and trembling. Love addictions may also lead to the desire to end a relationship once they no longer feel “in love.” It may be beneficial to take a break from love and dating and speak with a therapist to understand these patterns.