Confessions of a therapist

What really happens when you fall madly in love?

What really happens when you fall madly in love?

Love was in the air a few weeks with Valentine’s Day approaching and the shops packed with red roses and sweetheart cards, but how does love affect our health?Euphoria, sweaty palms, increased heart rate, butterflies and the feeling that we could conquer Everest? That would be love.When we fall in love our bodies produce chemicals to biologically bond us to our partner. Dopamine makes us feel pleasure; endorphins are natural pain killers; and oxytocin makes us travel to the end of the earth to be with the one we love.These love drugs can keep relationships breathlessly exciting for between six months to two years, but they finally fade and our senses return. Around this time we can feel like we have fallen out of love, but it is just a new level in the relationship, a steadier, more fulfilling love.When we look for love our heads tell us to opt for a more sensible partner with wholesome qualities, but real, life changing love cannot exist without the sweaty-palmed-chemistry which makes us crazy, risk takers who follow our hearts.And crazy we are! Research has proved that being in love has similarities to being mentally ill. The highs and lows of romantic encounters have emotional and biological affects similar to those which define mania, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. We obsess about our partner and fret about being rejected; we drop our friends; cannot concentrate at work; cannot eat or sleep; and generally act completely out of character by hoarding concert tickets, greeting cards and press the flowers sent by our lovers. Madness!As far as health goes, you would think the stress of falling in love was so severe that it could not possibly be beneficial. However, our happy dispositions and the stress relief achieved through love-making far outweighs any negative manic behaviour.The kind of love which is truly wonderful for our health is the secure, contented affection which comes after the six month to two year excitement wears off – the unconditional love.This is the kind of love parents feel for their children within minutes of meeting, friends establish through support and trust, and animals give to anyone who will feed them on a regular basis.Feelings of love do not have to be romantic to be healing. Just thinking kindly about someone we care about or the simplest of hugs or touches are enough to promote well being and good health.And, if all else fails, why not hug a stranger, eat a bar of chocolate and whizz through the supermarket on the back of a trolley to release your happy chemicals? After all, no one will know whether you are completely insane or just head over heels in love.         

Helen Skene

Complements Mobile Health and Healing for Suffolk Women Tel: 01473

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