15 Effects of Love on Your Brain and Body (2022)

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There’s no denying that love can do a number on you, whether you’re head over heels, stuck on someone, or completely swept away.

You don’t need to do much more than pick up a book or turn on the radio or TV to hear about love’s effects.

Even the oldest written love song discovered to date has something to add: “You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you,” reads the translation of “The Love Song for Shu-Sin,” which dates to approximately 2000 B.C.

More modern media examples, including romantic comedies and sentimental tales of soul mates, can sometimes be a little hard to swallow, especially if Cupid’s arrows don’t strike you quite that hard.

But if you’ve been in love yourself, you’ll know the occasional exaggerations don’t entirely miss the mark.

Many people describe love as something you just have to learn to recognize when it happens. If you need a little help in that department, here are 15 telltale effects to look for.

When you think of love, your heart might be the first organ that comes to mind.

While terms like “thinking with your heart,” “you’re in my heart,” and “heartbroken” make this pretty understandable, you really have your brain to thank — that’s where it all goes down.

The brain changes triggered by love certainly affect your mood and behavior when these feelings are new, but some effects linger long past the first blush of love, continuing to strengthen your commitment over time.

Here’s a look at some of the major effects.

Euphoria

That giddy, euphoric excitement you feel when spending time with the person you love (or seeing them across the room, or hearing their name)? You can trace this entirely normal effect of falling in love back to the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Your brain’s reward system relies on this important chemical to reinforce pleasurable behaviors, including:

  • eating
  • listening to music
  • having sex
  • seeing people you love

Simply thinking about the object of your affections is enough to trigger dopamine release, making you feel excited and eager to do whatever it takes to see them.

Then, when you actually do see them, your brain “rewards” you with more dopamine, which you experience as intense pleasure.

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Researchers believe this cycle plays an important part in mating behavior. Feeling good when you spend time with the person you love makes it more likely you’ll keep doing it.

From a purely biological perspective, this is an important first step in the process of choosing an ideal mate to reproduce with.

Attachment and security

When it comes to love, dopamine isn’t the only chemical on the field. Oxytocin levels also surge, boosting feelings of attachment, safety, and trust.

This is why you probably feel comfortable and relaxed in in the company of a partner, especially once your love makes it past the first early rush. These feelings might seem even stronger after touching, kissing, or sex. That’s oxytocin at work. It’s nicknamed “the love hormone” for a reason.

This release of oxytocin can strengthen your bond, in part because it may decrease your interest in other potential partners. In short, the better your partner makes you feel, the closer you’ll likely want to become.

Willingness to sacrifice

Most people agree love involves some degree of compromise and sacrifice.

Sacrifices can range from small — like going with dandelion yellow paint in the kitchen instead of robin’s egg blue — to life-altering. For example, you might move across the country, even to a different country, to support your partner.

As love flourishes, you may find yourself more willing to make these sacrifices. It’s believed this happens because partners tend to become more synced up, thanks in part to the vagus nerve, which begins in your brain and plays a role in everything from your facial expressions to the rhythm of your heart.

This alignment can help you notice when they feel sad or distressed. Since it’s only natural to want to keep someone you love from experiencing pain, you might choose to sacrifice something for this reason.

Constant thoughts

Is the person you love front and center in your thoughts? Maybe you think about them so often they’ve even started to feature in your dreams.

This partially relates to the dopamine cycle that rewards these positive thoughts, but 2005 research suggests you can also thank another part of your brain: the anterior cingulate cortex.

Experts have linked this brain region to obsessive-compulsive behaviors, which can help explain why the intensity and frequency of your thoughts might seem to creep toward the level of an obsession.

Still, when you first fall in love with someone, it’s normal for them to be the main thing on your mind. This can reinforce your desire to spend time with them, potentially increasing your chances of successfully building a relationship.

Less stress

Lasting love is consistently linked to lower levels of stress.

The positive feelings associated with oxytocin and dopamine production can help improve your mood, for one. Research from 2010 also suggests single people may have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, than people in committed relationships.

What is a partner if not someone to vent to, someone who can have your back? It’s understandable, then, that the support and companionship of someone you love can help you manage challenging life events more easily.

Jealousy

While people tend to think of jealousy as something bad, it’s a natural emotion that can help you pay more attention to your needs and feelings.

In other words, jealousy sparked by love can suggest you have a strong commitment to your partner and don’t want to lose them.

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Jealousy can actually have a positive impact on your relationship by promoting bonding and attachment — as long as you use it wisely.

When you notice jealous feelings, first remind yourself they’re normal. Then, share them with your partner instead of snooping or making passive-aggressive remarks about their behavior.

Whether you feel love in your fingers, your toes, or all around, it’ll show up in your body, too.

Boosted passion

Falling in love can make you feel pretty lustful.

What makes you want to get it on all the time? Another set of hormones comes into play here. Androgens, a group of hormones that includes testosterone, increase your desire for sex with the person you love.

Having sex also boosts production of these hormones, which can lead to a cycle that’s also reinforced by the release of oxytocin and dopamine.

Sex with your partner feels great and increases closeness, so it’s perfectly normal to want more. No harm in that — sex offers plenty of health benefits.

Improved physical health

Love, particularly love that develops into a committed relationship, can have a positive impact on overall health.

A few of these benefits include:

  • decreased risk of heart disease
  • lower blood pressure
  • improved immune health
  • faster recovery from illness

Longer life span

A loving relationship could help you have a longer life.

Research from 2011 reviewed 95 articles that compared the death rate for single people to the death rate for people who were married or lived with partners.

The review authors found evidence to suggest that single people had a much higher risk for early death: 24 percent, according to some of the studies they looked at.

A 2012 study of 225 adults who had coronary artery bypass grafting also found evidence suggesting love can lead to a longer life. People who were married when they had the surgery were 2.5 times more likely to be still living 15 years later.

High marital satisfaction increased this rate further: People who reported being highly satisfied in their marriage were 3.2 times more likely to be still living than those who were less satisfied.

Pain relief

You might have some firsthand experience with the way thoughts of your loved one can improve your mood, and maybe even provide a little comfort or strength when you don’t feel well.

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This effect doesn’t just exist in your imagination, according to a small 2010 study.

This study looked at 15 adults in romantic relationships established within the previous 9 months. The participants experienced moderate to high levels of thermal pain while doing one of three things:

  • responding to a word-association prompt shown to reduce pain through previous research
  • looking at a photograph of an attractive acquaintance
  • looking at a photograph of their romantic partner

They reported less pain both when completing the distraction task and when looking at a photo of their partner.

The study authors also noted that looking at a partner’s photo activated the brain’s reward system, which suggests this activation may lower your perception of pain.

Lovesick, lovelorn, heartbroken: These words only go to show that love doesn’t always feel amazing.

An awareness of love’s less-than-positive effects can make it easier to keep an eye out for them so they don’t cause you, or your budding relationship, any harm.

Increased stress

In a long-term, committed relationship, stress tends to decrease over time.

But when you first fall in love, your stress usually goes up. It makes sense; falling in love can feel like a pretty high-stakes situation, especially before you know how the other person feels.

A little stress isn’t always a bad thing, since it can motivate you to pursue your love.

If you can’t get anything done because you’re waiting anxiously for them to pick up the flirty conversation you had going the night before, though, you might have a bit of a problem.

Physical symptoms

Your body responds to the stress of love by producing norepinephrine and adrenaline, the same hormones your body releases when you face danger or other crises.

These hormones can cause a range of physical symptoms, like that flip-flopping feeling in your stomach. “Butterflies” might sound nice, sure — until they make you feel like you need to throw up.

When you see, or even just think of, the person you love, you feel tense and nervous. Your heart begins to race, your palms sweat, and your face flushes. You might feel a little shaky. Your words might seem to tumble out of nowhere.

This can make you anxious and uncomfortable, even when there’s no one else you’d rather be talking to.

Sleep and appetite changes

Tossing and turning because you can’t get that special someone out of your head? Wondering how they feel about you? Maybe you’ve already discovered they feel the same way but don’t know when you’ll see them next. That’s just another type of agony.

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A nervous stomach can also keep you up and make it hard to eat. And when your thoughts fixate on love, food might seem completely unimportant.

Rapidly changing hormone levels can certainly affect your appetite and ability to sleep, but eating well and making sure to get enough rest will help you feel more prepared to face whatever happens.

Poor judgment

Ever done something silly (perhaps a little dangerous) to impress someone you love? Maybe you acted without thinking and did something you’d never ordinarily consider.

You’re not the only one.

When you experience intense love, parts of your brain responsible for helping you detect danger (amygdala) and make decisions (the frontal lobe) go into temporary hibernation, leaving you lacking these essential skills.

So, if you decide to confess your love in front of a hundred people at your best friend’s birthday party, the consequences might be nothing more than a really embarrassing story you’ll never hear the end of.

But this lack of judgment can also have more serious consequences, such as making it difficult to recognize red flags.

Love addiction

There’s a lot of debate about whether people can become addicted to love.

In short, it is possible to experience a pattern where you crave the euphoric phase of early love or an idealized romantic attachment.

People with so-called love addictions might also feel the need to move on from a relationship once they no longer feel “in love.”

If you notice these signs, it might be time to take a brief break from love and dating. Talking to a therapist can help you get some more insight on this pattern.

Most people agree love is more of a whole-body experience than a simple state of mind.

But while love can feel wonderful, it can also make you miserable, especially when your feelings go unrequited.

A therapist can always offer support when love distresses you more than it uplifts you.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.

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FAQs

How does love affect the brain and body? ›

When in love, neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin flood our brains in areas associated with pleasure and rewards, producing physical and psychological responses like less perceived pain, an addictive dependence, and a stronger desire for sex with your partner.

How does love effect the body? ›

High levels of dopamine and a related hormone, norepinephrine, are released during attraction. These chemicals make us giddy, energetic, and euphoric, even leading to decreased appetite and insomnia – which means you actually can be so “in love” that you can't eat and can't sleep.

What are the effects of too much love? ›

People who love too much often keep investing in a relationship that has no chance of surviving, as their beloved does not love them to the same extent. Loving too much may also hurt the beloved. A typical example of this is when the lover does not allow the beloved to enjoy sufficient private space.

How do feelings of love affect my mind body and mood? ›

Emotions that are associated with being in love include happiness, anxiety, attachment, desire and excitement. These emotions are linked to several chemicals and hormones produced by the body, such as dopamine, norepinephrine and adrenaline. When someone is in love, they may feel euphoric or addicted.

What are the positive effects of love? ›

Seven Reasons Why Loving Relationships Are Good For You
  • We live longer. Studies show that those engaged in positive relationships live longer. ...
  • We heal quicker. ...
  • We have lower blood pressure. ...
  • We bolster our immune systems. ...
  • We are more physically fit. ...
  • We enjoy good heart health. ...
  • We feel less pain.
14 Feb 2017

What part of the brain is affected by love? ›

The hypothalamus is one of the brain regions that makes up the limbic system and is often considered the main control centre of love.

Is love good for your body? ›

Love in its many forms, from the familiarity of good friends to the sometimes-you-don't-always-feel-it-but-it's-there love of long-term relationships. Spending time with loved ones – family and friends alike – can reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and may even improve our cardiovascular health.

What happens to your brain when you fall in love? ›

Researchers have scanned the brains of people who are madly in love and found a heavy surge of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain's reward system that helps people feel pleasure. Dopamine, along with other chemicals, gives us that energy, focus, and obsession we feel when we're wild about someone.

Why does love affect us so much? ›

Being in love triggers a cocktail of chemicals in the brain. Some of the hormones — which also act as neurotransmitters — that the body releases when we're infatuated can have a soothing effect. For example, people have dubbed oxytocin as “the love hormone” because the body releases it during sex or physical touch.

How does love make you feel? ›

You bounce between exhilaration, euphoria, increased energy, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, trembling, a racing heart and accelerated breathing, as well as anxiety, panic and feelings of despair when your relationship suffers even the smallest setback.

How can love change a person? ›

Love changes us. It can bring us to some very dark places in our life, but it can also lead us onto an even better path. When I've fallen in love, it's always been this overwhelming feeling of bliss and freedom. The feeling of freedom is in the person I am and in my potential in life.

What is the true power of love? ›

Your heart starts to feel warm, and your bad mood and impatience melt away. You have experienced love resonating from another person, and it has transformed your experience. This is the power of love; it has the ability to transform an ordinary moment into something magical.

What is the importance of love? ›

Scientific studies have shown that being in love causes our body to release feel-good hormones and neuro-chemicals that trigger specific, positive reactions. Levels of dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine increase when people are in love.

What is the value of love? ›

The value of love is found through dedication and devotion to something or someone you love. The question is; what are you willing to give in exchange for love? Everything in life is an exchange of give and take. Nothing is gained without some kind of sacrifice.

What is the best feeling of love? ›

Love gives you incredible inspiration

Being in love makes you feel inspired. It gives you a can-do attitude that you can approach anything, anywhere, anytime. Being in love gives you motivation. Your attitude is optimistic and always positive.

What causes love in the brain? ›

The initial happy feelings of being in love is stimulated by 3 chemicals in the brain: noradrenaline that stimulates adrenaline production causing that racing heart and sweaty palms; dopamine, the feel-good chemical; and phenylethylamine that is released when we're near our crush, giving us butterflies in our tummies.

Are there rules in love? ›

Always tell the truth. Love, goodwill, wisdom and understanding are absolutely required. A sense of humor is quite necessary. Respect each other and each other's desire for privacy.

What are the 3 different brain systems involved in love? ›

According to Dr. Helen Fisher, one of the preeminent researchers in the field of human affections, love can be divided into three major systems of the brain: sex, romance, and attachment.

What part of the body makes you love? ›

Usually, oxytocin is produced in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. Sometimes, however, the hormone is produced in the "bed nucleus of the stria terminalis" (BNST). This part of the brain plays a key role in the body's stress response.

How long does love last in the brain? ›

According to some authors, this feeling of uncontrollable desire for the other person can last for about two years. Around this time, there's a decrease in the hormones linked to desire. However, this overlaps with the increase of another hormone, known as the love hormone, oxytocin.

What is the main cause of love? ›

According to Hani Henry, chair and associate professor of psychology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology at AUC, Robert Sternberg's psychological theory covers the most common reasons why we fall in love, namely: intimacy, passion and commitment.

What's a deeper word for love? ›

affection, appreciation, devotion, emotion, fondness, friendship, infatuation, lust, passion, respect, tenderness, yearning, lover, admire, care for, cherish, choose, go for, prefer, prize.

How do you know its true love? ›

True love means empathy, and that doesn't end when we get our feelings hurt or our expectations disappointed. When we have finally met the right person, we will find that they are always in our corner. They have compassion for us, and they try to see things from our point of view.

How does a man realize he's in love? ›

When in love, a man can feel many different ways. He may notice that his attention and goals start to shift. One such example would be that he's interested in you and building a relationship and not just thinking about his sex life. He may also feel more pressure to succeed, provide for, or protect his partner.

Does love make you sleepy? ›

You're Chemically Bonded to Your Partner

There are a number of feel-good hormones produced. Serotonin and dopamine are two that can cause you to feel way more sleepy than normal, and this might explain why you feel sleepy around your boyfriend.

Can someone stop loving another person? ›

It is possible to stop loving someone. The love, as you feel it now, will change. Different people serve different purposes in your life. You can be grateful for the time you shared with this person and deeply care about them, then also move on romantically and stop loving them in the way you once did.

What is the body language of a man in love? ›

A man in love tends to lean his shoulders towards his love interest. It is one of the indications of adoration. If he leans his shoulders towards you when he's close to you, he's romantic and cares about what you have to say. He will lean in and create a space that incorporates you two.

What is the most pure form of love? ›

The purest form of love is selflessness.

What makes love more strong? ›

Strong relationships are built on effective communication. Make an effort to really listen to each other and share both positive and negative feelings to keep the environment honest and open.

Is love a powerful weapon? ›

Love is the most powerful weapon. Love is more powerful than the forces of anger and negativity. Love can drive those negative feelings and emotions away and replace them with peace and harmony.

Does your body change when you're in love? ›

Falling in love may mess with your hormones

According to a 2004 study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, cortisol (the stress hormone) increases in both men and women. And during this time, testosterone, the male sex hormone, decreases in men and increases in women.

What are the physical symptoms of being in love? ›

You bounce between exhilaration, euphoria, increased energy, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, trembling, a racing heart and accelerated breathing, as well as anxiety, panic and feelings of despair when your relationship suffers even the smallest setback.

What part of your body makes you fall in love? ›

The initial happy feelings of being in love is stimulated by 3 chemicals in the brain: noradrenaline that stimulates adrenaline production causing that racing heart and sweaty palms; dopamine, the feel-good chemical; and phenylethylamine that is released when we're near our crush, giving us butterflies in our tummies.

What is real love like? ›

A truly loving relationship should have communication, affection, trust, appreciation, and mutual respect. If you see these signs, and the relationship is a healthy, honest, nurturing one, you would likely consider your relationship one of true love. Another vital element of real or true love is individuality.

What happens after love? ›

When you start falling in love, your brain releases chemicals like vasopressin, adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin that light up your neural receptors and make you feel both pleasure and a euphoric sense of purpose. In short: you're addicted to the one you love. "Romantic love is an addiction.

Can you see love in eyes? ›

Your eyes and autonomic nervous system play an intricate role in the expression of love. Prolonged eye contact has been thought to release phenylethylamine, a chemical responsible for feelings of attraction.

Does love make you sleepy? ›

You're Chemically Bonded to Your Partner

There are a number of feel-good hormones produced. Serotonin and dopamine are two that can cause you to feel way more sleepy than normal, and this might explain why you feel sleepy around your boyfriend.

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