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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Falling in Love Chemistry

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Chemistry Behind Falling in Love

Quick Access:
Falling in Love and the Chemistry it Creates

I'm curious as to what the chemistry is behind falling in love?


No matter what you call it, when you fall completely, hopelessly in love, your brain is basically becoming intoxicated beyond control, producing a number of chemicals as networks of the brain come alive. You’re consequently bombarded with a delicious high that can only come with romantic, passionate feelings and behaviors. With the chemicals norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin seemingly having a stimulant-like effect on your mind when you see or simply think about your crush, it’s no wonder that love is a deeply moving, if not downright, magical, emotional state. 

Believe it or not, it has only been recently that humans have begun to truly understand what happens to us – or primarily our brains – when we fall head over heels for another. Dr. Helen Fisher ( has turned romantic passion on its head, quite literally, with her research on the brain and the sensations we experience when we fall in love. In her work Why We Love, Fisher explains that the neurotransmitters dopamine and norephinephrine, brain chemicals that carry signals between nerve cells, are responsible for our physical and emotional reactions, like being “blinded-by-love,” or obsessing over particular moments and objects affiliated with a love interest.

According to Fisher, the chemistry of falling in love starts with a tiny molecule Phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural stimulant produced in the brain. PEA is responsible for our feelings of joy, excitement, ecstasy and delight. It’s also one of the reasons why couples can feel so sexually aroused. Drawing upon previously published research, Fisher also reasons that elevated levels of dopamine in the brain explain a classic characteristic at the heart of romantic love – that of one’s incredibly focused attention on our love object. This includes a love-struck person seeing no more than an adored one’s positive qualities, as well as the undying motivation and the great lengths we’ll go to in getting what we want romantically speaking.

Dopamine, in particular, has been associated with how a human learns about new stimuli and why we regard a love interest as an extraordinary one-of-a-kind.  Research indicates that elevated levels of dopamine in the brain are associated with a one’s feelings of elation, increased energy, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, increased heart rate and breathing, trembling, hyperactivity, mania, anxiety, fear… basically the electrifying vigor that comes with falling in love. Dopamine is also believed to have an indirect influence on our craving for sex. The increase in dopamine leads to an increase and the release of testosterone (the hormone that drives male and female sexual desire) in the brain, which leads to sex drive, sexual arousal, and sexual performance. New sexual experiences can further up the levels of dopamine, triggering even more lust. This magnificent “love drug” helps to explain why the sexual attraction, sexual energy and sexual activity we have for and with a new partner, especially one with whom we’re falling in love, can be so incredibly stimulating, exciting and memorable.

It’s also interesting to note that a person’s concern for the “Big O” may not just be a need for sexual fulfillment. Orgasms do a lot more than make us feel good about our bodies, selves, and partners, but can actually further stimulate feelings of attachment as well. Orgasm produces a flood of oxytocin and vasopressin, neuropeptides associated with attachment in both sexes. See, sex without emotional consequences seems to be somewhat science fiction. 

There are ways you can create your own fireworks this July 4th! Capitalize on dopamine’s role in your relationship as it becomes a long-term romance. The more novel things you and your lover can do inside and outside of the bedroom, the better your chances of staying more passionate and interested in one another. After all, you’re continually boosting your levels of dopamine, which ups your testosterone, which ultimately revs up your sex drive!

Now while dopamine tends to get most of the blame for our love-struck states, there’s another culprit at play, norepinephrine. Norepinephrine, which you may better know as adrenaline, is considered another potential reason for one’s intoxicating in love state, with heightened levels of this chemical contributing to feelings of ecstasy, loss of appetite, energy, and sleepless nights.This chemical, which is also related to humans having a better memory when met with new stimuli, is credited with our often uncanny ability to remember so much about our lover’s actions and special moments spent together.Furthermore,like dopamine, norepinephrine can stimulate the production of testosterone, stimulating our sex drive. In other words, a good rule-of-thumb to remember when planning a date for July 4th and beyond s is that “adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder.”

So make some memories this summer with exciting outdoor adventures – they may sure lead to exciting indoor adventures!

Related Links:
» Chemistry versus Compatibility
» Chemistry, Attraction, and Romantic Love

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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