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By Abimbola Farinde

Abimbola Farinde-newFor most human beings, love is an experience that binds and connects us all over the world, and when it does occur, it can be the result of certain chemicals acting in our brain. These chemicals can lead us to fall in love and experience the joys of being in love. There are three proposed stages of love that consist of lust, attraction, and attachment.

The initial stage of love that can be observed is lust, which is largely driven by the sex hormones for both males and females at any point in time. This has been described as the phase where a man or a woman can frankly determine whether or not they will choose to pursue another person. Beyond lust, comes the next phase of attraction at which time there can be the presence of neurotransmitters to help to foster the attraction of one person to another. This stage is critical because attraction can have a significant impact on the presence of love. These neurotransmitters include adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine. When an individual experiences attraction, the levels of adrenaline and cortisol increase, leading to autonomic manifestations such as sweating or one’s heart racing. Coupled with the presence of adrenaline, the level of the chemical dopamine is also high, which ultimately creates the feeling of desire and reward that can lead to pleasure in those who experience love. Lastly, serotonin can produce the constant thought of that person, and with this constant thought comes attachment. The final stage, attachment, is what ultimately enables couples that fall love to stay in love and with one another. Love can still be viewed as a phenomenon, but the science behind it could potentially lead to bettering the health and happiness of humans.

The anthropologist Helen Fisher has conducted years of research on love and has come to believe that the presence of romantic love cannot simply be associated with emotions, but it is a human drive similar to thirst and hunger that must be satisfied. In her 2004 publication Why We Love, she conducted a study to scan the brain of individuals who have fallen in love. Love is recognized as an intense human emotion and experience, and when it does occur, it can be a glorious for the individuals who are involved. She investigated if changes in the neurotransmitters have an effect on how we love one another.

According to Fisher and colleagues, the presence of a positive relationship, which can start from love, can cause an increase in the dopamine level and elevate sexual arousal and performance. When individuals suffer from depression, they are given medications to increase their dopamine level. The goal is to work toward improving the human condition, and the presence of neurotransmitters in the form of dopamine, serotonin, or adrenalin have the potential to demonstrate this impact, possibly in an individual who has depression. Valentine’s Day is a day that most Americans associate with love, and recognizing the stages of love can lead to better understanding.

Abimbola Farinde, Ph.D., is a clinical pharmacist specialist with specializations in psychopharmacology and geriatrics. Farinde is an adjunct pharmacology instructor and an associate editor of several healthcare and scientific journals.