Ah, the joy of being in love. In those heady early days the object of your affection is just the most wonderful person alive. You can’t wait for him/her to text or ring you. Then there is the excitement of catching up in person. It is just so wonderful. However, it is hard to concentrate on study, work and other tasks. You find you are distracted easily. Perhaps you feel just a little crazy.
Some research has found the brain behaves in a manner similar to being on drugs when you are in the early stages of love. The brain is flooded with the feel good neurotransmitter dopamine resulting in a feeling of euphoria, an increase in self esteem and a boost in confidence.
The extra dopamine also gives you a very strong craving for your partner. This can lead to some over-the- top behaviour including jealousy and varying degrees of stalking. The desire to be with your love overrides everything else because of the rush of pleasure you experience when you have contact with the one you love.
A person’s serotonin level will drop up to 40%. Serotonin acts to make us happy and calm. This drop in serotonin is another factor that can bring about an increase in jealousy. It may also make a woman in love overreact to a comment her new partner makes.
You are likely to find it hard to concentrate on other tasks because you are thinking about your partner and your new relationship. The brain releases oxytocins which may have a negative effect on your memory. There is a decrease in activity in the pre-frontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for making decisions, problem solving and controlling social behaviour.
People in the early days of love have extra energy and they need it because they are going to be talking or texting all night. They are likely to have trouble sleeping when they aren’t talking or texting due to thinking about the new person in their life. FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans have shown the brain of someone newly in love looks like that of someone on cocaine.
It’s not all bad news. Some parts of the brain activated by being in love are the same ones used by pharmaceutical drugs to reduce pain. Therefore being in the early stages of love can reduce physical pain.
Dopamine levels will go back to normal somewhere between six and eighteen months into the relationship. Other changes are likely to revert to normal. You should be able to remember, concentrate and sleep better, er, unless you are now pregnant. Pregnancy brings its own group of challenges as hormone levels fluctuate but that’s another chapter of life.