By Mari Bakhtamyan
Edited by Lana Markulin
Have you ever had the feeling like your heart is about to beat out of your chest or butterflies fluttering in your stomach as you meet the gaze of your crush, wondering why you are feeling this way? Apparently, it’s not as random as you might think it is. The science behind having a crush is kind of complicated. Neurobiology is very complex, but to simplify, this is what happens.
The hypothalamus, a small structure deep within your brain, controls and stabilizes the hormones in your body. It releases 4 main types of hormones when you have a crush: dopamine, serotonin, cortisol and norepinephrine. You may have already heard of dopamine and you may think, “Isn’t that the molecule that is in many drugs?” and you would be correct. Dopamine is responsible for allowing you to feel pleasure, motivation and satisfaction; this is why you may feel the need to see your crush. Having a crush is so deeply rooted in your brain that you might subconsciously think about them to get that slight boost of dopamine. To briefly define what the other hormones are: serotonin is a mood stabilizer, cortisol is a steroid that is released when you’re stressed, norepinephrine is a hormone that increases alertness and attention when in a stressful situation (or fight-or-flight).
How is this all related? It all ties in because when you meet or even think about your crush, serotonin levels drop as cortisol rises, which in return releases dopamine, which produces norepinephrine. In other words, the hormones that make you all jittery and anxious are high, the hormones that stabilize your mood are low. So, how does this affect your day-to-day life? You may notice a change in priorities, have intrusive thoughts or feel more energetic. For example, you might have homework due next day, but you decide that it’s better to text them at late hours. You may even feel motivated to go to school just to see your crush pass by in the hallway. However, it’s not the same for everyone: some people might feel the need to talk to their crush at every instant and annoy them with question, and others might feel like they need to distance themselves and not talk to them.
In conclusion, falling in love is not as “in your head” as it seems. Many things happen that we might think are unrelated, but nothing ever happens randomly. It’s interesting to think that your brain is so in control of your body, but is it really fully in control? Is falling in love really as straight-forward as some chemical reactions in your brain or is it just “right time, right place”?