Thursday, June 14, 2007

Love junkies?

Found this on a discussion board:

There are some interesting biochemical perspectives on relationship breakups which you might find useful. When a person develops a pair-bonding attachment to someone, the brain produces a chemical called phenylethylalanine, which is a chemical cousin of speed and has similar physiological effects. The intense and irrational feelings that go with what's commonly termed "falling in love" result at least in part because having floods of phenylethylalanine in your system is biochemically analogous to a speed trip. PEA is released in response to interactions with the person of interest to you, and in-between interactions, PEA levels fall, so you mope and write sonnets and stick out your bottom lip and become a general pain. When you interact again, back comes the rush!

Biochemically, a Romeo or Juliet sitting by the phone waiting for their beloved to call is just a junkie waiting for their next fix! (Sorry about the iconoclastic nature of this discussion!!!) And the longer the interval, the deeper the moping phase and also the more intense the rush when you next interact. People living together usually lose the intensity of their feeling as PEA levels fall with constant exposure, and endorphins are produced to take their place (this is the "comfortable" stage). But PEA can be triggered again by separations, and this helps explain why couples living together who are separated for a week or so have these honeymoon effects when they are reunited.

A relationship breakup is basically like withdrawing from a speed addiction. This explains the physical symptoms and the irrationality. And I think it helps explain why people keep returning to abusive or incompatible partners, instead of getting themselves a life and finding a decent person. Of course, once the person is over the withdrawal and biochemically back to normal, they wonder in retrospect what on earth the fuss was all about!

Why all this biochemical hoodwinking? Well, it's all in the name of the continuity of the species, and of course life would be boring if we couldn't live on the edge of a cliff.

Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?


Sri said...

For that matter, any feeling including friendship and motherhood could be explainable in chemical terms. We always witeness People returning to their old friends or accepting their prodigal children / parents. All the chemical reactions finally translate into human emotions of love, caring and boding -procreation is only a side-effect (though for some, it happens to be one of the main objectives). Why do some people go on with bashing relationships??

Diviya said...

This isn't about bashing anything. Just a view on how a few things look so different when translated into a biological level. That said, a lot of what most species do is instinctively angled towards procreation.