Why Being In Love Makes You Crazy

When you’re smitten with someone, you feel exhilarated, invincible...and maybe a little crazy. Turns out there’s a perfectly good explanation for this.
Sure, falling head over heels makes you feel deliciously happy. But passion-induced euphoria can cause you to actually lose your mind (thanks, TomKat, for hitting that point home!). “When in love, your body produces mood-altering chemicals that can override the part of your brain that governs rational thought,” explains Helen Fisher, PhD, anthropologist at Rutgers University and author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love.

While that giddiness can be pure bliss, there’s a darker side to going gaga. Listen as Cosmo explains the good, the bad, and the slightly ugly aspects of romance…plus, sanity-saving tips.

The Good

Your new man calls to say he can’t wait to see you again, and everything in the world becomes a little bit brighter: Your annoying boss is a lovable curmudgeon; your claustrophobia-inducing apartment, charmingly cozy. Hell, you could be stranded in Antarctica without a coat, so long as he’s around to snuggle with.

“When you fall for someone, the part of your brain that’s rich in the stimulant dopamine is activated, causing you to feel exhilarated,” Fisher says. And the intensity of that joy spills out into the rest of your life, mitigating any negative things that may be going on.

Dopamine also cranks up production of testosterone, the hormone that rules libido, which can explain your no-holds-barred horniness and Wonder Woman-like sexual stamina. You’re probably also producing more norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that further stimulates your sex drive and is also associated with increased memory. That’s why you suddenly have the ability to recall the tiniest details about your man--even what color shirt he wore to dinner two weeks ago. “Your brain is ensuring that you cherish every moment the two of you spend together,” Fisher explains.

The Bad

While being in love can put you in the happy zone, it can also be a tad hazardous. “Activity decreases in the amygdala, a part of your brain associated with fear,” Fisher explains. “Your internal alarm system doesn’t disappear completely, but you are more likely to jump into fearful situations despite the consequences.” That’s why you assure your new man it’s no problem (when it is) to have a leisurely breakfast rather than go to work on time.

Norepinephrine is also at play. Yes, it keeps your mind laser focused on details—but only those that relate to your guy. It tends to hamper your ability to home in on anything else. “So much of your brain power is redirected to your man that every other person or project in your life just gets the leftovers,” explains James Olds, PhD, professor of neuroscience and director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University in Virginia.

The Ugly

“Because love sparks activity in the dopamine-rich areas of the brain associated with reward, you become as addicted to your man as you would be to a drug,” says Olds. When you’re with him, you’re high as a kite; when he’s MIA, you bottom out. “The more affection and attention your ‘love object’ gives you, the more you crave--and the more depressed you’ll feel if you don’t get your ‘fix,’” Olds says.

The lovesick blues may also be linked to a decrease in serotonin, a brain chemical that helps keep us calm and happy. “We know that low levels of serotonin have been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder,” says Fisher. “Some evidence suggests serotonin may drop by as much as 40 percent in people who are in love,” according to Olds. Hence, the reason you drive by his house a million times and spend hours trying to analyze what he meant by “See you later.”

There’s even a flip side to all that mind-blowing booty you’ve been having. “Sex can cause your levels of oxytocin, the cuddle chemical, to skyrocket, giving you an exaggerated feeling of closeness toward your partner,” explains David Barash, PhD, evolutionary psychologist at the University of Washington and coauthor of Making Sense of Sex. “It’s nature’s way of helping you bond with your man--whether he’s earned it or not.”

How To Deal

While you wouldn’t want to totally forgo that wacky feeling, you can keep the side effects in check. For starters, assess how far gone you are by asking yourself these three questions: Have I made more than one big decision that I totally regretted? Have I ditched my friends and family? Am I sacrificing something that’s important to me, just to spend more time with my man? If you answered yes to at least two of these queries, then you need to get a hold of yourself.

“Resist the urge to spend all of your waking hours with your guy, and make time for friends and family,” says Los Angeles psychologist Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD. “You need them to act as a sounding board and let you know when you veer too far off course. Plus, once the warm and fuzzy stage wears off, you want your old life to be intact.”

You can help manage your mood swings by working out. Studies have shown that at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise, three times a week, increases dopamine’s pleasure circuits and boosts endorphins, the body’s natural stress fighters, which keep you even-keeled.

And even if you do go off the deep end a bit, it’s only temporary. Researchers speculate that this phase of romantic love often lasts only 12 to 18 months, so enjoy it while you can. “You’ll never be more aware of the strong connection and attraction you have for this man, so relish every wacky, embarrassing, exhausting minute of it,” says Irwin. Who knows if you and your guy will live happily ever after…but you can sure as hell have the time of your lives now.
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