Beyoncé may be a musical genius, but can you really be “drunk in love”? According to science, yes, yes you can. In fact, feeling head-over-heels does more than just make you feel a little warm and fuzzy, it can actually transform the way you think and act.
Check out some of the freaky ways love can affect your mind and body and prepare to feel (mostly) exonerated from your past in-the-name-of-love behavior.
It can make you feel high
Yes, there’s a scientific explanation for why you feel so blissfully overjoyed during a new relationship, and it has nothing to do with romantic dates. Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City studied the MRI scans of college students and found that falling in love activates the same neural system in your brain that lights up when you take cocaine, giving you an intense feeling of euphoria. So if you feel like you’re “addicted” to your new beau, you may not be as crazy as you think.
It can make you dumber
Or at least really, really spacey. Research published in the journal Motivation and Emotion in 2013 found that people who are in love are less able to focus and perform tasks that require attention than people who aren’t enamored. In addition, the more in love the participants in the study were, the more difficult it was for them to concentrate on assignments. The study authors aren’t quite sure why exactly love makes your brain go fuzzy, but they do theorize that a balance between focus and fantasy is crucial for a successful relationship (and probably a productive day!).
It can make you meaner
Think back to every rom-com where two guys duke it out over a girl or a pair of best friends become scheming enemies because of a man. What causes such intense hostility in the name of love? According to a recent study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the answer lies in neurological hormones that are linked to aggression and empathy. Researchers at the University of Buffalo asked participants to describe a time when someone close to them was threatened and how they reacted and they found that caring for someone predicted aggressive behavior. So when you’re with someone you love, these hormones can turn your brain’s warm, compassionate empathy into protective aggression, readying you to defend your mate against attackers, stressful events, and even sadness. Cute, huh?
It can make you obsessive
If you’ve ever fallen in love, you know how the infatuation that occurs in the early stages of a relationship can feel all-encompassing and exhausting. Researchers at the University of Pisa in Italy set out to find the reason why and discovered that the biochemical effects of romantic love can be indistinguishable from having obsessive-compulsive disorder. The scientists found that people who fell in love in the previous 6 months had similar low levels of serotonin (a calm-producing hormone) as individuals with OCD, which might explain why you can’t stop thinking about your baby all day and night.
It can make you feel invincible
Ever wonder why all your aches seem to disappear when you’re cuddling with your partner? No, it’s not a coincidence. According to researchers at Stanford University, the areas of the brain that are affected by feelings of intense love are the same areas that painkillers target. Participants brought in photos of their significant other plus an equally attractive friend and the photos were flashed in front of them while researchers heated up a thermal simulator on their palms. Brain scans showed that the “love” photos reduced pain more than the friend photos, possibly by activating reward centers that block pain at a spinal level, like opioid painkillers do. Of course, a passionate romance isn’t a good alternative for chronic pain meds, but, hey, it could help.