Love, Drugs and other matters…

To scientists, Love seems to have many biomolecular effects. First, falling in love provokes a transient hormonal change. While men’s testosterone and FSH levels is decreasing, women cortisol’s level seems to increase (1).  The cortisol level increases more and is long-lasting when women are relationship thinkers (2). It may (or not) be congruent to note that cortisol is acting to restore homeostatis (stable internal environment) and that a decline of cortisol (probably due a lack of potassium) causes rheumatoid-arthritis pain. The question that can be arise: can love -via its cortisol increase induction- heal rheumatoid-arthritis pain? 

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Studies are already proving that romantic love has an analgesic effect (3). Actually, the increased activity in several reward-processing neural regions of the brain seems to be induced when feeling in love. Still, the understanding of the biomolecular process of these analgesic pathways is obscure. 

One thing is certain is that falling in love changes our self-image, we tend to believe more in our competences (self-efficacy) and self-esteem is raised (4). While a negative self-assessment influences apparently sexual behavior leading to choose for a greater number of sexual partners (5).

Love also changes the perception of relationship partners (6).  When we draw a general impression about an individual based on a single characteristic, such as intelligence, sociability or appearance, a halo effect is operating. The propensity for the halo effect to operate is not random. It depends on the perceiver’s (non-)experience and his processing styles. Love, related to long-term perspective and holistic thinking, is leading to pronounced halo effects (less differentiation of partner qualities), whereas Lust, that is focusing on the present and on concrete details, enhances analytic thinking and reduced halos. That is probably the explanation of the expression “Love is blind”. Would then Lust be a better adviser then Love? It all depends from individual love styles or “colors of love” one have (7). For example a James Bond personality, typically a agentic social style, (8) maneuver himselves into relationships with others and take advantage of others (ludic and pragmatic lover). Whereas erotic lovers choose their lovers by intuition or internal “chemistry.”

When the quest for “love chemistry” seems to follow uncertain ways, some choose for a “chemical romance” (8).  The “recreational use” of psychoactive substances for “recreational love” enables to loose inhibitions and heighten sense of touch (e.g. alcohol, cannabis, methaqualone, GHB and MDMA ) or cause sexual desire in case of real aphrodisiacs (e.g. methamphetamine, cocaine, alkyl nitriles,…).  What is remaining after a “chemical romance”? Have we been really touched or just escorted in the journey of opening oneself?

The sense of touch, from the Chinese traditional medicine point of view, is the sense that stabilizes the body and soul.  The warmth of love is touching.  It is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, joy and faith. Love is appealing to our better nature that is why it is addictive…

by H.M.Courrier

(1) Hormonal changes when falling in love, Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2004 Aug; 29(7):931-6.

(2) Passionate love and relationship thinkers: Experimental evidence for acute cortisol elevations in women, Psychoneuroendocrinology, volume 34, Issue 6, July 2009, Pages 939-946

(3) Viewing pictures of a romantic partner reduces experimental pain: involvement of neural reward systems, PLoS One. 2010 Oct 13;5(10):e13309.

(4) Falling in Love: Prospective Studies of Self-Concept Change, Journal of Personality and social psychology, volume 69, Issue 6, December 1995, Pages 1102-1112

(5) Love styles, masculinity/femininity, physical attractiveness, and sexual behavior: A test of evolutionary theory, Ethology & Sociobiology, Vol 14(1), Jan 1993, 25-38

(6) How love and lust change people’s perception of relationship partners,Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (March 2010), 46 (2), pages 237-246 

(7) The dark side of love: Love Styles and the Dark Triad, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 49, Issue 6, October 2010, Pages 606-610

(8) « Chemical Romance » or problems of separation: Ecstasy consumption during adolescent, Neuropsychiatrie de l’enfance et de l’adolescence, Volume 57, Issue 5,July 2009, Pages 372-378

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