A couple in love spends time at the park.
Behavioral Health

How Love Affects Your Health

You never forget your first love, or any of them for that matter. That’s because the feeling of love plays a crucial role in our lives, impacting not only our emotional well-being but also our physical health. The pain of a lost love can be terrible, but as Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Here’s how love changes your brain and body for the better.

Your Brain in Love

Love is an emotion, but it’s the brain — specifically the limbic system — that’s in control of behavioral and emotional responses. So, when you’re in love, you feel:

  • Euphoria — It’s the giddy excitement from spending time with that special someone. You can even feel it when you think about that person. You feel it because your brain is releasing dopamine. It’s a reward for pleasurable behaviors.
  • Attachment and security — These feelings are the result of a surge of oxytocin. The feelings are stronger after touching, kissing, or sex.
  • Willingness to sacrifice — The longer you’re with your partner, the more likely you are to agree on compromises. This happens because of your vagus nerve.
  • Constant thoughts — Dopamine is partly to blame for this. But so is the anterior cingulate cortex. It’s the same part of the brain that’s linked to obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
  • Less stress — There is research that suggests single people have higher levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol. Those in committed relationships don’t.
  • Jealousy — While seen as a bad thing, jealousy can motivate you to pay more attention to the needs of your partner. Acknowledge jealous feelings. They are normal.
A couple lovingly embraces in the doorway.

Your Body in Love

Beyond the chemical changes happening in your brain, the body itself experiences shifts to account for these feelings. They include: 

  • Lust — You want to have sex. It increases closeness and those urges are perfectly normal. AltaMed provides free birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
  • Overall improvement — There are some physical benefits including:
    • Decreased risk of heart disease
    • Lower blood pressure
    • Improved immune health
    • Faster recovery from illness
  • Longer life span — Academic research showed evidence suggesting the longevity of people in loving, long-term relationships.
  • Pain relief — An extremely small study found participants reported less pain when they saw images of their romantic partner.

Love Hurts

Love is complicated. For all the incredible health benefits we get, there can also be drawbacks, especially early on. Some effects include:

  • Increased stress — This is often in the early stages of the relationship when there may be questions about how someone feels.
  • Butterflies — That stress can manifest in the form of “butterflies” in the stomach. Sometimes that’s good but it can also make you feel pretty queasy.
  • Changes — Sleep and appetite are often affected the most. The butterflies make eating difficult and the questions about how someone feels make it hard to sleep.
  • Poor judgment — Intense feelings can cause your amygdala to shut down. That’s the part of your brain that helps you to detect danger. It’s not fully formed in teenagers which is why you sometimes see young “lovers” do stupid things.
  • Addiction — For some people, the feelings that come from the early stages of a relationship are a little too intoxicating. Instead of letting things progress, they chase that “high” by jumping from partner to partner.

We Love You Just the Way You Are

Whether you’re in a happy relationship, or have a broken heart, our Behavioral Health Services professionals can help relieve any emotional issues you’re dealing with. Call (855) 425-1777 to learn more.

We can also help you with any physical concerns. Click here or call us at (888) 499-9303 to get started.

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How Love Affects Your Health