Have you ever wondered what’s behind those delicious feelings you get when you’re falling in love? Well thanks to Marazziti and Canale (2004), conducting research into the hormonal changes that occur at this specific stage of pair formation, we now know some of the answers to the mystery surrounding what’s actually going on inside the body when love enters the picture.
Marazziti and Canale measured some key pituitary, adrenal and gonadal hormones in a sample including people who had recently fallen in love compared to people who identified as single or were part of a long term, established relationship. And it was found that indeed there are significant differences between these groups in concentrations of some key hormones.
They found that cortisol levels (a hormone usually associated with stress) was significantly higher in those who had recently fallen in love, a finding which Marazziti and Canale hypothesized was connected with the heightened state of arousal that one experiences both in stressful situations, and when falling in love. In previous research, heightened cortisol levels and the accompanying arousal have been found to facilitate the formation of close attachments and bonding between people. Which kind of makes sense since falling in love (usually) means a deepening of intimacy between people.
Also, interestingly, it was found that changes in testosterone levels occurred in those from the falling in love group. The direction of these changes however was related to the sex of the person, with testosterone levels becoming lower in men, and higher in women, therefore temporarily leveling out and making less pronounced some of the masculine/feminine differences between the sexes.
However, when Marazziti and Canale conducted follow up research 12-24 months later with the ‘falling in love’ participants from the initial research, who were still in the same relationship, but which had now become more established, they found that the initial hormonal changes were no longer present.
So there you go! The states of falling in love and being in love encompass so many different parts of a persons mind, body and spirit, that it is of course impossible to reduce the experience to purely scientifically measured processes, but I think it’s interesting to know at least a little bit of what’s going on, and what’s behind some of those beautiful feelings.
Marazziti, D. & Canale, D. (2004). Hormonal changes when falling in love. Psychoneuroendocrinology. Vol. 29 pp 931-936.
– Judi Reed, 2012