What is Love, Anyway?

What is love is the question?  What should it feel like?  Love hurts as the song goes.  It can be quite painful yet addictive or it can be yearning for something that is intangible?

They say that when you are in love, you are in the same state of mind as people with obsessive compulsive disorder.  A professor at the University of Pisa in Italy studies the biochemistry of love-sickness. She concluded from a study comparing the blood of 24 subjects who had fallen in love, subjects who were obsessive compulsive and another group that were free from both passion and mental illness.   She concluded that levels of serotonin in people with obsessive compulsive disorder and lovers are forty percent lower than those in normal subjects. Thus there is a direct correlation to the chemical profiles between love and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Questions may arise in your own relationship.  Inquires like, “Do I behave in a manner that is inflicted upon a state of temporary mental illness?” or “Who am I?”, “What are my values?”, “What boundaries am I setting if any at all?” and “What am I willing to do for love?”  It could be one, two, or a combination or it may be a stage of exploration to determine who you are, what are your values, and determine what kind of boundaries you want to set in a relationship.  If we aren’t mirrored, validated, and emphasized in childhood from our primary caretakers, we may not have formed a solid sense of self in adulthood to be able to answer these questions without exploring, testing, and deciding through trial and error in our adult relationships.

Life experiences give us the opportunity to decide what we like and don’t like.  As the saying goes, “You never know until you try.”

This is time-honored wisdom that encourages us to be a part of life rather than sit on the sidelines and watch it go by.  Take chances, risks, and  rewards are not far behind.  If anything, knowledge is gained about yourself and others.  Even if the outcome is full of regret,  there is a lesson learned and the new-found knowledge is almost always worth it.

This wisdom can be applied to situations large and small from trying tofu to sailing.  As in my case, it was an exploration into my sexuality, men and gender prejudices.   It is the self-knowledge gained from my experience that is irreplaceable.

It is often said that at the end of our lives we are more likely to regret the things we did not do than the things we did.  Being aware of the opportunities missed might encourage you not to miss them again.

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4 thoughts on “What is Love, Anyway?

  1. It’s hard to tell which philosophy you are advocating. Is it romantic love the world should seek – where the individuals are rendered temporarily psychotic by a seretonin shortage and thrust into a sensory overload or are you suggesting that the continued rush of free spirited experimentation is the way to go? As anyone can testify romantic love eventually gives way, as the brain recovers, to what can become a long term love and friendship – if the two are mature enough to accept each other as they are. But that is difficult to know in the early days when one is “on drugs” administered by the roller-coaster fantasy associated with early attraction.

    Maybe the better question is how can one provide for the needs of the other and, simultaneously themselves, and ensure a continued desire for a relationship? There is a simple answer. If two people have the same basic philosophies and desires in common then they can relate. If they can relate they can chart a path of exploration that binds them both together by a common goal – a goal to live each day to the fullest. Sharing the an adventure-filled life can cement people to each other as they discover that they are associated with the only person who truly “gets” them.

    This can also be done as a single person where a fulfilling life can be lead (if the requisite strength exists) by someone on an eternal quest for the highest plane of evolution and adventure. You don’t need a consistent partner for that just an understanding and personal realization that a single relationship is not a requirement for happiness. Some are meant to blaze their trails alone and engage with multiple others along their “road less traveled”.

  2. P.S. ….actually OCD is a seretonin deficiency but romance is a seretonin over-abundance (among other neurotransmitters). The researcher from Pisa mis analyzed the data perhaps…

    • There was no misread from the researchers. The article was posted in the February 2006 issue of National Geographic.

      The search was conducted by Donatella Marazziti at the University of Pisa in Italy. She studied the biochemistry of 24 subjects who had fallen in love within the past six months and obsessed about this love object for at least four hours a day. Serotonin is perhaps our star neurotransmitter altered by our start psychiatric medications: Prozac and Zoloft and Paxil among others. Reasearchers have long hypothesized that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have serotonin “imbalance.” Drugs like Prozac seem to alleviate OCD by increasing the amount of this neurotransmitter a the juncture between neurons.”

      “Marazziti compared the lovers’ sertonin levels with thos of a group of people suffering from OCD and another group who were free from both passion and mental illness. Levels of both the obsessives’ blood and the lovers’ blood were 40 percent lower than those in normal subjects.” “Translation: Love and obsessive-compulsive disorder could have a similar chemical profile; love and mental illness may be difficult to tell apart.”

      I quoted the article verbatim suggesting that perhaps you are wrong in your knowledge of serotonin levels of lovers’. Have you conducted research on individuals declared that were in love and their serotonin levels to justify your statement???

      I hope this helps in understanding the complexities involved in the study of neurotransmitters in the brain and the correlation to human behavior associated with love.

  3. Femm…
    Did I hit a nerve? Forgive me – I sense you are sensitive to anything that represents criticism, which my post may have been mistaken for so I will explain my thoughts so that you can, as you express you enjoy doing, hear all elements of the matter at hand and make quality judgments about the efficacy of your own beliefs or knowledge of the topic.

    SSRI means “selective seretonin reuptake inhibitor”. An SSRI is officially an antidpressant (a la Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, etc.) because it allows less seretonin to be reabsorbed by the issuing neuron in the brain regions where seretonin is found. The reason SSRI’s work in depressed people is that seretonin is a mood stabilizing, “feel good” neurotransmitter that if more is left in the synapse (gap between neurons) to be received by the adjoining neuron the result is alleviation of depression (hopefully). OCD responds to SSRIs because seretonin (among other things) is involved in this disorder classified as an anxiety variant.

    What your researcher is highlighting in the research you cite is the “obsessive” nature of love not the romantic high. That part wasn’t clear, so, yes, if one wanted to be rid of the obsessive component associated with falling in love one would benefit from an SSRI but the “feeling of falling in love” would more likely represent an excess of all the feel good neurotransmitters along with opiate emulating peptides – what you refer to as endophins from time to time. The romantic high would not be mistaken for a mental illness via a blood test – more like an ecstacy or cocaine binge (cocaine fires all the feel good neurotransmitters and opiate simulators). However, that was not the feeling under study by your researcher and not addressed in the findings. So your last statment about the “feelings associated with love” needs to be modified to say, “the obsessive nature associated with falling in love”.

    I don’t think anyone wants a cure from the feeling of falling in love; the obsessional component may be the exception.

    Might I suggest a “question” next time someone posts a piece you question or disagree with?

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