When your brain experiences romantic love, it activates that same areas that are engaged when you seek any kind of a reward, be it money, food, or drugs.
A study examined 17 people who had fallen madly in love. Participants had been in love an average of seven months. They were placed in an MRI machine and asked to look at photographs of their sweethearts.
The part of the brain most strongly engaged was the one associated with rewards and pleasure, the brain stem region known as the ventral tegmental area. This part of the brain becomes active every time you want something.
This "reward" part of your brain sends signals of exhilaration when it feels that it is receiving the reciprocal love it desires. This implies that early-stage romantic love is a drive, one that is in fact stronger than the sex drive itself.
In good relationships, this early, obsessive stage of romantic love eventually transfers to a different level, called "attachment."
These findings tie in nicely with other recent studies showing the chemical differences between the early, passionate phase of love and its later incarnations. In good relationships, romantic love transitions to a different, calmer stage. In bad ones, however, lovesickness can be a big problem and even be deadly.
It's no secret that emotions can affect your health for the positive and negative. Stress -- even the kind induced by love -- plays a major role in the health of most every patient I see, but is virtually impossible to eliminate.
That's why it's important to adjust your body's ability to better handle stress by learning a safe, proven energy psychology tool like the Emotional Freedom Technique and staying away from drug-based "cures" like antidepressants.
But of course, the mind-body connection works to help as well as to harm, and love can be a powerful force for healing. Studies have shown that when people feel loved or give love they:
No wonder we are driven to seek it out at the most basic, biological level!