Studies in neurology show that just thinking about the person you love activates at least two areas of the right-brain: those that are responsible for making and releasing dopamine. Dopamine is associated with the ‘high’ we experience from obtaining a reward that we desire. Romantic desire is linked to craving, obsession, and complete tunnel-vision focus on the object we love. Therefore, it would make sense that many psychological disorders that include obsessional, fixated thought patterns will show similar brain patterns to individuals in love. Both emotional states are associated with excess levels of dopamine in the brain.
However, this ‘high’ comes at a cost. Spikes in dopamine can lead to drops in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a big role in our moods. Whether you are depressed or ‘helplessly in love’ the symptoms are the same: sleeplessness, loss of appetite, heart palpitations, breathlessness, and distracted thinking – all effects of lowered serotonin. Coincidentally, a chronic imbalance of high dopamine/low serotonin is one of the perfect recipes for addictive behavior.
For severe cases, treatment with antidepressants may be suggested. Others, simple lifestyle habits can restore your dopamine and serotonin levels to a healthy balance. Engage in immune-enhancing behaviors: Eat a healthy diet consisting of small, frequent meals with plenty of protein, omega-3s, and avoid sugar. Keep bedtime and rising hours consistent with exposure to early morning sunlight every morning. Exercise. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. You have likely heard these suggestions before for the body, but they in fact are designed to target the brain.