With St. Valentine’s Day just around the corner it is the perfect time of year for a cynical rant about how overrated and commercialised February 14th has become. But instead of boring you all about how many gallons of wine you should be drinking or even how many tubs of Ben and Jerry’s is acceptable to scoff, I thought I’d turn to science…
So what exactly is this chemical that has been nicknamed as the ‘love hormone’?
Oxytocin is a hormone released during sex, birth and breast feeding. But it also gets released from either hugging or by simply talking. Oxytocin increases feelings of attachment for another person, as well as feelings of trust. Similarly, it decreases feelings of stress, fear and pain. Sounds pretty good huh?
A study previously published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology showed that oxytocin levels skyrocket when people fall in love, and that a higher amount of oxytocin is associated with longer relationships.
But, has this obsession with oxytocin gone too far? You can now purchase your very own ‘love potion’ in the form of an oxytocin nasal spray. So the question is can a bottled nasal spray really make people fall in love?
Even if it can, there is something that makes me feel incredibly uneasy about the whole concept. Perhaps I’m just a hopeless romantic, but the idea of taking ‘love drugs’ in order to feel closer to someone or be better at being in love, sounds kind of absurd. In fact, if scientists really believe they can find a way to emotionally engineer our bodies, they’ll soon be designing ‘anti-love’ drugs so you can just pop a pill to ease the pain of heartbreak. So curing a heavy heart after breaking up with someone becomes as easy as taking paracetemol to cure a hangover!
People fall in love in all kinds of weird and magical ways and this should not be reduced to just a pharmacological intervention. Perhaps I’ve been watching too many Nicholas Sparks films and reading too many Bronte novels, but aren’t romantic relationships matters of the heart? And shouldn’t they be free of medical tinkering?
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: the best part about Valentine’s Day is seeing that particular facial expression that only ever comes out on February 14th. You’ve guessed it: it’s that same smug look most guys have on their faces as they share shrugging grins with other males (who have also bought into the ludicrous Hallmark conspiracy to buy their secret admirer gifts). And if I knew all this consumerism was due to medical intervention, perhaps Valentine’s Day would make a lot more sense! But for now, I’m not ready to believe that romance is dead or even in need of a ‘quick fix’ in the form of a love potion or pill.
One thought on “Can love simply be reduced to a chemical?”
I think it’s more complex than a chemical but maybe not as involved as we’d like to think.
Humans enjoy their position as first amongst animals at a price: we have highly vulnerable offspring, pregnant and nursing females. Our defence against this weakness is the bond between sexual partners. Females need to ensure that the males will stick around to protect them and their children. That bond is what we like to dress up as variously romance, love, marriage, &c.