The Dopamine Buzz

Neurotransmitter, Nicotine, Dopamine, Dopaminergic, Cocaine, Norepinephrine, Acetylcholine, Serotonin are neurochemicals. Those are organic molecules that participates in neural activity. It means they define your happiness, love, anger, hate, depression etc...

Back in 2019, for a short period of time, 2-3 months, I dated a medical doctor. She was a psychiatrist. I asked her about dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and generally about neurochemicals... I never told her that I am diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was purely interested in the process of creation and transsmition of those molecules. We were talking a lot about the subject, she told me, wow you're very knowledgeable about it. 😏

I'm taking every morning Abilify, 5 mg, in order to lower dopamine and serotonin levels. The term "lower down" is not precise, no medication can influence the production of those chemicals. What the medication is doing is to produce the chemical inhabitants or neurotransmitters who carries over dopamine and serotonin.

My friend, everything what you feel is done by those neurochemicals. You think you are in love but actually your level of dopamine and oxytocin has go up. You are depressed, serotonin and dopamine levels are down etc..  you get excited, your level of adrenaline is higher than supposed to be, that's all.

The Erosion of Love

No matter how happy you've been in a relationship, eventually things get boring, first a little then by a huge chunk, and then the spark fades away. I talk about romantic love.

Dr. Dan Lieberman is an expert in a singular, powerful chemical that affects all of us: dopamine. He has some real insights on why love changes over time. He says there are two types of relationships, the companionship and the passionate love.

"Attachment — known scientifically as 'compassionate love' is quite different from romance, chemically speaking," Dr. Lieberman said. "Attachment comes from the satisfaction we take in being around another person, day after day. These brain chemicals, also called neurotransmitters, are associated with the here and now. Attachment is less about 'What’s next?' and more about 'Your company, right now, is enough for me.'" Think of older couples holding hands, happy nights in on the sofa. It's great, but it can be very different than the passion.

"This matters because early or ''passionate' love, the gateway to attachment, is so different," tells Dr. Lieberman. "Instead of being driven by 'here and now' (H&N) brain chemicals that are active when your attention is focused on the present, passionate love is driven by a single chemical, dopamine — and dopamine rewards us for pursuing things we don’t yet have but that might be useful. Love and sex propagate the species. Those are infinitely useful, so dopamine gives us a buzz when the possibility appears. That buzz encourages pursuit – in this case, meeting new people, flirting, and dating. And the neurochemical buzz of pursuit is, as we all know, intense." And though it's a great buzz, it can be tricky to maintain in a relationship."

One of the reasons love fades with time is that it's hard to keep that dopamine level (buzz) going. "Dopamine gets us interested in each other, but it responds only to things that are new or that are possible rather than real," Dr. Lieberman says. "Once you’re in a relationship, that dopamine excitement fades and eventually stops. If you’re going to stay attached, you’ll have to find a reason beyond the dopamine thrill of the new. Typically, that’s choosing to appreciate your partner in the here and now."

Choosing to remain attached to your partner, even once the dopamine buzz fades, is also driven by chemicals, Dr. Lieberman says. "The chemicals are oxytocin and vasopressin."

From Dopamine to Oxytocin 😍

"Early love is a ride on a merry-go-round that sits at the foot of a bridge," Dr. Lieberman says. "That carousel can take you around and around on a fun trip as many times as you like, but it will always leave you where you began. Each time the music stops and your feet are back on the ground, you must make a choice: take one more whirl, or cross that bridge to another, more enduring kind of love. In that realm, attachment, your love is driven not just by a dopamine buzz, but by deciding to appreciate someone in the here and now, day after day."

When we speak about "love fading", we're actually talking about passionate love specifically. "It’s important to remember that it’s only passionate love that fades," Dr. Lieberman says. "Compassionate love, the kind of love that established couples feel, generally grows with time. But some people think that once the dopaminergic thrill of passionate love is gone, the relationship is over. It doesn’t have to be."

The relationship can continue — and even thrive — but in order to do so it's important to understand that being with the same person every day will mean that the passionate love fades. "That’s why passionate love fades: the thrilling mystery of the unknown becomes the boring familiarity of the everyday," Doctor says. But that doesn't mean that there's no reward in that familiarity. " If you can accept that, if you are willing to trade excitement for intimacy, and anticipation for satisfaction, then you’ll be able to fire up the oxytocin circuits in your brain and lay the groundwork for years and years of happiness." 

And some seldom excitement, of course.