People may regard love as an emotion, a behavior, or a physiological motivation. While the definition of love may vary among individuals, people in love tend to experience increased happiness and well-being.

Although people may experience love differently, scientists agree that different brain chemicals influence love.

Read on to learn more about the processes, characteristics, and signs of love.

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Romantic love usually involves passion, sexual attraction, and physical intimacy, while platonic love usually describes a bond that does not include sexual desire, such as a friend or family member.

Both types of love have an evolutionary purpose. Humans may seek romantic love as it benefits survival, promising long lasting safety and reproduction opportunities.

Romantic love may trigger neural pathways that activate certain brain areas, including the reward, emotion, and primary sensory regions. Three main neurotransmitters linked to love are dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin.

Although no two people will experience love in the same way, a person in love might experience:

  • increased happiness
  • a desire to be around the person frequently
  • a desire for sexual intimacy with the person
  • a more positive outlook on life and experiences
  • increased well-being
  • positive effects on mental health

This section looks at the neurochemistry behind love.


Dopamine is a central component of romantic love. It is part of the brain’s reward system. Because of this, a person may feel a rush of pleasure when they see, look at pictures of, and recall memories of their beloved.

Because of the involvement of the reward system, a person in love may want to constantly spend time with this person because of the pleasure it brings.

Scientists of a small 2015 study examined the effect of viewing photographs on dopamine activation in certain brain areas. Participants looked at photographs of their romantic partners and same-gender friends for whom they had no romantic feelings.

Results showed dopamine release increased after viewing pictures of romantic partners. This activation occurred within areas of the brain that link to love, rewarding experiences, and the appreciation of beauty.


Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that alleviates stress and enhances feelings of safety. It influences attachment, helping people form and maintain relationships and social connections.

Oxytocin levels increase during sexual activity and orgasm. The body also releases it during childbirth and nursing.

Because of this, oxytocin plays an important role in all kinds of social, familial, and intimate bonds, including romantic love.

According to a 2019 article, oxytocin can also influence:

  • emotional connections
  • social competence
  • empathy
  • mental health


Vasopressin is another hormone that is involved in romantic love.

A 2017 review suggests that the interaction between oxytocin and vasopressin is necessary for certain complex behaviors, including parenting, social bonding, and sexual attraction and behavior.

A 2020 review also suggests that the interaction between oxytocin and vasopressin is important in maintaining romantic love, and this interaction can sustain love throughout the early stages of marriage.

A consistent, supportive romantic partner may help a person feel safe, secure, and comfortable.

A loving relationship provides benefits that may help reduce stress, alleviate pain, and increase resilience.

The social rewards of being in love may positively affect a person’s overall well-being, especially during the initial stages.

Research from 2016 suggests that people in romantic relationships have higher levels of subjective happiness, which may relate to an increase in positive influential experiences.

The study states that, because of this, being in a romantic relationship is one of the most positive and influential experiences of human adulthood.

Love is a complex physiological drive with genetic, social, and reproductive components.

It involves a wide variety of feelings, mental states, and behaviors.

Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin also play a significant role in romantic love. Because of this, a person in love may feel an increase in happiness and well-being.