Most of us have that one friend who seems to fall in love as easily as he or she changes their underwear.
She's the one who calls you every time she's met "The One" -- and she wants to share the exciting news with you -- again. Your friend has run through literally a hundred men. All the rest were "losers," she says, "but this guy is different. He understands me."
Before you know it, she's already planning her dream wedding to a guy she met just one week ago. She uses language such as, 'I met a new guy... he swept me off my feet!,' 'I LOVE him!,' 'He's so hawt!,' 'I CAN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT HIM!'
One of the reasons why your friend falls so hard for every hawt guy she meets, is because she is flying high off a dopamine rush. Your friend has what psychologists refer to as an addictive personality.
Addictive personalities are easy to spot: they're the ones with cigarette butts dangling from their lips every time you see them. They can't stop drinking or put down that weed, and they can play video games nonstop for hours on end without stopping to take a bite to eat.
Dopamine is the primary chemical in the brain that causes addictive personalities.
Basically, dopamine brightens and highlights our connections with the world around us, says David Goldman, Ph.D., a neuro-scientist with the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "It's essential for associating something that happens with the feeling of pleasure." In other words, it reinforces behaviors that make us feel good. Source
Human beings are naturally inquisitive. Some of us (especially men) tend to show more interest in the world around us than the world between our partner's legs. How many times have you had to use your feminine wiles to coax your man away from a ball game on TV or to keep him from running the streets with his boys?
God knew that this inherent disinterest in sex would not suffice if prehistoric man was to populate the earth. His first experiment with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden failed miserably. Despite Eve's best efforts, Adam stubbornly refused to show a sexual interest in her.
So God went back to the drawing board to design a way to sustain and prolong man's interest in pleasurable activities such as sex. God finally decided on two chemical neurotransmitters in the brain: Dopamine and Norepinephrine. (But for the purposes of this post we'll just focus on dopamine.)
Dopamine is the main neurotransmitter (chemical) in the brain that is responsible for intensifying our response to pleasurable stimuli such as sex. But as a drawback, dopamine also heightens the pleasure response to other non-productive activities, such as drugs, alcohol, videogaming, pornography, gambling, etc.
In addition to sustaining humans' interest in sex (at least long enough to produce a baby), God also intended for dopamine to sustain the prehistoric man's interest in foraging/hunting for food, so he wouldn't die from starvation. The dopamine rush from hunting helped to overcome man's fear that he himself might be eaten by the wild game that he was hunting.
From that failed initial experiment with Adam and Eve in the Garden, God realized that dopamine was necessary for the survival of the human species.
But seriously, to get a better idea of the effects of dopamine on the brain, think of a cocaine or crack addict. Cocaine blocks the reuptake (absorption) of dopamine in the brain. So the cocaine user's brain is literally swimming in dopamine, which intensifies the cocaine high. This dopamine bath in the brain intensifies the coke user's high to the point where they can think of doing nothing else but snorting coke.
According to Psychology Today, dopamine increases highs of infatuation, new love, joy, self-confidence, and motivation.
But like all roller-coaster rides, dopamine highs have their dangers because that chemical is important in triggering the joyously obsessive nature of first love.
Most of us remember our first love -- thanks to the effects of dopamine, which caused our hearts to race and our breathing to increase whenever we saw him or her. Some of us got over our first initial reaction to that dopamine fueled rush of puppy love -- but those people with addictive personalities didn't get over it.
For addictive personality types, reproducing the intense highs from that first experience with love will become their lifelong pursuit. For them, that first experience with puppy love was like that first hit of the crack pipe for a cocaine addict.
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of Medical Minute: Addictive Personalities, on Sandrarose.com!