Crazy In Love – What really happens in your brain ?

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I’ve been working with a recently divorced  older Mum of 54. She has just moved house and is suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome. So she decided to take in a lodger for company and extra income while she is learning to adjust to her massive change of circumstances. Today she arrived looking really radiant, excited and buzzing with a huge smile on her face as she just developed a mad ‘crush’ on her recent new male lodger.

So what makes a usually grounded, well rounded woman ‘lose’ her head?

It’s the same emotion that makes a 54 year old man leave his wife of 20 years. It’s the mid life moment – where you feel stuck in the ordinary and stuck in the routine and life seems to be offering you a new opportunity.

It’s the carpe diem  attitude that is  very common in older parents – but the danger is in  not realising that the signs may not be reciprocal or that the timing might not be right.

I decided to look up what actually happens to our brains when we fall in love.

‘Chatting with girlfriends you may wonder why anyone in the throes of an illicit affair would risk their marriage, family and career for the sake of a what may seem like an  irrational crush.

But doctors have begun to unravel the mystery of why love can make us giddy, irrational and even ridiculous.

Scanning technology allows neurologists to unearth incredible images of what happens in our brains when we fall in love.

They have mapped the chemical changes that occur and discovered the parts of the brain that activate – and more importantly, the parts that shut down – during the heady days of courtship.

And far from being blissful, they have discovered how it can make us nervous and unstable.

They hope it may also one day reveal why a few of us might overstep the mark when dealing with the object of our affections.


The frontal cortex, vital to judgment, shuts down when we fall in love. MRI scans show this de-activation occurs only when someone is shown a photo of the person they adore, causing them to suspend all criticism or doubt.

Semir Zeki, professor of neuro-aesthetics at University College London, says: ‘When you look at someone you are passionate about, some areas of the brain become active,’ he says. ‘But a large part is de-activated, the part that plays a role in judgment.’

Prof Zeki believes the brain may behave in this way for ‘higher biological purposes’ – it makes reproduction more likely. If judgment is suspended, the most unlikely pair can get together and reproduce. Someone in love will still be capable of making other major decisions in their lives, from striking a business deal to choosing a new mortgage.

And this sanity makes it harder for friends to convince them  ‘they have taken leave of their senses’ when it comes to an ill-advised affair.

Brain scans have also shown the area of the brain that controls fear, and another region involved in negative emotions, close  down, explaining why people feel  so happy with the world – and unafraid of what might go wrong – when they fall head over heels.


Studies have shown brain chemical dopamine is at higher levels in those in love. Dopamine is key to our experiences of pleasure and pain, linked to desire, addiction, euphoria, and a surge may cause such acute feelings of reward that it makes love hard to give up.
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I work with many women going through a divorce in their later years who feel a little lost, unsteady and unsure of their next steps in life – particularly if their children have also left home at the same time.

Change can be painful. Change can be scary. But with support and small steps I help women gain clarity, direction and confidence in their future. So give me a call on 01883 818329 or email me to make an appointment [email protected]

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