People enter temporary insanity pleas in court for being super pissed-off or provoked out of their minds, and we’re mostly only super-human strong when we’re faced with danger and our adrenaline knows it. (Or when we experiment with bath salts. Don’t do it, kids.)
Interestingly, there are some crazy things happening in your body that you’re not in control of when you look at photos of people you love, too.
Looking at a picture of someone you love actually has a similar affect to taking cocaine. You don’t even have to try and snort the photo. Scientists have studied brain scans, tracking the chemical changes in the brain under different circumstances, and discovered that love really is a hell of a drug.
When people are shown a photo of someone they have intense romantic feelings for, the frontal cortex of the brain that is responsible for judgment sort of shuts down. This means that criticism and doubt — those pesky little emotions that constitute the “realist” in us — are told to take a hike. When you are in love, you experience dopamine and adrenaline surges in the brain, the same exact processes that occur when you ingest cocaine or other opioid drugs. With that lovely surge of dopamine — the chemical that allows our bodies to know when something is “pleasurable” or “good” — also comes the reduction in serotonin, which is partially responsible for stabilizing our moods. Serotonin dips in the body due to those lovey-dovey feelings can cause anxiety similar to serotonin dips experienced by people suffering obsessive-compulsive disorder. Makes sense if you think about all the times you’ve agonized over your new beau.
This does mean that there is science behind heartbroken people turning into total stalkers, and that getting treatment for a mental disorder can actually help the obsessed cure their crushing (LOL) affliction. Guess that’s the closest thing to a post-breakup brain drain possible.
Besides making us act like crazy drug addicts, looking at photos of people we love is also shown to reduce the severity of any physical pain we might be undergoing. One study at Stanford tested people by putting hot prongs on their palms while they looked at pics of their loves, and they found that intense pain was reduced by 12% and moderate pain was reduced by 45%. Some scans revealed even more brain activity in pain reduction than scans taken of brains on morphine or cocaine. One caveat, though: If you’re not in love but hoping to use this pain-reduction magic trick you’re out of luck, simply looking at a photo of an attractive friend that you love — but not like that — is not going to have the same effect.
You’re gonna have to find another way to get through your hangovers.