Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Love at First Sight

Love is not a magical feeling but a powerful chemical cocktail in the brain.

Key points

  • The feeling of "love at first sight" is a neurotransmitter cocktail that produces a sense of euphoria.
  • The most vulnerable time for lovers is transitioning from euphoric love to bonded love.
  • The best way to develop a long-term relationship is to understand how brain chemicals related to love work.
Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels
Source: Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels

A certain glance, a casual touch, or a physical attribute can trigger love at first sight. "Love at first sight" is not a magical feeling. Love at first sight is a powerful neurotransmitter cocktail that produces a sense of euphoria, often referred to as limerence. The person of interest becomes the focus of our attention — all our attention.

One study showed that people fixate their thoughts on their person of interest from 85 to 100 percent of the time. The person of interest can do no wrong, and even the most mundane activities become utterly fascinating. The study also reported that both men and women who are proximal to the object of their love trembled, felt flushed, stammered, or feared losing emotional control. Additionally, men’s faces become flushed, their heartbeat increases, their pupils dilate, and their muscles stiffen. Signs of "love at first sight" for females include tingling palms, hardening nipples, shallow breathing, and dilated pupils. Ninety-five percent of the males and 91 percent of the females participating in the study identified sex as the best part about being in love.

Phenylethylamine, or PEA, is the primary neurotransmitter that creates the euphoria of love. PEA is an amphetamine that saturates the brain when we fall in love producing the feeling of elation and exhilaration. PEA, along with four other neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine, noradrenaline, and serotonin, cause lovers to be giddy, absentminded, optimistic, gregarious, and full of high energy. Additionally, PEA overrides the lovers’ natural sleep cycle, allowing them to stay up all night dancing, talking, and just hanging out.

High levels of PEA ensure people bond long enough until more stable emotional attachments can form. PEA is no longer needed after stronger emotional bonds are formed and gradually dissipates. Elevated PEA levels typically last for two to three years. As PEA levels fade, the brain increases the production of endorphins, which create feelings of serenity, security, and tranquility. The increased endorphin level aids in the transition from love at first sight to true love. The most vulnerable time for lovers is transitioning from euphoric love to bonded love. This phenomenon could explain why marriages often break up during the early part of the marriage. Likewise, married couples who successfully negotiate the transition from limerence to love experience fewer divorces. An important aspect of developing a long-term relationship is understanding how the love chemicals in the brain work and realizing that relationships are at their weakest point during the transition period from lust to bonded love.


Money, J. (1980). Love and love sickness: The science of sex, gender difference, and pair-bonding. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Tennov, D. (1979). Love and limerence: The experience of being in love. New York: Stein and Day.

Nadeau, R. L. (November 1997) Brain sex and the language of love. The World & I.

More from Jack Schafer Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today