Chemical Components of Cuddling

Well, I’m in cuddle withdrawal. No doubt about it. Not tryin’ to brag, but this phenomenon got me curious so I decided to do some research. It turns out, I’m not the only person who wonders why even though you sleep alone for 99% of your life, one night with another person and suddenly your body craves that other body. Here, briefly and unscientifically, is what I found out. (If you wanna check out the research tools, I just googled “cuddle and sex chemicals”.)

google image results, molecules!

Basically, sex and cuddling release a cocktail of different chemicals in your brain. Some of these we are familiar with, like adrenaline, serotonin and endorphins. So at different times we feel amped up, euphoric, sleepy, invincible. Whew! But there is also this ‘cuddle chemical’ called oxytocin which supposedly makes you bond with the person you are touching. This fascinates me, how smart our bodies are. Because, speaking from a Darwin perspective, if we bond with those we cuddle with then we’ll have more sex and produce more babies.

Darwin Valentine! wu hoo! oxycotin and endorphins

But in my life this is sort of annoying. Because the thing is, I’m busy, and my love life is anything but consistent. So the chemical hangover is really just confusing. How am I supposed to figure out what I want, how I feel, what my limits are, when my brain is pumping all these chemicals through me and all I can really think about is when I get to be near that person again?

Ok and now a side note. When doing research, most of what I found was focused on how men react to chemicals, and even how men are ‘more like women’ sometimes due to these chemicals. I think its fascinating that we want to gender feelings like affection, and that affectionate men can get off the hook using this chemical excuse. I also was frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t find information that was woman-centered, which is somewhat typical in the medical community because the male body is considered the standard and the female body is weird (especially when we do things like menstruate and get pregnant. CRAZY!) I don’t think that you can explain away every reaction and feeling with science, and I think it’s dangerous to try. Cultural learning is huge, and who can say how all the varied factors of modern life (diet, medication, environmental substances) affect each individuals’ brain chemistry? So while I found this information somewhat helpful and interesting, I’m not putting too much stock in it. What makes more sense to me is that from the time we are children we are fed a wide away of fairy tales, women getting rescued, white knights and happily ever after getting pumped into our imagination. And even once we grow up and know better, it’s always and intoxicating idea. Falling in love is the ultimate cultural adventure, and I think its a story we all want to be a part of. So instead of blaming the chemicals (although they do exist and play a role), I’m gonna chalk it up to an overactive imagination and my childhood love of Disney films. And until I can cuddle again, I’m hoping that yoga and laughter will curb my cravings. It’s amazing all of the myriad ways there are to feel good…


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