If You Constantly Freeze Up Around Your Crush, Here's What Is Happening To Your Brain

If you've ever had a crush, you know the effect it has on the whole body. It's not simply butterflies and fantasies of a perfect future together whenever your crush is close, but physical mayhem! You suddenly have no idea how to talk or walk, your heart is racing, you're sweating excessively, and you're overtly aware of the compulsive sweating that's making you sweat even more. You are, for lack of a better word, a mess. You're also, of course, not alone.


It's easy for anyone to go off the rails when their crush is around. According to a 2005 study published in The Journal of Comparative Neurology, when we're smitten with someone and we're shown a photo of them, our brain goes into overdrive. The research, a first of its kind led by legendary biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, included taking functional MRI (fMRI) images of the brain in real-time to see exactly how it responded to romantic love or even the possibility of it via a crush. It was discovered that the most primitive parts of the brain, the ventral tegmental area, light up and one of the most important chemical reactions in the human body prepares to do its thing: make you nuts.


But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Everything that plays out in your brain whenever your crush walks into the room can easily explain all the awkward fumbling and clumsy speech.

Two words: dopamine overdrive

Considering the way having a crush makes us feel, it shouldn't be totally surprising that dopamine is released whenever we see our crush or even just think about them. Also known as a "feel-good" neurotransmitter, dopamine is the hormone that gets flowing in the brain when we're smitten with someone, thanks to the perfect chemical reaction that unfolds.


"Oxytocin releases dopamine, dopamine makes us release endorphins, and those endorphins make us feel good," psychiatrist Lamont Moss, MD told Self. Because we're feeling so darn good, "blood vessels in our body opening up so we end up blushing" and we can feel "a bit of euphoria," Moss shared. That's why having a crush feels so delicious and makes us do things we normally would never consider doing in a million years. We become addicted to the energy and the rush of hormones that take hold when our crush is near. Only an office crush could inspire someone to get to work on time and stay extra late.

Cortisol has its way with us too

As much as we may be riding high on the good feelings, that chemical reaction isn't simply made of euphoria. It also includes cortisol, the hormone in charge of your stress levels. With more stress comes less serotonin which is where the torture can start, leading to the "intrusive, maddeningly preoccupying thoughts, hopes, terrors of early love," as psychiatrist Richard Schwartz told Harvard Medical School.


Suddenly, your thoughts are no longer your own and you're at the whim of your brain. You feel (and act) like you're walking-chaos. Which, again, is totally normal — especially when you're not sure if what you're feeling is real and if it can evolve past a crush and into an actual relationship. It's at this point that it's only natural that your body would literally go into "fight or flight" mode in response to all the highs, lows, and associated anxiety attached to having a crush.

The amygdala blinds us

Now we know that having a crush can make you feel high, low, terrified, stressed, and somewhat obsessive, but we haven't even delved into the amygdala. While part of the brain is activated by positive feelings during this time, the part that's supposed to be in control of negative emotions deactivates. In other words, when you're crushing on someone, the neural pathway that connects the nucleus accumbens to the amygdala basically checks out, and thinking clearly is not an option. You trust this person and they can do no wrong, which can lead you to act foolishly because your ability to gauge reality is out the window. You might even pick up on your silly behavior, but still can't stop yourself from doing it. Exhausting, isn't it?


In the case where a crush evolves into a relationship, all this madness will level out when you reach the attachment stage of falling in love. But if that never happens, for whatever reason (although telling your crush will ease your suffering), your brain is likely to become somewhat used to giving you butterflies whenever you see that special someone. That's one of its most important jobs, after all. "The brain is hard-wired for love," neurosurgeon Dr. Philip Stieg told the American Heart Association. "All the connections are there, but the software is variable between individuals." So maybe tell that individual you've been eye-spying and put yourself out of your misery.