Falling in Love Can Reduce StressDecember 21, 2011 • A GoodTherapy.org News Summary
The formation of interpersonal bonds is critical to the maintenance of a healthy relationship. In romantic relationships, bonds are formed through a series of emotional events when people first fall in love. Although there is little research exploring exactly how autonomic reactivity affects emotional states in relationships, existing evidence has demonstrated a link. “Autonomic reactivity and emotion regulation play an important role in the partners’ communication within a romantic relationship and were found to predict marital dissatisfaction and even divorce,” said Inna Schneiderman of the Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and lead author of a study examining how autonomic reactivity affects emotions in new lovers versus single people. One way to measure the level of autonomic reactivity and vagal regulation is to gauge Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA). Therefore, for their study, Schneiderman and colleagues from the Bar-Ilan University measured the RSA of 55 people who had recently fallen in love and 57 single people after they watched two positive films, two negative films and two films that were emotionally neutral.
Schneiderman found that autonomic processing was strikingly different in the single participants than it was in the new lovers, especially with respect to the negative films. “Whereas singles decreased their RSA response during the negative films, indicating physiological stress, such decrease was not observed among new lovers,” said Schneiderman. “Such attenuation of the physiological stress response may indicate that love and attachment provide a buffer against the experience of stress.” Lower levels of RSA have been shown to be linked to negative psychological states, such as anxiety and depression. In the study, Schneiderman found this to be the case with the single participants. “Emotional distress, indexed by depressive and anxiety symptoms, was associated with lower baseline RSA,” Schneiderman said. Although further research is needed, Schneiderman believes that autonomic reactivity directly influences the bond formation of new lovers and when taxed, can lead to negative psychological consequences. Schneiderman said, “Findings suggest that vagal regulation may be one mechanism through which love and attachment reduce stress and promote well-being and health.”
Schneiderman, Inna, Yael Zilberstein-Kra, James F. Leckman, and Ruth Feldman. “Love Alters Autonomic Reactivity to Emotions.” Emotion 11.6 (2011): 1314-321. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by Barbara Grace Babson,LCSW, therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
NaomiDecember 21st, 2011 at 2:39 PM
Well, I think that we have all known for quite some time that those who are in committed and seriously happy relationships live longer livess. So therefore I suppose it stands to reason that the amount of stress in their lives is bound to be lower, I am a firm believer that the more stressed you are the lower your quality of life. So go out there and find yourself pretty darn good to fall in love with!
Kayleigh R.December 21st, 2011 at 3:49 PM
When we’re in love we look at life through rose-tinted glasses. We’ve all seen the starry-eyed lovers. It takes more to affect us negatively when we’re in love than it does when we’re not in a romantic relationship because all we think about is our partner.
f.lDecember 21st, 2011 at 5:30 PM
Lucky them! Anytime I fall in love it ends in disaster. Oh don’t get me wrong, it always starts out well with promises of love and fidelity. Then he morphs over time into this uncaring, insensitive, selfish excuse for a human being that chases anything in a skirt.
Darren D.December 22nd, 2011 at 12:32 AM
And the instant it goes straight to Hell like all relationships do, you’re hitting the bottle and the walls of your house because you invested a substantial amount of money and time into a relationship only for it to not work.
JaymaDecember 22nd, 2011 at 6:00 AM
falling in love? great
getting hurt by that love? a whole different story
Todd AshDecember 23rd, 2011 at 1:58 AM
@Darren D. – Speak for yourself! Instead of doing that you could be looking at what went wrong and how to prevent that same issue arising in future relationships. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Treat it as a life lesson, bud.
rosamunde spearsDecember 23rd, 2011 at 2:02 AM
The stress that goes hand in hand with relationships and marriages doesn’t even seem worth it to me these days. Nothing stops a guy from marrying me simply to divorce me months later and take half of what I own. I’ve worked hard to build a good life for myself. Why would I want to jeopardize that?
ellen h.December 23rd, 2011 at 2:09 AM
@rosamunde spears–Good question and one that’s not asked nearly often enough. All the idiots going on about ‘protecting marriage’ are oblivious to the fact that to many it’s just a piece of paper. Nobody cares about it very much anymore. You no longer need a wedding ring to prove you’re committed to a relationship. In fact living together is a bigger commitment because there’s no taking half the other person’s life with you if you split up, at least not in my state.
Caitlin JohnsonDecember 23rd, 2011 at 2:15 AM
Love is everywhere. If you can’t see that, it’s way past time you took those blinkers off and experienced the gift of love. Don’t grow into grumpy old men and women! I think all the cynics are purely jealous underneath it all because they don’t have a wonderful loving relationship to call their own.
H.J.December 23rd, 2011 at 2:53 AM
I know when I’m in love I am a better person for it. I’m kinder and more tolerant. I notice the little things that make a day great. I excuse annoyances that would have otherwise perturbed me. Being in love is definitely a stress-buster. You feel like you can take on the world!
stephen o.December 23rd, 2011 at 2:56 AM
I prefer the single life. When you fall in love, you need to commit and once you commit, bad things happen. I’ve seen it time and time again where my buddies are happily single, out every weekend picking up different girls, and then one day they decide they found The One and bam!, their life goes downhill after that.
Their independence disappears, their time with us is cut, and before you know it they can’t do a thing without consulting her for an opinion. Everything is done as a couple. It’s nauseating and all in the name of love! I’ll pass, thanks.
LeeDecember 24th, 2011 at 8:14 AM
Its just so confusing,isn’t it?When I’m single I missing having someone special but when I’m in a relationship I miss being single.I don’t know why.
And on topic:Is love really necessary to reduce stress? I have been with people I really like but don’t love and stress does get a good kicking even then!
F. T. CohenDecember 24th, 2011 at 5:13 PM
Why so cynical, stephen? When we fall in love of course we want to spend most of our time with that person. That’s natural. You sound jealous that your pal’s time is being spent more with his girlfriend or wife than with you. Get over it! That’s what grownups do and there’s only so many hours in the day.
Roberta AdamsDecember 24th, 2011 at 5:45 PM
@F.T Cohen– Exactly! I would like to also say on the opinion side that there’s nothing unusual about that either. Yes, they should be consulting each other -not on everything but some things-because they are a couple and couples need to make joint decisions sometimes. It’s considerate and respectful.
Madge ElliotDecember 28th, 2011 at 12:00 AM
@stephen o.–If the time is cut that you guys spend together, your buddy is choosing to put her first and spend time with her first.
I am putting the emphasis on choosing. I doubt he’s being dictated to.
You need to accept that gracefully and appreciate it when you guys can get together. If you keep the complaining up, you’re risking that he’ll drop you before her. Love comes first.
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