The Scientific Reason Why You Love The Thrill Of The Chase In Dating

Is it love or is it the dopamine rush?
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When you first get to know someone, everything feels so exciting. You get giddy when you see them, you spend your days fantasising about your future together – it almost feels like a rush. But is it love, or could it just be the chase you’re enjoying?

Neuroscience shows us that the thrill of the chase could be the most enthralling part of the whole experience when it comes to dating Your new boo could be the apple of your eye, but there might be other mechanisms at play making you feel like you’ve found the one.

HuffPost UK spoke to the ‘Heartbreak Coach’, Manj Bahra about why we feel so excited when we’re experiencing the chase – and how to spot the signs you’re getting hooked on it.

The dopamine rush

Dopamine plays a big part in the chase as it’s responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward.

“When we embark on the pursuit of a romantic interest, our brains release surges of dopamine, heightening our emotional state,” Bahra says. “These dopamine rushes create an addictive feedback loop, propelling us to seek out more of these pleasurable experiences,” he adds.

When we’re chasing someone, we’re anticipating a reward, fuelled by dopamine. This then becomes a significant motivator pushing us to continue our pursuit.

The role of uncertainty

You would think that dating someone who isn’t clear about their intentions would be a turn-off. But let’s be honest, some of us like the feeling of uncertainty.

“The element of uncertainty in the chase, adds an extra layer of exhilaration to the process,” Bahra says. He explains that “when the outcome of our pursuit remains uncertain, our brains become more engaged, triggering an increased release of dopamine.”

Uncertainty keeps us on our toes which then intensifies our desire and dedication to the chase.

Activation of the brain’s reward system

“The chase activates the brain’s reward system. This system is a complex network of neural pathways associated with pleasure and motivation that makes good use of feedback loops,” Bahra says.

Not only does the activation generate feelings of euphoria it also strengthens the neural connections associated with the pursuit of rewards. This means, the more we chase, the more our brains become wired to crave and seek out the thrill of the chase.

“So we think we’re woo’ing our love interest, but really we’re chasing the chase,” Bahra adds.

The influence of social feedback

We all know that humans are social beings. Part of how we engage with others socially is through the reactions and feedback we receive from others. These work as signals that shape our experiences.

“When pursuing someone, the attention, and positive responses we receive from them and our peers further enhance the release of dopamine,” says Bahra.

Bahra continues: “Each flirtatious glance, reciprocal conversation, or genuine connection serves as a validation of our pursuit, reinforcing the pleasure we derive from the chase.”

The combination of social feedback and dopamine amplifies the reward value of the chase.

Psychological factors at play

Though neurobiology plays a big role in attraction, psychology does too.

Bahra says “the allure of the chase relies on three parts”:

  • The thrill of pursuing someone unattainable
  • The excitement of overcoming obstacles
  • The belief in the value of the prize

We should also factor in personality traits, attachment styles, past experiences, and cultural influences. All of these different aspects, shape our individual and deeply personal experience of attraction.

It’s always exciting when you’re getting to know someone but those feelings might not be what you think they are. Try to take it slow and examine whether you really like this person or if you’re experiencing a dopamine rush.