Your eyes dilate when you see someone you love because you want to see MORE of them. You want to take them all in. You want to see as much of them as possible.
Disney princess level eye dilation not only reveals attraction, but it also makes you appear more attractive– what a beautiful love feedback loop to enter!
If someone is looking at you with dilated eyes, they may be in love or they may also be afraid of you or highly caffeinated or drunk or fresh out of the optometry office. Of course, they could be ALL of the above. Let’s look closer at each of the causes of eye dilation.
Why Eyes Dilate: Increased Oxytocin
Oxytocin is the warm and fuzzy love hormone released after intimate connection. In empathic, healthy people (i.e. not psychopaths), oxytocin gets released after a hug, a sweet conversation, seeing a baby, or connecting strongly with someone. When oxytocin releases, pupils often dilate too.
Why Eyes Dilate: Perceived Threat
Eyes respond to love and fear the strongest. Some may argue that anxiety and excitement are two sides of the same coin. You’ve probably heard that Fritz Perls quote (the founder of Gestalt Therapy) about how fear is excitement without breath. They’re very close!
Why Eyes Dilate: Optometry Induced
Optometrists dilate eyes on purpose to examine the retina. They do this inserting eye drops that cause this physical response that lasts several hours thereafter. Your eyes may feel light sensitive when dilated so we recommend wearing sunglasses. Another side effect can be blurry vision or trouble focusing on objects. Dilation has the biggest impact on your near/reading vision so many people are still safe to drive following dilation, but if they are someone who does not feel comfortable doing so, then they may want to have a driver.
Why Eyes Dilate: Alcohol & Caffeine
Caffeine creates a fight or flight response that make the eyes dilate. Brain scans after caffeine and alcohol consumption show less blood flowing to the brain. This adrenalized fight or flight response causes the eyes to dilate in reaction in order to see the maximum amount of the possible threat at hand.
If your eyes are dilated needlessly for a long period of time, make an appointment for an eye exam as you may be suffering from something beyond love. It’s wise to get regular eye exams in general because they not only test your vision but can diagnose a wide variety of other health conditions and risks.