Is love an addiction? Why we develop an obsession and can’t resist our beloved one? The phrases like “I am addicted to you” and “Everybody has an addiction, mine happens to be you” are popular phrases. Let’s analyze the scientific basis of love addiction.
When we are in love with someone we activate certain regions in brain like ventral tegmental area (VTA), a reward region that is associated with feelings of arousal, pleasure and euphoria. The same brain area is also activated when we have cocaine, chocolate, sweets and money. Therefore love can be as addictive as all these addictions. The activation of this brain region causes the release of chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine which makes us euphoric. In essence, dopamine’s most substantial role is to take an individual from “liking” to “wanting” a thing or a person. Dopamine is known for its role in reward-motivated behavior. It is released from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and works on areas of the brain including the midbrain, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus and frontal cortex in a fashion similar to euphoric drugs such as cocaine. Therefore, for our brain love is an addiction.
When we get our addiction in the form of a drug like cocaine or our beloved person, we get our chemical reward from the brain in the form of release of feel good chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine, which makes us feel good. When we do not get the thing we are addicted to, our brain makes us crave for it and considers absence of it as withdrawal. This makes us restless, jittery, stressed and depressed.
With the increase in level of chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine, when in love, the level of chemical serotonin is reduced. Serotonin is related to functions like regulating mood, appetite and cognition. Low levels of serotonin is also associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In obsessive compulsive disorder, a person has uncontrollable and reoccurring urge or desire to exhibit a certain behavior (compulsion) or think about certain things (obsession). The person repeats these thoughts and behaviors frequently and has self-control for only short period of time. Thus, when in love low levels of serotonin make us develop an obsession and compulsion for our partner. Therefore when we are in love we are obsessed about and addicted to our partner. We can’t stop thinking about and can’t get enough of our partner.
Due to this cocktail of chemicals including dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin we just can’t stop thinking, feeling and loving the person we are in love with.