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Addicted to Love

Addicted to Love

It has happened to most of us at least once.

You can’t stop thinking about him — or her. You dance until dawn in each other’s arms. You can’t sleep and you can’t get down more than a couple of spoonfuls of dinner.

You’re in love. And yes, it’s in your head. Literally.

So say a growing number of experts in the social and natural sciences. Scientists like Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, say that when a person is in love, the brain makes dopamine, a natural stimulant. It sprays that stimulant to many regions of the brain, including the system “for craving, for wanting, for motivation, for focus and for elation,” says Fisher, author of Why Him? Why Her?: Finding Real Love by Understanding Your Personality Type.

Fisher, whom I interviewed for a recent podcast on, says “When you fall in love, the first thing that happens is a person takes on special meaning. Every single thing about them is special and you focus on it. You’d like to have sex with them, but what you really want them to do is call, write, invite you out, tell you that they love you.”

If your beloved doesn’t share your feelings, you’ll feel hurt — and still deeply attached.

The biology of love is not the biology of lust. Lust, says Larry Sherman, a neurologist at Oregon Health and Science University, is driven by testosterone and estrogen, and rarely lasts very long.

A lovesick person, on the other hand, can act like “an obsessive-compulsive cocaine addict who has high blood pressure” for quite a while, he says, especially if his or her love interest breaks off the relationship. According to Fisher, studies show that 40 percent of people rejected in love demonstrate signs of clinical depression.

What do you do if you’re rejected? Use the 12-step program that alcoholics and other addicts use, Fisher advises. Throw away the cards and letters, don’t write, don’t call and don’t try to be “just friends.”

And what if the relationship lasts? It probably will become a different, calmer kind of love, Fisher says, spurred by activity in the part of the brain that encourages pair-bonding, or attachment.

She adds that long-term love need not be boring, however. Doing new things with your partner — vacationing somewhere you’ve never been, learning a new sport together — will drive up the dopamine and may have you dancing until dawn again. Or at least wanting to.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Laura Sessions Stepp is Senior Media Fellow at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, where she hosts a podcast for The Campaign’s new website, SexReally seeks to foster conversations about relationships and sex while addressing gaps in people’s knowledge about fertility and contraceptive use through polling, videos, and other content.

For more about love as an addiction, visit

Read more: Love, Relationships, Sex, , , , ,

By Laura Sessions Stepp,

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3:07AM PDT on Oct 22, 2010

good read

11:08PM PDT on Jul 16, 2010

Somewhat helpful. Wasnt exactly what I was looking for.

9:11AM PST on Feb 26, 2010

Enjoyable read with fascinating information. Luckily AI don't have that problem.

12:18PM PST on Jan 8, 2010


5:35AM PST on Jan 8, 2010

Interesting read. Thank you for posting this article.

3:45AM PST on Nov 20, 2009

There is only one thing 2 do rly: sit bk and watch the situation. DO NOT and i mean DO NOT assume ur in love, or that the other person loves u, until u c it 4 ur self. That might take time, cause some conflict, but its a lot easier than dealing with pain.

12:43PM PST on Nov 12, 2009


I just read the 12 steps as listed above, and wow.

A lot of the 12-step programme seemed to use replacement therapy--replacing one thing for another, not dealing with the underlying problem (as with Scientology? Kirstie Alley claims it cured her of cocaine addiction, but it really appears--I'm no doctor or expert--that she replaced drugs with food).

Love is NOT simply in the head. Any idiot (self included) who has had a serious heartbreak has felt the physical pangs which aren't heartburn. Then one day the pain stops.

And forgive me for being offended that love (and lust) are fleeting. Why should they be? Of course things may change over time, but it doesn't mean that one has to make an excessive effort (vacation is when we're in love, otherwise, you sleep in the other room and leave me alone!) to maintain a high level of respect, lust, love, or dopamine levels. Mutual respect and active communication do a lot. As does laughter.

11:59AM PST on Nov 12, 2009

RE: " that we can determine if OUR falling in love is REAL or fake..."

Wow. I'm 63 years old, and am still not sure about that one. It sure isn't simple. When that other person is irressistably beautiful, and becomes your significant other for 7 years, and mother of your child, I think that qualifies as "real". And yet, even that can end in heartbreak and divorce when the relationship turns sour.

Was it any more or less real than something that lasted a shorter period of time?

3:06AM PST on Nov 12, 2009

I think it would be very useful if we became more AWARE of that the pitfalls of falling in love may be, so that we can determine if OUR falling in love is REAL or fake. I have written my own story of 'fake falling in love' here, and I hope it helps understanding one example of falling in love which is not falling in love at all!

11:55AM PST on Nov 4, 2009


Then you wrote:
"The people who are helped by that system should be left to enjoy their new found success if they see it as such and there are plenty of people who do."

In other words, please go away and quit telling the truth about the 12 Steps.

But but what about all of the people who were harmed by 12-Step insanity, and who didn't enjoy the bad advice? Are we supposed to just be silent about that, and go away and "leave you to enjoy your new-found" religion?

What about the people who are going to be harmed by the 12 Steps tomorrow?

Then you wrote:
"If on the other hand, people do not find any benefit from their new way of dealing with addiction compared to struggling with it whatever way they did prior, then I guess the 12 Steps aren't for them."

But that is backwards order. To conclude that the 12 Steps are not good for some people after they were driven to relapse or suicide is not helping them at all. The moral and spiritual thing to do is tell people the whole truth about the 12 Steps beforehand, and don't be recommending the 12 Steps as a cure-all for everything from alcoholism to "love addiction" when they don't work, and have such a bad track record.

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