Love Addiction: The Love Drug

Love Addiction: The Role of Dopamine in the “Warm and Fuzzies”
Dominic Nicosia

Written By

Dominic Nicosia

In case you didn’t already know, Valentine’s Day is well on its way. For some people, Valentine’s Day is one of the most wonderful days of the year. For others, it can be the day that reminds them of their issues with love addiction. 

When you’re caught up in the romance, it’s easy to think that your partner is the source of your happiness. There’s no denying that being with someone you love can bring feelings of joy that can be hard to replicate. 

While not nearly as romantic, the truth is that there’s a perfectly logical and scientific explanation for love. In many ways, love and love addiction can feel very similar to the forces that drive substance use disorder.

Is Love Addiction Real?

Yes folks, Cupid’s arrow is laced with dopamine. Love addiction is very real, and can be just as debilitating as drug addiction for some people. 

In recent years, the American Psychological Association (APA) started exploring addictions outside of the realm of substance use disorder. Unfortunately, gambling addiction is the only addiction to have found its way into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM V). However, sex and love addiction still raise questions and remain a top priority in the scientific research community. 

Everyone can thank dopamine, the neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s rewards-based responses, for the way we feel while in love. It has been definitively established that dopamine, drives the love we feel for our partners. On top of giving us the “warm and fuzzies,” it’s also responsible for the sense of elation when that love is reciprocated. 

Those who describe being with their partner as a “high” might be closer to the truth than they realize. Dopamine is one of the main brain chemicals prevalent in drug and alcohol addiction, making users feel “high.”

Until very recently, research findings have been largely fragmented. However, a 2017 consolidation of data from Oxford University provides a thorough framework for discussion. It compiles multiple studies and draws parallels that point to the neurobiological similarities between “being in love” and “being addicted.” 

Am I Addicted to Love?

Love addiction doesn’t necessarily have to include romantic love. It can also include love from family members, friends, and those in the world around us. 

For many people, validation, support, acceptance, and affection are the main triggers of dopamine in the brain. It just so happens that these dopaminergic responses are often most accessible within romantic relationships. 

That feeling we get from being our partner’s “one and only” gives us a neurobiological sense of belonging and worth. Many people can and will go to extreme lengths, even shaping their entire lives, to pursue these feelings. When we “come down” from this feeling, it can trigger extremely negative psychological and even physical responses. 

One of the most common signs of love addiction include an inability to permanently remove yourself from a failed relationship. Because you might have invested all of your expectations into relationships, break-ups can feel like the end of the world.

These unhealthy investments can result in intensely physical and psychological reactions to negative events within the relationship. While sadness and anger are normal, it isn’t healthy to feel empty or lost without your partner following a break-up. Often this can lead love addicts to pursue toxic situations just to feel the “high” from reconnecting with past partners.

Loving Yourself First

We understand how easy it can be to let yourself get lost in the person you’re in love with. The steady supply of dopamine your relationship provides you can be hard to give up. 

It’s significant to make sure that you love yourself the way you are before engaging in a new relationship. This is especially true if you know that you might struggle with love addiction. It’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone else if you don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself first. 

The many effects of love addiction have been romanticized in virtually every aspect of media and popular culture. However, the reality is that these reactions often lead to self-destructive behaviors like drug or alcohol abuse. When you’re accustomed to having someone else fill the hole inside of you, drugs are only one step further. 

This Valentine’s Day, Recovery Unplugged encourages everyone to spread love, just not too much. If you or someone you care about is suffering from relationship-related substance use disorder, we’re here to help you. 

Dominic Nicosia

Dominic Nicosia

Dominic Nicosia, a seasoned content writer, brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the realm of healthcare writing, particularly in the addiction care field. Holding a Bachelor's Degree in Communications and Professional Writing from the University of the Arts Philadelphia (2009), Dominic has carved a niche for himself with over seven years of specialized writing experience in addiction care.

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