The science is in: You might be “Addicted to Love”
Today is a celebration of love, but don’t sweat it if you find yourself more in love with your dog or your Domino’s delivery driver than you are with a romantic partner. Recent brain scanning studies show that you might be better off without a Valentine!
The natural highs:
Romantic love provides our bodies with a natural high, because it activates our reward circuit (ventral tegmental area, striatum, nucleus accumbens) and sends a rush of feel-good chemicals to our brains. But those feelings of euphoria come at a cost.
Studies have shown that romantic love can become addictive – literally. Our brains respond the same way to romantic love that they do to drug and behavioral addictions!
The painful lows:
This means that along with its natural highs, love can come with many of the same painful lows associated with addiction – such as craving, emotional and physical dependence, mood modification, and (after a breakup) withdrawal and relapse.
And get this: bad breakups have been found to activate the same parts of the brain (insula, anterior cingulate cortex) that are activated when we experience actual physical pain! Yikes.
Studies in neuroscience have also shown that feelings of romantic love decrease activation in the part of our brain (frontal cortex) responsible for logic, executive functioning, and judgment… Let that one sink in for a minute.
There’s hope for us all:
Remember the beginning of this post, when I said that love activates our reward circuit and gives us a natural high? It turns out we can experience that same rush of feel-good chemicals by looking at tasty food! So I mean, love is cool and all . . . but this Valentine’s Day, I think I’ll stick with pizza.