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Love Addiction

By Amra B.

Recently, I read an article about Rihanna claiming she would check into a rehab center for her "love addiction." The article described how her relationship with Chris Brown made her unhealthy and how her focus on her EX had turned into an obsession. Rihanna is certainly not the first woman (or a man) who I have known to experience these emotions. Many of my friends had been through similar situations where they were unable to end a bad relationship or move on from the one that has already ended. My experience with love also drove me to experience mood swings and become irrational in my behavior. Can love really be bad for us and drive us crazy? Is love addiction just as serious as a drug/alcohol addiction?

Feeling like addicted to love?

To answer some of these questions, we must understand what happens when we fall in love. According to Semir Zeki, professor of neuro-aesthetics at University College London: " The frontal cortex, vital to judgment, shuts down when we fall in love. MRI scans show this de-activation occurs only when someone is shown a photo of the person they adore, causing them to suspend all criticism or doubt" [1] When parts of our brain reserved for judgment are shut off, we stop judging the person we love by the same standards as everyone else. According to Professor Zeki, this type of judgment suspension occurs because it makes the reproduction more likely. If we realistically evaluated the person we loved, would they still seem so wonderful? Would we choose to have a family?

There is also another factor that may indeed categorize love as an "addiction": studies show that love may act like a drug! "The brain chemical dopamine is at higher levels in those in love. Dopamine is key to our experiences of pleasure and pain, linked to desire, addiction, euphoria, and a surge may cause such acute feelings of reward that it makes love hard to give up. Tests show that taking opioid drugs such as cocaine have a similar effect on dopamine as love" [1] If our brain behaves like it is on drugs while we are in love, then it is easy to understand why we might experience "love addiction." It also explains why heartbreak feels so awful and breakups carry many of the same withdrawal symptoms as do drugs and alcohol. 

I personally have experienced many of the symptoms of the love withdrawal: restlessness, irritability, insomnia, headaches, poor concentration, depression, and social isolation. I also sympathize with people that struggle with these feelings and often feel like they are alone on their quest to return to their "pre-relationship" state of mind. Although, it may seem like a long haul, I believe that by addressing our emotions one day at a time, we can cure our post relationship blues. Discussing your feelings with family and friends (people your trust) can help rid you of some anxiety you feel. I believe that talking about our feelings helps us achieve a more rational picture of the situation. Also, substituting the adrenaline rush we received from our relationship, with another type of adrenaline rush my help. For example, exercise is known to increase our endorphin levels and makes us more happy. Any type of exercise that requires you to shift your thoughts to the task at hand is beneficial. I like to play tennis, aerobics that require a lot of different steps, and cycling. It is a day-to-day process and, as one person told me long ago: "you can never take yourself too seriously." Every day is a challenge, but tomorrow you will feel just a little bit better; time heals all wounds! 

Love addiction


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