Why love hurts: It can turn into two forms of 'addiction'

By Cheyenne MacDonald

Researchers from Oxford University Centre for Neuroethics looked at 64 studies on love and addiction published between 1956 and 2016. Photo / 123RF
Researchers from Oxford University Centre for Neuroethics looked at 64 studies on love and addiction published between 1956 and 2016. Photo / 123RF

It's on your mind all the time, and despite the ups and downs, you keep coming back for more.

Love is known to cause symptoms similar to those seen with addiction, and has even been linked to addiction-like activity in the brain.

But, scientists remain divided on whether you truly can become addicted to love, reports Daily Mail.

In a new study, researchers analyzed 64 studies on the two subjects dating back to 1956, and found that love addiction does exist - and it comes in two forms.

The researchers from Oxford University Centre for Neuroethics looked at 64 studies on love and addiction published between 1956 and 2016, according to New Scientist.

As with drugs, the team found that love can trigger reward signals in the brain and can cause euphoria - but, it can also lead to cravings, obsessive behaviour, and grief when a relationship ends.

The team identified two distinct ways to describe love addiction: a "narrow" view and a "broad" view.

"The narrow view counts only the most extreme, harmful forms of love or love-related behaviours as being potentially addictive in nature," the authors wrote in the study.

"The broad view, by contrast, counts even basic social attachment as being on a spectrum of addictive motivations, underwritten by similar neurochemical processes as more conventional addictions."

According to the researchers, "narrow" love addiction is the result of abnormal processes in the brain's reward center.

This form of love addiction is thought to be "quite rare," and has been linked to attachment behaviours that interfere with other aspects of that person's everyday life.

And, it's even led to stalking and murder, according to New Scientist.

"Broad" love addiction, on the other hand, is more like typical love, though cravings are stronger.

Both of these forms, though, can cause harm, as they can lead to unhealthy and even abusive relationships.

According to the researchers, further study is necessary to determine if either, or both, of these conditions should be considered potential forms of addiction.

But, they say the evidence shows that those who experience love 'addiction' share processes in the brain with those seen in drug addiction.

"At a minimum, however, the evidence we have discussed in this article suggests that drug addiction, on one hand, and at least certain love-related experiences or behaviours, on the other, can reasonably be understood to be equivalent phenomena at the level of the brain, underwritten by the same neurophysiological processes," the authors wrote.

"If this is correct, it cannot be the case that (narrow) addiction is a phenomenon confined to addictive drugs."

- Daily Mail

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