The Overlap Between Romantic Love And Addiction
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Many parallels can be drawn between the behaviour of those who are in love and those who are addicted. Their behavior is characterized by a preoccupation with obtaining the reward, and spending time with the target of the preoccupation, as well as a lack of interest in any other activities. Both love and addiction can be divided in an initial formation stage, a maintenance stage and if applicable a disruption stage. The formation of both love and addiction critically relies on changes in the mesolimbic pathway. For love also activity in the oxytocin/vasopressin system is necessary, this system is tightly coupled to the natural reward system. The behavior is maintained by the increase incentive salience of the drug or the partner, as well by the aversive effects of withdrawal or separation. When a pair-bond is disrupted or drug consumption is discontinued, a depression in activity of the mesolimbic system is observed. Although the changes in the natural reward system underlying love and addiction overlap to some degree, there are also marked divergencies. In addition, there are also pronounced behavioral differences between love and addiction. Importantly, love is not a compulsive behavior, but it is guided by normal hedonic sensations and motivation. It can therefore not be concluded that love in general is an addiction. On the other hand, in exceptional cases, maladaptive, perhaps compulsive forms of love occur, that may be akin to addiction.