Ordinarily, when you’re in love with a person you often feel like you are emotionally dependent on the individual. It’s like you “can’t live without” him or her. Well, research has proven you are indeed dependent (addicted) to your lover. Studies demonstrate being in love is equivalent to being a cocaine addict.
Helen Fisher, Author and Senior Research Fellow at the Kinsey Institute, discovered the brain regions that become active when an individual is addicted to cocaine and other drugs are the same regions that become active when a person is in love. Through brain scanning studies, Fisher observed the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area (VTA); both are parts of the brain involved in producing and distributing dopamine. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is an essential hormone of the brain that is responsible for motivation, moods, focus and a slew of other functions. It is what gives you the focus to desire more of what you love.
Like drug addicts, an individual in love can be neurotic, experience personality and behavior changes and in worst-case scenarios may do life-threatening and/or inappropriate things.
In a TED talk, Fisher said, “And indeed, it has all of the characteristics of addiction. You focus on the person, you obsessively think about them, you crave them, you distort reality, your willingness to take enormous risks to win this person. And it’s got the three main characteristics of addiction: tolerance, you need to see them more, and more, and more; withdrawals; and last, relapse.”
Fisher, who is also an anthropology professor at Rutgers University, has now studied more than 75 individuals. Her first major study included 17 young lovebirds. Fisher’s second study observed 15 rejected lovebirds. The third study examined the brains of couples that had been married a minimum of 10 years and maximum of 25 years.
Check out Fisher’s TED talk about the brain in love.