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      Intense, Passionate, Romantic Love: A Natural Addiction? How the Fields That Investigate Romance and Substance Abuse Can Inform Each Other

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          Abstract

          Individuals in the early stage of intense romantic love show many symptoms of substance and non-substance or behavioral addictions, including euphoria, craving, tolerance, emotional and physical dependence, withdrawal and relapse. We have proposed that romantic love is a natural (and often positive) addiction that evolved from mammalian antecedents by 4 million years ago as a survival mechanism to encourage hominin pair-bonding and reproduction, seen cross-culturally today in Homo sapiens. Brain scanning studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging support this view: feelings of intense romantic love engage regions of the brain’s “reward system,” specifically dopamine-rich regions, including the ventral tegmental area, also activated during drug and/or behavioral addiction. Thus, because the experience of romantic love shares reward pathways with a range of substance and behavioral addictions, it may influence the drug and/or behavioral addiction response. Indeed, a study of overnight abstinent smokers has shown that feelings of intense romantic love attenuate brain activity associated with cigarette cue-reactivity. Could socially rewarding experiences be therapeutic for drug and/or behavioral addictions? We suggest that “self expanding” experiences like romance and expanding one’s knowledge, experience and self-perception, may also affect drug and/or behavioral addiction behaviors. Further, because feelings of romantic love can progress into feelings of calm attachment, and because attachment engages more plastic forebrain regions, there is a rationale for therapies that may help substance and/or behavioral addiction by promoting activation of these forebrain systems through long-term, calm, positive attachments to others, including group therapies. Addiction is considered a negative (harmful) disorder that appears in a population subset; while romantic love is often a positive (as well as negative) state experienced by almost all humans. Thus, researchers have not categorized romantic love as a chemical or behavioral addiction. But by embracing data on romantic love, it’s classification as an evolved, natural, often positive but also powerfully negative addiction, and its neural similarity to many substance and non-substance addictive states, clinicians may develop more effective therapeutic approaches to alleviate a range of the addictions, including heartbreak–an almost universal human experience that can trigger stalking, clinical depression, suicide, homicide, and other crimes of passion.

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                1664-1078
                10 May 2016
                2016
                : 7
                : 687
                Affiliations
                [1] 1The Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington IN, USA
                [2] 2Department of Psychology, Idaho State University, Pocatello ID, USA
                [3] 3Department of Psychology, The State University of New York Stony Brook, Stony Brook NY, USA
                [4] 4Department of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx NY, USA
                Author notes

                Edited by: Xiaochu Zhang, University of Science and Technology of China, China

                Reviewed by: Ricardo De Oliveira-Souza, Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sabine Vollstädt-Klein, Heidelberg University, Germany

                *Correspondence: Lucy L. Brown, lucy.brown@ 123456einstein.yu.edu

                This article was submitted to Cognitive Science, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Article
                10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00687
                4861725
                27242601
                fd4abd93-1e66-475a-aceb-0436dc6dda0f
                Copyright © 2016 Fisher, Xu, Aron and Brown.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                History
                : 08 February 2016
                : 25 April 2016
                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 120, Pages: 10, Words: 0
                Categories
                Psychology
                Review

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                romantic love,addiction,ventral tegmental area,caudate
                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                romantic love, addiction, ventral tegmental area, caudate

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