Romantic Love Redoux: Rethinking Romantic Love and Drug Addiction
The purpose of this paper is to understand how recent brain imaging research has shed light on the development and processes of romantic love in couple relationships and how this research has affected the definition and meaning of romantic love. Recent neuroscience research confirms that brain regions activated in drug addiction overlap with brain areas activated in a person experiencing romantic love. The brain systems that are most activated include the reward network, memory storage, areas of huge vasopressin and oxytocin receptors, and pain reduction. While partial overlap in the reward system occurs for both drug addiction and romantic love, the authors argue that the long-term positive effects of naturally occurring romantic love varies greatly from drug addiction, which is not a naturally occurring activity in the reward system. The authors take the view that because of the long-term positive effects of romantic love, defining it primarily as a drive or goal-oriented behavior like cocaine use minimizes its overall place in the establishment and maintenance of an intimate relationship. Romantic love reflects the implicit memory system that is formed prior to conscious thought. Furthermore, the authors believe that therapy for romantic partners has little in common with therapy for drug addicts. Recent research attests to the involvement of negative emotional activation in the amygdala, which can be blocked without preventing experiencing naturally occurring rewarding behaviors. This finding is counter to research that concluded that emotional systems are not activated by romantic love.
Neuroscience, Romantic Love, Couple Relationships, Psychotherapy, Addiction
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