More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Addicted to Love
Feb 10, 2004
ScienCentral News

Ever wondered what fuels that flame when you fall in love? Brain scientists have found that it's all in your head.

Love is a Drug
When Cupid's arrow hits the heart, it starts a flood of brain chemicals that may keep us coming back for more.

Anthropologist Helen Fisher of Rutgers University says the rapture of romantic love clutches the brain much like an addiction. "I think that love is a drug. It's one of the most powerful drugs on Earth. It's turned the world. Wars have been fought for it; wars have been ended for it . . .our novels, our plays, our poems . . ." she says. "People live and die for love, so I wanted to know what happens in the brain."

Fisher teamed up with neuroscientist Lucy Brown at Albert Einstein Medical College and psychologist Arthur Aron at the State University of New York at Stony Brook to search for the brain's "love button" by studying the minds of 17 volunteers who answered an advertisement that read, "Have you just fallen madly in love?" Fisher said that she had no way of knowing from an initial meeting just how enamored each respondent was; some people were quite reserved in talking about their sweetheart, but a peek inside their brains told Fisher they were smitten.

Head over Heels
First, the love-struck subjects completed a questionnaire about how they felt when their sweetheart is nearby or having a bad day or not returning a phone call. The responses helped the research team determined the subjects' level of passion for their loved ones. Next, the volunteers viewed photographs of their loved ones and of a love-neutral person while in a functional MRI machine, which creates images of the brain. To clear their minds in between pictures, the subjects counted backwards in increments of seven from a large number such as 4,673.

The brain scans revealed that early-stage love is not so much an emotion as it is a motivational drive to win the love of someone. "The parts of the brain that lit up were not emotion centers," explains Fisher. "The most important part seems to be the reward system - the part of the brain the lets you focus your attention, gives you elation and gives you the ability to get what you want, in this case, a beloved."

A region called the ventral tegmental area, or VTA, secretes the chemical dopamine, which regulates this feel-good mechanism - also associated with drug addiction. Dopamine signals the caudate nucleus, a C-shaped region associated with the desire to win a reward. Awash with dopamine, the caudate nucleus focuses the mind's attention on the object of affection.

In fact, test subjects reported thinking about their beloveds as much as 95 percent of the day. "One of the main traits of romantic love is that you can't stop thinking about that person that you're in love with, it is obsessive," says Fisher. "Romantic love is really a need. It is a craving for emotional unity with another human being." She and her colleagues presented their research, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, to the Society for Neuroscience in 2003.

Fisher points out that the brain's response to a loved one does change over time. "Our subjects who were in longer relationships showed activity in brain regions associated with processing emotions," says Fisher. "We don't know what this means yet, but I think someday we will find that as true love progresses, brain circuits for thinking rationally about the relationship become more active."

As for new relationships, Fisher says that anyone at any age can reap mental rewards when they first fall in love. So if you find yourself hooked on that feeling, you might as well face it, you could be addicted to love.

Mike 38

Yes, but let let us remember Love happens ANYWHERE, ANYTIME!

These studies always seem to insinuate that its "Supposed to be" kind of love. Girlfriends, Wives, etc.

Deep love can be felt with the same painful deep-felt feelings with a friend or a mistress or what have you....

lets here it for them....True deep longing isnt always only in a marriage


From the article above: "Romantic love is really a need. It is a craving for emotional unity with another human being."

I have a theory that romantic love is a symbolic representation of what needs to happen between the inner feminine and the inner masculine in order to come to a whole and integrated personality. The inner beloved (in Jungian terms, the anima or animus), is projected upon another who shares at least some of those characteristics and thus, is able to "hold the projection". When we fall in love with another, we seldom fall in love with who they really are, but rather, our image of what we believe them to be.

Mike, you may find it insightful to your personal situation to check out the terms anima and soul image at this link: The Jung Lexicon This may be especially so if you equate your relationship with this woman as being "like a twin".

"Wherever an impassioned, almost magical, relationship exists between the sexes, it is invariably a question of projected soul-image.

-- Carl Jung


Professional spammer and scammer
Love beats any drug there is. It is the highest of highs but can get you down to the lowest of lows when it goes bad.

just mary


I'm not sure if I should have started another topic or not, so I hope this isn't out of place.

This article has peaked my interest on a couple of topics, specifically infatuation and transference. The one post from “sister” regarding her attraction to her driver’s ed instructor also hit a nerve. I guess I’ve developed a bit of an infatuation myself and I wonder if it’s an actual problem or if I should just enjoy the feeling and let it play itself out. I’m wondering if it’s just an “addiction to love”, as stated above.

So here goes, I’ve developed quite a crush on my psychologist. I’ve heard of transference and I’ve done a bit of reading, but I wonder if I’ve taken it a bit too far. I think about him all the time, even though I’m not currently seeing him on a regular basis. I do send him e-mails occasionally and if things get rough, he’ll reply if he can, as he’s not about to do therapy by e-mail, which I completely agree with. (This forum is one thing but I know it’s no substitute for professional, one-on-one counseling.) And he definitely thinks I would benefit from regular sessions and he has encouraged me to seek further counseling. But due to my current circumstances I can’t go. So, I just send him e-mails and think, think, think. He works in the same vicinity of the city as I do and I’ve started taking long walks at lunch hour, looking for him. I have run into him a couple of times but I’m usually so embarrassed and tongue tied that I’m just barely able to squeak out a “hi”, and then I basically run away. Anyway, the less I see him, the stronger the attraction grows. After my last appointment in January I was able to walk out of his office and chide myself for being so silly, I guess when I talk to him in a professional setting, reality sinks in. But I haven’t seen him now for a few months and my feelings have just grown and grown, this man could do no wrong right now.

I’m definitely not concerned about acting on my crush, that would never happen and my psychologist would never, ever allow anything like that. But as you may have noticed from my other posts, I am married and my relationship with my husband isn’t perfect but it’s not horrible. I love him and we do have a lot of fun together sometimes. And I probably did have a “crush” on him at one time. I guess I just feel guilty about not feeling this way about him anymore.

Which brings me to my questions, should I worry myself about these feelings (i.e. is it a sign of a serious problem with my marriage) or should I just enjoy them, knowing that eventually I’ll get over them? Or is it just transference? But what good does transference do if I’m not seeing my therapist? All I know is that it feels really good thinking about him.


David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Whether you call it "transference" or "a crush" or "infatuation" something else, Mary, it's important, I think, to understand why these feelings are coming up. From other posts, we know that you are feeling lonely and dissatisfied with some aspects of your marriage. You then meet someone (in this case your psychologist) who listens to you, respects your opinions, empathizes and sympathizes with you, validates the way you feel, tries to be supportive and offers constructive advice for dealing with situations and issues that concern you, and accepts you for who you are unconditionally. The fact that you develop some feelings for this person isn't at all surprising -- it is, I'm sure, exactly the way you wish your marriage and other aspects of your life could be.

So by all means enjoy the feelings, as long as you don't confuse them. And perhaps you can use the fact that these feelings exist to re-examine other aspects of your life and look for ways to make those more rewarding and fulfilling.


What Dr. Baxter said makes good sense to me. Your therapist offers you a haven where your feelings are understood and validated. He gives you the acceptance you need so desperately, and the caring atmosphere in which to air your deepest fears. What's not to love in that?

I wouldn't worry too much about it, as long as you're aware you can never act on these feelings. Enjoy them. There are many kinds of love. :eek:)

just mary


I just wanted to say thank-you for the replies and I agree. It's just something I've been wondering about and I don't feel comfortable talking about it with someone who knows me.
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