What is the Chemistry and Signs of Love Addiction
If you’re lucky, it’s happened to you. You met a special someone and the world stopped. You felt high when you were with that person. The sex was incredible. It left you living on a cloud for days.
And you did things you probably shouldn’t have done to be with the person – you broke plans with friends, cheated on another partner or skipped out on work. You just needed the rush of being with that person.
Why did you behave this way? It was the chemistry of love. The hormones and neurotransmitters in your brain and body worked together to make you feel the ultimate high of love and orgasm.
What is the vagina-brain connection?
Our brains are connected to and communicate with all of our body. The vagina is no exception. However, the vagina, vulva and clitoris have a power that no other part of the body has: orgasm. An orgasm feels like the most natural thing in the world, but it’s actually a complex reaction of neurons and neurotransmitters to physical and mental stimulation.
When you first meet someone you’re attracted to, you might feel attraction to them as a potential partner, or pure lust. In a perfect world, you feel a combination of both.
Lust is driven by the desire for sex and the pleasurable feelings sex provides. Lust is driven by a biological desire and influenced by the hormones testosterone and estrogen. Attraction, on the other hand, is driven by the three “feel good” neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.
How are sex, love and addiction related?
Lust is driven by sex hormones that originate in the testes and ovary. However, sex usually results in a burst of dopamine — that’s the euphoric feeling that washes over you during orgasm. Attraction on its own produces dopamine surges as well.
Dopamine functions as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. It is responsible for the reward pathway in the brain. This is the same pathway that tells a person if something feels so good, they should repeat the behavior. The result can be addiction. People can become both emotionally and physically dependent on their partners.
We’ve all been through a hard breakup. Even though you logically knew you would survive, it felt like you could never live without the person you just ended the relationship with. That feeling was the process of withdrawal from the hormones and neurotransmitters you felt from being with and having sex with that person.
What are the signs of love addiction?
Addiction takes control of a person’s thoughts and behaviors. It influences the brain by creating cravings, making a person lose control and continuing the thoughts and behaviors even though there are negative consequences.
10 signs of love addiction
How do you know if you’re addicted to love? Have you noticed a pattern of any of the following signs?
- Unhealthy boundaries like becoming attached to someone you don’t really know.
- Staying in relationships that are toxic or abusive out of fear of loneliness.
- Pursuing one relationship after another or having more than one relationship at a time.
- A misunderstanding between love and sexual attraction.
- Feeling incomplete when alone.
- Using sex as a coping tool when feeling negative emotions.
- Using sex or emotional involvement to manipulate others.
- Romantic relationships and sexual obsessions take priority over other relationships and obligations.
- Attaching to people who are not emotionally available.
- Idolizing and pursing partners as though they are gods.
What are the signs of sex addiction?
Love addiction and sex addiction share many similarities. Both types of addiction are dangerous. However, sex addiction presents more physical danger due to risky behaviors.
10 signs of sex addiction
A person addicted to sex may have many signs of love addiction, or all of them. They may also have some of the following signs.
- Compulsively watches porn, even at inappropriate times.
- Spends large amounts of money on porn or other sexually explicit material.
- Spends money and time to talk to online sex workers.
- Has multiple sexual partners at once.
- Pays others for sex.
- Engages in risky sexual behavior.
- Manipulates others into sex.
- Has no control over desire for sex or measures taken to obtain it.
- Constantly thinks about sex.
- Pursuing sex interferes with daily life.
How to get help for love and sex addiction
Many people addicted to sex and love find great support in getting to know others who share their struggles. There are a number of groups designed to support people with love and sex addiction. They each vary slightly based on the needs of the group members. Some examples are Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
Various treatments are available for people who aren’t able to recover from sex or love addiction on their own. Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are available for people who need to break the cycle away from their home environment. People in these programs usually work with therapists using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to learn how to make healthier choices.
CBT can help a person identify their thoughts and beliefs about love and sex and reshape these thoughts and beliefs to better serve their mental and physical health. Many times, feelings and thoughts around shame, anger, self-esteem, avoidance and self-efficacy are addressed.
The chemistry of love
Because all women share the same hormones and neurotransmitters, most of us are capable of feeling the rush of love. The rush can lead to a persistent chase of love and sex that keeps us high. For some people, this chase leads to long-lasting, fulfilling relationships. Other people may fall into the trap of sex and love addiction.
When sex and love addiction is interfering with your ability to live life and maintain healthy relationships, getting in touch with the driving factors behind your ideas about sex and love can help. Improving self-esteem is the key for many women addicted to sex and love. It’s hard to do alone. Reaching out for help may be one of the most empowering decisions you ever make.
This is a guest post by Dr. Sarah Toler a contributor to www.addiction.com. Dr. Sarah Toler is a Certified Nurse Midwife and Doctor of Nursing Practice in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing and completed her nurse midwife residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, before practicing at Lovers Lane Birth Center in Dallas. Dr. Toler specializes in women’s mental health, particularly perinatal and postpartum mood disorders including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. She also focuses on other reproductive mood disorders, including perimenopausal depression, premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Sarah’s professional intention is to improve access to behavioral health care for all underserved populations, especially women and girls. Evidence-based care drives her practice and philosophy, along with compassion and empathy for human struggles. Read more.