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Helen Fisher

Helen E. Fisher, Ph.D. biological anthropologist, is a Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, and a Member of the Center For Human Evolutionary Studies in the[…]

HELEN FISHER: I have long felt that romantic love was an addiction. It's got so many of the characteristics of addiction. The focused attention, the obsessive thinking, the absolute craving, the willingness to do dangerous and inappropriate things to win somebody. Somebody's camping in your head. It is an obsession and we were finally able to prove that romantic love does activate basic brain regions linked with all of the addictions. In fact romantic love triggers brain regions that are regularly triggered for cocaine addiction but for all of the addictions some of these brain circuits some of these brain circuits become active including romantic love. Romantic love can be a wonderful addiction when it's going well and a perfectly horrible addiction when it's going poorly.

There are some differences between addiction to a person and addiction to a drug. Generally, you know, when you finally get off drugs you don't kill yourself after you're off the drug. A great many people really suffer after they've been rejected in love. The amount of stalking, clinical depression, suicide, homicide and all sorts of other crimes of passion are simply because somebody is addicted, love addicted, to somebody else. I would even call romantic addiction and attachment addiction as the mothers of all current modern addictions. And in fact I think that the modern addictions like cocaine or heroin or cigarettes or nicotine or things – are hijacking this ancient human brain circuitry for a positive addiction for romantic love.

Not everybody gets addicted to cocaine or to heroin or to cigarettes or even to food or gambling. Everybody at some time in their life has been addicted to love, you know. None of us get out of love alive. We all have tremendous joy and really often sometimes some tremendous sorrow.