Hence, proponents of the narrow view of substance addiction have frequently argued that addicts lack control over their actions and are not fully autonomous Hyman If this is the correct view, then we might think that it would be reasonable to try to eliminate the problematic feelings and behaviors associated with addictive love, since they are merely the symptoms of disease. And we might even believe that we could be justified in using coercion or force to prevent a love addict from being near the object of her desire.
Indeed, we, too, have previously argued that in some domestic abuse situations, including Stockholm Syndrome-like cases of attachment between the victim and her abuser, coercive intervention may possibly be justifiable Earp, Wudarczyk, Sandberg, and Savulescu The broad view, by contrast, argues that even the strongest, most negative forms of love are merely extremes of an authentic emotion.
Hence it is possible to argue, from these grounds, that even those people who suffer from harmful extremes of love may be fully autonomous in their behavior. On this kind of view, any possible treatment modality would then differ along certain dimensions. Likewise, treatments should never violate the autonomy of the person-in-love, nor should they involve coercion or force of any kind. Two of us have advanced a similar point of view regarding treatment for substance addiction Foddy and Savulescu As we noted in a recent paper Earp, Wudarczyk, Sandberg, and Savulescu , 3: In other words, the possibility of treating love—given the right sort of circumstances—may not be so far-fetched after all.
Yet as we show in what follows, the general conclusion of such an analysis may not differ very much in the end, regardless of the view one takes. That is, love addiction— however it is conceived —would seem to be an appropriate candidate for treatment in at least some circumstances. Or so we argue in this section. On this kind of view, love addiction is a neurobiological disorder that has no place in a healthy or flourishing life, and it follows that we ought to offer love addicts some measure of treatment or support.
For example, just as heroin addicts are sometimes given oral naltrexone to block the pharmacological effects of their drug, we could use oxytocin antagonists to reduce the reward an individual receives from being close to another person see Earp, Wudarczyk, Sandberg, and Savulescu According to the broad view, by contrast, everyone who loves is on a spectrum of addictive conditions: On this kind of view, it can be objected that love—no matter how destructive—is never an appropriate object of psychiatric treatment.
Yet this is where the distinction between broad and narrow begins to break down. On both views, that is, the primary difficulty from an ethical point of view is to determine how we ought to distinguish the good kinds of love from the bad: As one of us has argued, in cases of mental illness it can be very difficult to sort pathology from normal function, especially in the grey areas between extremes Savulescu For example, we arbitrarily define anyone with an IQ two standard deviations below the mean as being intellectually disabled—and hence deserving of special treatment—but we could just as easily have put the bar at one standard deviation, or three.
Nearly every psychiatric disability or disease represents an extreme of a smooth spectrum of behavior, function, or capacity. Not all sad people are depressed, and not all energetic people are manic. Our definitions of psychiatric illness, therefore, are essentially holistic rather than purely naturalistic; they are based inevitably on judgments of value—or in other words, ethical judgments.
At base, these judgements relate certain states of biology or psychology to well-being: Given this inherent value-ladenness, we suggest, in defining some condition as a disease or a disorder, we should consider a range of different outcomes that would result from the application of such a label. We must consider who we think should have excuses for their behavior; who should receive support from friends or from the state; who should be an object of medical research; and above all who should receive treatment.
In line with this view, consider the definition of substance dependence from the latest available at the time of writing edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from the American Psychological Association, the DSM-IV: In other words, it matters fundamentally whether harm, difficulty, or ill-consequences are associated with the reward-seeking behavior: What insight do these considerations bring to our understanding of love addiction and its potential for being an appropriate subject of treatment?
The message by now should be clear: In the next section, we examine this perspective in greater detail. There are three main theories of well-being—or classes of theories—discussed throughout the literature Griffin ; Parfit How one relates love addiction to well-being, and therefore to treatment, will depend upon the theory or theories of well-being one finds most convincing.
The first class of theories concerning well-being are hedonistic theories , which are defined in terms of mental states.
The simplest account of this type of view is that happiness, or pleasure understood broadly as a mental state is the only intrinsic good, whereas unhappiness or pain is the only intrinsic bad. More complex hedonistic views include a greater plurality of states of mind as possibly contributing to or constituting well being: Yet however one construes 6 this hedonistic mental-state view, it is clearly possible that a person could prefer to exist in a rapturous state of love, even though it might yield a number of adverse consequences in other areas of her life, due to its irrefutably high, intrinsic hedonic value.
Indeed, in Western societies, being in love is widely considered to be an extremely valuable state, and possibly constitutive of a good life all on its own. The second class of theories concerning well-being are desire-fulfilment theories. They give weight to individual values and yet they account for the plurality of values that might differ across individuals: Could love addiction be consistent with well-being on this desire-fulfilment account?
It does seem possible. Specifically, if a person desired, freely, to exist in a state of extreme passion—even granting certain negative outcomes—while nevertheless being fully informed about the nature of addictive love, how it might affect her brain and so on , then love addiction and well-being might indeed coincide in such a person. On this view, treatment might not be appropriate, even though negative consequences were present. Finally, there are objective list theories of well-being. Examples of the sorts of things that have been proposed as being intrinsically good in this way are: If this were the case, then such a love could potentially be deserving of some form of treatment under the right conditions.
Yet what theory of well-being should one accept? Unsurprisingly, philosophers have long noted that each of the theories of well being outlined above capture something important and intuitive about what is needed to live a good life, but all have problems as well. Accordingly, many philosophers opt for a composite theory in which well-being is seen as requiring at least certain aspects of all of the theories.
On this composite view, then, well-being is constituted by engaging in objectively worthwhile activities, which we desire, and which provide us with pleasure or other valuable mental states Savulescu To summarize, love will clearly be an important component of any plausible theory of well-being.
However, on a composite view, especially one which incorporates aspects of the objective-list account, love that entails insufferable pain, that frustrates other important desires, or that stops one from engaging in objectively worthwhile activities, might reasonably be taken to compromise well-being. The best life is not one that consumed by destructive or mal-adaptive forms of love, but is rather one in which love finds a robust harmony with other sources of the good. What does all of this mean for treatment? With respect to the narrow view of love addiction, it means that we will need to make an ethical judgment about how narrow the diagnostic category should be.
How strong or destructive does love have to be to qualify as addictive love? On the broad view, we face a similar challenge. Although it is that case that, on this view, everyone who loves is technically addicted, only some subset of cases should be judged to be appropriate candidates for treatment because of their effect s on other aspects of our well-being. Instead our allocations of medical and social care should be informed by an appeal to how much a person is made to suffer or to experience other threats to well-being through his or her experience of love Kahane and Savulescu If we determine that medical or social intervention could be of benefit to a person, then it will be at least potentially appropriate to offer some degree of treatment or support.
Treatment of love addiction, like any other form of addiction, could take many forms. At the same time, considering the recent surge of research focusing on possible neurobiological sources of love addiction, it may soon be possible to devise adjunctive drug-based therapies that could facilitate treatment of problematic forms of love by working on underlying neurochemical substrates. In a recent paper Earp, Wudarczyk, Sandberg, and Savulescu , we identified four conditions for the ethical use of such anti-love biotechnology:.
In addition, we have suggested that any drug-based treatment of love or love-related phenomena should be undertaken only under the guidance of a trained professional, and only once the safety and efficacy of such treatment had been established via rigorous clinical testing Wudarczyk, Earp, Guastella, and Savulescu Moreover, we have argued that such technologies should not be used on minors, i. In this article, we have argued that there is now abundant behavioral, neurochemical and neuroimaging evidence to support the claim that love is or at least that it can be an addiction, in much the same way that chronic drug-seeking behavior can be termed an addiction.
And we have argued that no matter how we interpret this evidence, we should conclude that people whose lives are negatively impacted by love ought to be offered support and treatment opportunities analogous to those that we extend to substance abusers. It must be acknowledged that by suggesting any sort of equivalence between love, which is culturally admired above all other emotions or relational states , and addictive drugs, which are deeply and almost universally demonized, we are raising a comparison that many will find off-putting or even offensive.
In Western society, we hold love—or even just falling in love—in very high esteem. We do agree that these would be inappropriate, and even dangerous ways to treat people who are suffering from a harmful sort of love or love gone bad. But if falling in love is not so different, behaviorally or biologically, from developing a drug habit or a binge-eating problem, then perhaps this recognition could afford us an opportunity to deeply interrogate our views about the inherent harms of addiction.
Addicted to love: What is love addiction and when should it be treated?
Perhaps, instead of taking on the view that love must be harmful if it is addictive, we could take the reverse view, and wonder if even substance addictions might be not always be strictly harmful under the right sorts of conditions. At least in principle, it would seem that drug addiction could even be good for us if the drug were plentiful, safe, and legal, in much the same way that, on the converse, romantic love may be bad for us if the object of our affection is cruel, or unfaithful, or uninterested.
If the evidence shows that the two phenomena are identical or even just substantially overlapping in nature, then perhaps we should revisit our attitudes to both. The ultimate goal, whether the subject is drug-use or romantic passion, should be to identify those cases in which the behavior and its related phenomena cause harm and suffering to those involved. And any treatment that is pursued—on either the narrow view or the broad view of addiction—should be undertaken in such a way that the decision-making autonomy of the lovers is given maximal consideration.
While we could not incorporate all of their important insights, we think the paper is much improved by the ones we did, and we have certainly been inspired to think more deeply about these complex issues. Much depends on the level of analysis one is concerned with, and how one conceptualizes the two phenomena at each relevant level.
For example, if we say that someone is in love, that suggests they have a range of concepts — of a person, of reciprocity and individuality — that need not be attributed to someone with an urge to consume a substance. For further discussion, see Earp, Sandberg, and Savulescu Certainly there are enabling behaviors and conditions, and a person might very well have the power to shape these variables in such a way as to enhance, or diminish, the likelihood of falling in love with a particular person.
Indeed, in arranged marriages, such as are common in some non-Western contexts, the partners might consciously and intentionally engage in activities, behaviors, and ways of thinking that allow for love to develop over time.
Physical disease is characterised by clear pathology. However, there is no clear pathology in many psychiatric diseases at present. This notion will serve as a backbone for our ethical arguments in the sections following this endnote marker. Two types of answer to this question have been given: Objectively valuable mental states are typically said to include fulfilment; calm; peace; hope; the experience of love and friendship ; happiness; and a sense of achievement.
On any plausible hedonistic account of well-being, therefore, love will be high up on the list of valuable mental states. Of course its value could be offset by disvaluable mental states, such as pain. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Author manuscript; available in PMC Apr 3. Earp , 1, 2, 3 Olga A. Wudarczyk , 2 Bennett Foddy , 1, 2 and Julian Savulescu 1, 2. Abstract Recent research suggests that romantic love can be literally addictive. Introduction Throughout the ages love has been rendered as an excruciating passion. Addicted to love Perhaps not.
Following that, we will attempt to explore some of the moral and practical implications that begin to emerge once we recognize that: To prime the reader for their thesis, they open their seminal paper on this subject with the following vignette: Burkett and Young , 1 Does this story describe falling in love or becoming addicted to a drug?
Autonomy and responsibility The first longstanding mystery concerning addiction in general is whether addicts are capable of abstaining from or moderating their drug use or other problematic behaviors. Love addiction and well-being There are three main theories of well-being—or classes of theories—discussed throughout the literature Griffin ; Parfit Implications for treatment What does all of this mean for treatment? How would it work? The prospect of anti-love biotechnology Treatment of love addiction, like any other form of addiction, could take many forms. In a recent paper Earp, Wudarczyk, Sandberg, and Savulescu , we identified four conditions for the ethical use of such anti-love biotechnology: Concluding remarks In this article, we have argued that there is now abundant behavioral, neurochemical and neuroimaging evidence to support the claim that love is or at least that it can be an addiction, in much the same way that chronic drug-seeking behavior can be termed an addiction.
References American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc. Reward, motivation, and emotion systems associated with early-stage intense romantic love. Evidence for sugar addiction: The neural basis of romantic love. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Humana Press; New York: A rebuttal on health; pp.
The behavioral, anatomical and pharmacological parallels between social attachment, love and addiction. Denying autonomy in order to create it: Comprehensive textbook of psychiatry. Systemically administered oxytocin decreases methamphetamine activation of the subthalamic nucleus and accumbens core and stimulates oxytocinergic neurons in the hypothalamus. Elements of pathological love relationships. Dopamine and drug addiction: The medicalization of love. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. When is diminishment a form of enhancement? Rethinking the enhancement debate in biomedical ethics.
Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. Natural selection, childrearing, and the ethics of marriage and divorce: If I could just stop loving you: Anti-love biotechnology and the ethics of a chemical breakup. American Journal of Bioethics. The neurobiology of love. The neurobiology of pleasure, reward processes, addiction and their health implications.
Reward, addiction, and emotion regulation systems associated with rejection in love. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Henry Holt; New York: Foddy B, Savulescu J. A liberal account of addiction. Philosophy, Psychology, and Psychiatry.
Addicted to love: What is love addiction and when should it be treated?
Addicted to food, hungry for drugs. The reasons of love. Princeton University Press; Princeton: Carving addiction at a new joint? Shared brain vulnerabilities open the way for non-substance addictions. The art of loving. Update on central function relevant to sex: International Journal of Impotence Research.
The neurobiology of addiction: The American Journal of Bioethics. You don't find them, you choose them. And when you do, you're on the path to fulfillment. Verified by Psychology Today. The Second Noble Truth. My last post focused on sex addiction.
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Love is in quotes, as those who are addicted are usually not referring to actual healthy love. Sex and love addiction are so commonly bonded that there is a step support group for the combination: Both love addiction and sex addiction are often viewed as disorders of intimacy. Hawkins pg71 calls out everyone. It challenges the reader on what they describe as love.
Perhaps, as the above quotes suggest, love is much more commonly an addiction than believed. When someone is addicted to love, this person develops an unhealthy attachment to the passion and enthrallment of the beginning of a relationship. The individual may have a long history of short romantic relationships ; ending the relationship when or shortly after the excitement dwindles. Another way someone can exhibit problematic behavior in regard to love is being addicted to an individual. Although the term codependency is overused, true codependency is an unhealthy attachment to another.
In a codependent relationship one partner or perhaps both depend on the other for his or her positive emotions. Many who have these types of addiction may never notice it. Their codependency or their short-lived relationships are accepted as normal. If the above authors are correct, many people who suffer from love addiction are completely unaware, and actually believe what they experience is normal and healthy.
Some argue that all love has an aspect of addiction to it. In her TED Talk, Helen Fischer states that love has many of the components of addiction, including tolerance, withdrawal, and craving, as well as the singular focus addiction usually takes. By her estimation, we are all addicted to love in some respect at some point.
There is a difference between everyone being addicted at some point, and addiction and associated behavior causing detriment in ones life. Are the lovers improved by the relationship? By some measure outside of the relationship, are they better, stronger, more attractive, more accomplished, or more sensitive individuals? Do they value the relationship for this very reason? Do the lovers maintain serious interests outside the relationship, including other meaningful personal relationships?
Are the lovers also friends? Would they seek each other out if they should cease to be primary partners? Peele goes on to say that these are ideals, and all relationships show signs of addiction. These questions, however, help determine if a relationship is predominately addictive.
Unhealthy love relationships come about in many different ways. Theories usually focus on early childhood relationships as the foundation for later relationships. In addition, the affect of socialization cannot be ignored. This culture, perhaps more than any other, lends itself to the ideal of addictive relationships. People have come to understand that their perfect mate completes them, makes life worth living, or otherwise takes a meaningless existence and makes it more worthwhile.
This message is evident in popular media from music to movies. Although some experts believe most relationships are more addiction than love, and that all relationships show signs of addiction, there is a great deal of agreement on what constitutes a healthy relationship. First, the love is non-possessive, or at least minimally so. Second, healthy love fosters growth, rather than stagnation or regression. Third, healthy love is based on mutual respect that results in a partnership. Finally, healthy romantic love strives to be unconditional.
We are all accustomed to, programed for, and generally seek, and which also seems to be related to love addiction rather than healthy love ego-based love, which is in opposition to healthier love. We want to possess our beloved to assure that we feel secure. This is the American, and possibly human, default modus operandi. This mindset contributes to an addiction to love.
There is an alternative, and that is to move toward more unconditional love. That is to love someone without keeping score, or giving up your life, or expecting them to save you from anything. It can be done by a focus on unconditional love, on compassion, and on loving-kindness. To love someone in a healthy way is to open yourself to loving everyone, not the opposite, which is true in love addiction.
Your mind can be trained to focus on this, rather than its unhealthy default. Meditation is a good start. Many meditations focus on loving-kindness and compassion. Mindfulness focus on love can contribute to a new mindset as well. Finally, challenging your responses, and slowing down and getting in touch with the love underneath your ego desires, can make your relationship one based on healthy love. It is this type of love will make the world a more beautiful place.
The Brain in Love; retrieved from https: You wrote, "There is an alternative, and that is to move toward more unconditional love. I'm trying to grasp what this means. I believe you intentionally stayed away from discussing monogamy, non-monogamy, polygamy, etc. I feel that this needs to be discussed to truly understand your point. Can one be monogamous and not addicted to a partner?
Unfortunately, I can say that my love for my wife is not very healthy. I experience jealousy and resentment. I've thought about how awesome it would be not to have these emotions. I think it would require being comfortable with eliminating sexual exclusivity. That's quite a tall order. First and foremost, thank you for your comment. But I have to disagree with a couple of points: I didn't address monogamy or other forms of relationship commitment, because I didn't find them relevant. However, I disagree monogamy creates an atmosphere of addiction.
I believe one can be monogamous because they choose not to act on feelings of attraction or affection for others, while remaining non-addicted to one's partner for the most part, as the argument is there are aspects of addiction in all romantic relationships and fostering love and kindness for others. Jealousy and resentment can be overcome through fostering security in yourself and the process of life, as well as working on forgiveness and love, as described in the post. I heard a saying recently that I think applies to security in a relationship: