The Scientific Reason You Feel Addicted To Your Partner

If love is a drug, how do you detox? Dr. Cortney Warren shares insights and advice.

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Have you ever been madly in love and felt completely and utterly enamored with another person? Been so enchanted by your lover that you felt almost obsessed with them?

If you have, you know the experience I’m talking about. A special someone enters your life, and you feel a tidal wave of attraction when they’re near. Just the sound of their name brings an instant smile to your face.

You find yourself yearning to talk to and touch and be close to them because you feel incredible when you’re together. You think about them constantly.


Even when you’re not together, you find yourself fantasizing about them and giddily gushing about them to your closest friends. Over time, this love interest quickly becomes the focal point of your mind, dominating your thoughts, emotions, and actions over everything else.

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Falling in love: a naturally addictive experience

The overwhelming emotional, physiological, and psychological experience of falling in love can be so compelling that you can feel addicted to your lover. Falling in love is associated with stimulation in a very old part of your brain that’s associated with survival, known as the dopaminergic reward pathway.


As a result, being in love is associated with a hyper-focus on your lover as if you were addicted to them — constantly thinking about them, intense cravings to be near them, feeling euphoric when you’re with them, acting in ways to be close to them, and difficulty pulling yourself away from them even when you want to focus on something else.

RELATED: Once You Start Loving Somebody, You Don't Ever Stop

Many scholars argue that the very natural process of falling in love is biologically designed to make you feel addicted to your mate.

If your relationship is healthy, feeling addicted to your lover doesn't seem bad. Quite the contrary: it can be an all-consuming, magical experience. But, if your mate doesn’t want you back or isn’t healthy, feeling addicted to your mate can throw you into a harmful cycle of heartbreaking symptoms that hurts your quality of life and general well-being.


RELATED: Can You Love Someone Too Much?

When Feeling Addicted To Your Mate Hurts You

Although not a clinical diagnosis, love addiction is a term that describes a pattern of harmful symptoms that center around a current or former love interest and cause negative consequences to a person’s life.

Some common distressing symptoms include:

  • Obsessively thinking about your lover when you don't want to
  • Craving contact with your lover in a way that disrupts your life
  • Feeling easily emotionally reactive and distressed because of your lover's role in your life
  • Acting in unhealthy ways to feel close to your lover or get their attention
  • Distracting yourself from relationship discord in unhealthy ways, like drinking too much, hurting yourself, or acting impulsively

When you're struggling with these feelings, you may want to pull yourself away from your current or former lover but feel stuck and unable to let them go. These unwanted symptoms can dramatically harm your well-being, self-esteem, and ability to enjoy life.


Falling in love is one of the most intoxicating experiences we can have. Yet, if your relationship ends or you're dating someone who isn't healthy, being in love can throw you into a downward spiral of negative symptoms that severely harms your quality of life.

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Dr. Cortney Warren is a Board Certified Clinical Psychologist and expert on addictions, eating disorders, self-deception, and psychotherapy from a cross-cultural perspective.