Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

February 13, 2001

Might as well face it, you are addicted to love, Prof says

Valentine’s Day is approaching and you’ve been struck by Cupid’s
bow, so why are you craving even more romance? Because love is a
chemical addiction, says a University of Guelph physiologist. And
once you get your “love fix,” you will do just about anything to feed
your addiction.

When you are in love, or sexually attracted to another person, your
brain releases chemicals that have the same effect on the body as
drugs like heroin and cocaine, says zoology professor George Bubenik.
“For ages, people have been falling madly in love. Empires have been
fought over love, and countless men and women have lost their lives
while pursing the objects of their love.”

“Why? Well, it might not seem romantic, but the similarities between
a drug dependency and a ‘love dependency’ are striking.”

When two people are attracted to one another, and especially during
sex, their bodies release hormones such as adrenaline, endorphins and
oxytocin. These hormones produce an all-over feeling of well-being
and excitement, Bubenik said. Oxytocin, which is often called the
love hormone, is especially powerful because it triggers the release
of dopamine. Not only does dopamine flood the body with pleasure, but
the brain also retains the memory of that feeling. In fact, addiction
causes the brain to be re-wired, perhaps permanently, he said.

“Thus, love, or other addictive substances such as drugs or foods
such as chocolate, increase the production of dopamine, which
enhances the memory of the pleasure and reinforces the need to take
more ‘drugs’” said Bubenik “Some people’s cravings are so profound
that others consider their love to be an obsession or addiction.”

Chemistry also plays a crucial role during the courtship phase of a
relationship, Bubenik said. Humans respond to subconscious signals
provided by hormone-like chemicals that are produced by the body’s
skin glands. “You won’t know what it is,” he said. “It could be
smell, eye colour, the face, something about the other person’s hair.
That is what they mean by love at first sight.”

But this chemistry can make life brutal when love turns sour,
Bubenik said. When there are problems in a relationship, the
imbalance of those same hormones and the need to feed those
addictions can bring about cravings and feelings of anxiety, anger
and jealousy. “This is one reason why some people remain in
destructive relationships. Like drug addicts, they are unable to
overcome their cravings, their habits,” Bubenik said.

“This is also why people who go through a traumatic breakup of a
love relationship often experience weight gain or loss, tremors, and
just a general feeling of being miserable. These are symptoms similar
to those of the withdrawal period observed in drug addicts.”


Prof. George Bubenik
Department of Zoology
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 8786 (work); (519) 763-2246 (home)

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, 519-824-4120, Ext. 3338.

Email this entry to:

Message (optional):