That crazy little thing called … love
When Jennifer Aniston felt she just had to see ex-husband Brad Pitt’s new movie she didn’t want the paparazzi snapping her and the gossip columnists writing yet another piece about how obsessed she was. So she disguised herself.
Unfortunately she decided to go with BFF Courteney Cox — and, of course, the word got out that Jen was still pining for Brad. Poor Jen, they said — it’s been a couple of years now and she is still desperately in love with the man who left her for Angelina Jolie.
What they don’t say is that she probably can’t help it; that she is actually suffering from an identifiable ailment.
Because, looked at objectively, love is a mental illness.
“Once the love bug bites, serotonin levels in the brain drop, triggering obsessive behaviour,” says behavioural psychologist Ciaran Foley. “The neural circuits controlling social judgment are suppressed and stress hormones increase, leading to higher blood pressure and sleep loss.”
But why is it that once we’ve gotten a taste of these natural highs, we always want more? It cannot be denied that falling in love is a thrilling high. The doctors of pop music have long recognised that love is a drug, and you can get addicted to the stuff. It’s just taken the medical fraternity a while to catch up.
And now they have. The effects of love have joined drugs and booze as the cause of psychological and physical dependency. Love is the latest prefix to Anonymous. And if there aren’t any Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous meetings in Ireland yet, you can still attend S&LAA meetings online.
IT consultant Gavin O Hara is smack in the middle of the addictive phase of love. We are talking about the loopy honeymoon phase. The mad bit. “I can’t stop thinking about her. It’s a great feeling, but if you’ve a job to do, it is very distracting,” says Gavin.
“The brain has internal drug factories,” clinical psychologist Daniel Carr explains. “Physical attraction causes chemical cocktails to be released that activate dopamine, which makes us ecstatically happy when we are with the person.”
The pleasure receptor that ignites the falling-in-love sensations works on the same neural pathways as psycho-stimulants. Love junkies crave this sensation. But unfortunately the falling-in-love sequence, when the brain floods itself with a cocktail of nice feelings, doesn’t last. “The chemicals are turned off over time,” says Daniel. “Oxytocin, a bonding chemical that makes us enjoy sex, is designed to keep people together for as long as it takes to have a baby, and to raise it to safe levels.”
“How long do nature and oxytocin give you?” I wonder. “About two years,” Daniel says — which, oddly enough, is about how long all of my serious relationships have lasted.”
Marketing executive Hazel Conway, admits: “I fall in love a lot — more than anyone I know — and I fall hard. I’m officially a love junkie, in the new, scientifically identified sense of the term.
“I’ve teetered around in too-high heels and stuffed myself into ‘suck ‘em’ and ‘tuck ‘em’ contraptions of every size, shape and colour for love.”
So are all love addicts out there merely governed by oxytocin and its ilk? Surely, as highly evolved creatures, we should be steered in our love lives by more than just chemical, animal instincts? Are the love junkies among us knuckle-scrapers, evolutionary throwbacks? Are we actually hooked on the stuff? The definition of an addiction is when something starts to have a detrimental effect on your everyday life. And does love addiction have side effects? There are the nights sat up smoking with the anxiety of whether the love is requited or not. The hours boring your friends.
I filled out the Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous questionnaire (www.slaafws.org), which determines whether you have a problem, and it came out that I had too many ex-boyfriends. Perhaps I, and a million others, need therapy.
Then again — and it’s a crazy suggestion — perhaps we just haven’t met the right person yet.
It’s no secret that Hollywood hell-raiser, Lindsay Lohan is addicted to love. When LiLo was in rehab being treated for drug and alcohol abuse, she had erotic dreams about former boyfriends. According to her counsellors, she’s substituting one addiction for another.
While having her wisdom teeth removed earlier this month, Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson was struck with an idea. When boyfriend Ryan Reynolds turned 31, she presented him with one of her teeth dipped in gold and on a necklace!
Troubled pop star Amy Winehouse shocked the world by self-harming with a broken mirror during a recent interview. The star etched “I Love Blake” -a reference to new husband Blake Fielder-Civil- into her stomach.
It looks like Kate Moss is still crazy for Pete. The model is on the verge of breakup from current boyfriend Jamie Hince, who she was talking about getting married to just two months ago, because she won’t stop contacting Pete Doherty.
Anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love, developed a questionnaire about passionate love, including such questions as “Would you die for your partner?” All of the subjects said they would. In August, Owen was rushed to hospital with slashed wrists following a reported suicide attempt. Did the sight of his ex Kate Hudson in the arms of a new man send Wilson over the edge? Autor: Caitriona Durcan