The brain, attraction and addiction in a relationship
I have written some things that you can think about if you have destructive patterns in a relationship and how you can work on that. Now I would like to describe what happens in the brain when you get attracted to someone. You can read more about this in John B. Arden´s great book about the brain,”Rewire your brain”.
– At first when you see someone you are attracted to the frontal part of your brain (the thinking, logical part) tells you to pay attention since the person you look at is attractive.
– These thoughts trigger your brain to discharge dopamine (that is associated with feelings of pleasure) which makes you attend to the person you find attractive.
– The attending behavior makes your brain release more dopamine and tells hippocampus (where a big part of the memory is), to remember the attractive person.
– Now the nucleus accumbus (the pleaasure and addiction center) is activated with dopamine, and when you are separated too long from the person you are attracted to, you experience withdrawal symptoms and you long for being with the person again.
– Another pleasure center (the septal region), is activated when dopamine has triggered the experience of excitement. The septal region makes you generalize a positive feeling to other experiences. So, if you are in love and spend time with your partner, you will easily perceive other people as nice and you will tend to see things from a positive angle.
– Now, if you have experienced these feelings for a while, you and your partner will develop a tolerance for dopamine and in order to get the same feelings again you will have to create new exciting situations in order to stimulate the dopamine.
The brain helps you with two hormones,; oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel good and that rises when you have physical contact with someone you feel close to, and vasopressin, a hormone that makes you feel good and that rises when you recognize someone you feel close to.
Since being in love stimulates the same center as that is activated with drugs, gambling or other things that can be addictive, it is possible to “get addicted” to the falling in love part of the relationship. When my patients have a problems with relationships, this is one of the things I check since it can be a reason why you have not been able to get a long term relationship even though you want that. May be you want a long term relationship but every time you have a partner you get impulses to withdraw after a while. May be you have a pattern of rushing into a new relationship thinking “this time, I am sure, it´s the right person I have found”, only to discover after a few weeks or months, that you experinece disappointment,boredom and and impulse to leave your partner and move on with your life.
If you have this problem try the following:
– Try to think of new exciting things that you can do with your partner; find a new place for a weekend together or find some other new activity.
– Analyze if you have talked about yourself to your partner, I mean about things that are sensitive to you. If you only talk about superficial things, there will be no bonding.
– Spend time and be close to your partner often in order to stimulate oxytocin and vasopressin which will give you positive feelings and trigger attachment.
– Make an effort to reach out to your partner since making an effort triggers the left frontal lobe (the positive part of the brain) which helps you to move the relationship forward.
– You should also analyze if your attachment patterns (I will talk more about this).
The attachment styles that people have are:
-Secure attachment (you have had warm parents that have given you lots of love and guidance).
-Avoidant attachent (during your childhood, you have been reinforced to handle your feelings by yourself with little or no support from your parents.
– Ambivalent attachment (during your childhood you have got attention in an inconsistent, unpredictable way so you never knew what to expect).
– disorganized attachment (you have had an abusive, impulsive and depressed primary caretaker, usually the mother).
Cognitive behavior Psychologist Monica Emanell