Is Love Addiction Common in Teenagers?

The teenage years are a time of new and exciting experiences, including falling in love for the first time. During these years, the adolescent brain is going through a period of growth and development involving the reward system, which is the way the brain is able to motivate behavior. During the period of these age-related changes, emotions and reactions can be very intense. Because of all the change going on under the surface, teens can be very vulnerable to addiction in all forms, including love addiction. The experience of falling in love can be overpowering, and if love is experienced almost as if it were a drug, the experience of love addiction withdrawal can be crippling.

Why Teens Are Vulnerable to Addiction

There are multiple reasons why teens are vulnerable to addiction in all its forms. Major hormonal changes are going on and reproductive hormones have an impact on both sexuality and social behavior. Emotional reactions to life experiences can be very intense at this time. This makes teens very vulnerable to mind-altering substances or behaviors that stimulate the brain’s reward center, such as love addiction. Teens have a tendency to act impulsively, without thinking about the consequences, and that’s because the part of the brain responsible for impulse control is still not fully developed.

The Cycle of Love Addiction

Addictive behavior is characterized by being compelled to keep repeating experiences or actions that stimulate good feelings. If a teen is addicted to love, he or she may go through love addiction withdrawal; when a relationship ends, the brain chemicals that cause good feelings can plummet all at once. When this happens, there may be a period of despair, hopelessness and extreme fatigue that can seemingly only be relieved with another love interest. This can lead to an obsession with falling in love and experiencing new relationships, or hanging onto unhealthy relationships to avoid being alone. Intense emotional reactions to first experiences with love are to be expected during the teen years, but love addiction goes beyond typical adolescent turbulence. When a teen becomes addicted to love, he or she may need the help of a therapist or support group to learn new relationship skills and change unhealthy thought patterns.   Sources: “The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction” – National Institute of Mental Health “Adolescents are Prone to Love Addiction” – Psychology Today

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