Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Love is an emotion characterized by passion, intimacy, desire, and commitment. Love motivates us, validates our self-esteem, and eases our feelings of loneliness.

What Is Love?

Love is an emotion 1 governed by the three chief components 2 of intimacy, passion, and commitment. It begins when an individual feels affection towards another and considers them special or unique.

It also involves other positive feelings 3 like focused attention, increased ecstasy, emotional dependence, or empathy. Sometimes, however, love can also be associated with negative emotions such as jealousy, separation anxiety, or despair when things don’t go a certain way.

Read More About Separation Anxiety Disorder Here

Types Of Love

There are mainly eight 1 types of love. The ancient Greeks studied love and defined each of its types with a Greek name. They are as follows:

Types of love

1. Philia – Affectionate

This type is usually formed between friends or family members. In this relationship, both parties share the same values and mutual respect for each other.

2. Pragma – Enduring

This is a unique bond between a couple that matures over many years. The couple chooses to put equal effort into their relationship. They both choose to work on their relationship with their partner forever.

3. Storge – Familiar

This is a naturally occurring phenomenon between parents and children or even best friends. It’s a deep emotional connection based on acceptance.

4. Eros – Romantic

This form is a natural instinct for most people. It’s passionate and often displayed with physical affection.

5. Ludus – Playful

This form occurs at the beginning stage of the relationship. It consists of teasing, being playful, and smiling between two people.

6. Mania – Obsessive

This form is characterized by obsession and jealousy towards their partner. The imbalance of Eros and Ludus is usually the main cause of mania.

7. Philautia – Self-love

This form is characterized by understanding one’s self-worth without ignoring their personal needs. It begins by acknowledging one’s own responsibility for their well being.

8. Agape – Selfless

This form is the highest level of love. It is given without expecting anything in return. It allows an individual to spread love in any circumstance. In this case, the individual dedicates their life to improving the lives of others.

The Psychology Of Love

Love comes with a range of associated feelings 4, including care, affection, trust, closeness, intimacy, and attraction. It activates the reward system of the brain inducing a sense of joy and relaxation. It also enhances our mood and well-being.

Besides its biological implications, love has great socio-cultural significance. Love makes us kinder, more empathetic, and more responsible as human beings. It can also help us better understand and manage our resources (like time, money, opportunities, etc.) and gear them toward the greater good.

Love manifests itself in different forms throughout our life span 5. A newborn first learns to love its mother as she provides the comfort and nutrition it needs. As infants grow, they begin to form attachments with other caregivers and eventually with people outside their immediate family.

Soon, children begin to play with others their age. Their social connections expand and they feel a sense of love and belonging among their friends. These initial interactions form a crucial base for future adult relationships.

Similarly, the nature of love and relationships in early adulthood determine one’s satisfaction with life in middle and old age. Older adults tend to be more mature in their relationships and form increasingly meaningful connections.

Why Do We Need Love?

All of us have an innate desire to be loved and nurtured. As scholars such as Bowlby 6 have demonstrated, ever since we’re born we seek a secure attachment base for our survival, which is something we find in a mother’s love.

Love creates unity which is essential for our species to thrive. Psychologists such as Maslow 7 have also named love as a significant motivator for people to live in society.

Role Of Love In Mental Health

The effects of love on mental health are plenty Studies 8 attest to the intricate link between love and mental health. Healthy romantic relationships are associated with healthier lifestyle choices, greater resilience in case of stress, greater emotional intelligence and motivation, higher relationship satisfaction, and improved self-esteem.

The psychological benefits of love are helpful in checking and addressing symptoms 9 of severe conditions like:

Love and Mental Illness

Unhealthy expressions of love (often experienced by people with a history of childhood trauma, domestic violence, abuse, and neglect) are associated with higher incidences of mental health conditions 10.

For instance, people experiencing breakups or unwilling partners in abusive relationships have been found to have greater vulnerability 11 to depression, anxiety, and commitment issues.

People who faced emotional maltreatment in childhood 12 tend to grow into adults with intimacy issues in romantic relationships. People with a history of parental or partner abandonment 1 may develop problems associated with separation anxiety, etc.

A deficit in feeling love is associated with dysfunction in neurotransmitters (like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, etc.), hormonal imbalances, and structural and functional changes in brain areas.

These can further trigger mental disorders that accompany negative thought patterns and unpleasant behaviors, thereby affecting intimate relationships with loved ones. People suffering from psychiatric conditions frequently experience abandonment, loneliness, and isolation as a consequence of broken relationships.

Read More About Loneliness Here

Healthy Love Vs. Unhealthy Love

Healthy relationships are based on healthy expressions of love, mutual respect, and open communication. In contrast, in unhealthy or toxic relationships 13, one partner tries to exert control and power over the other physically, sexually, and/or emotionally.

Such relationships usually display the symptoms of physical and emotional abuse like gaslighting, manipulation, harm, etc.

Read More About Gaslighting Here

When Is Love Toxic?

Toxic love involves a type of intimate relationship in which a person exhibits problematic and harmful behavior towards their partner, friend, or family member.

Such a type of love frequently involves emotional abuse, exploitative attitudes, and physical aggression. One consistently feels drained or unhappy after spending time with an abusive partner or family member.

The main characteristics of toxic love in unhealthy relationships include:

  • Lack of mutual support
  • Passive or aggressive communication
  • Lack of boundaries and privacy
  • Physical violence and emotional abuse
  • Authoritarian or controlling behavior
  • Gaslighting
  • Maladaptive emotions, including resentment, jealousy, dishonesty, etc.
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Obsessive interest in one’s partner
  • Imposition of one’s judgment and insecurities on one’s partner, etc.
  • Lack of respect

How Toxic Love Affects Mental Health

Toxic love can have really long-term effects on a person. It can result in


Despite its ups and downs, love is both a biological and social necessity. We are bound by nature’s law to fall in love, connect, and live with each other. Therefore, to successfully maintain and enjoy a relationship, one must get past its ordeals.

This means facing the reality of love and accepting one’s own flaws and that of one’s partner. It is essential to communicate, share feelings, and compromise on some grounds to resolve conflict.

Instead of trying to change one’s partner, redirecting the focus toward acceptance can go a long way in building a strong intimate relationship based on mutual love, trust, and commitment.

At A Glance

  1. Love is an emotion governed by intimacy, passion, and commitment.
  2. Feelings of love are often influenced by similarities.
  3. Building a healthy relationship depends on sharing a common goal of where you both want the relationship to go.
  4. Self-love is the love that one has for oneself.
  5. Practicing healthy love means being responsible for your own happiness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Are psychopaths incapable of love?

Psychopaths are not impervious to the benefits associated with love, such as companionship, affection, etc. They may appear emotionally repressed, but they suffer when love is absent.

2. Is it possible to survive without love?

Love is considered basic to human existence, and a need for survival. There is at least one person or a thing that we all love. While it may be possible to survive without loving or being loved, such an existence could be replete with suffering.

3. How does toxic love affect mental health?

Toxic love in unhealthy relationships leads to poor mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, etc.

4. How does love affect our health and well-being?

Love makes us feel a range of feelings, including care, affection, trust, closeness, intimacy, and attraction. It activates the reward system of the brain, resulting in a reduction in emotional judgment, fear, and depressive symptoms.

👇 References:
  1. Bode, A., & Kushnick, G. (2021). Proximate and Ultimate Perspectives on Romantic Love. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 573123. [][][]
  2. Tobore T. O. (2020). Towards a Comprehensive Theory of Love: The Quadruple Theory. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 862. []
  3. Fisher, H. E., Xu, X., Aron, A., & Brown, L. L. (2016). Intense, Passionate, Romantic Love: A Natural Addiction? How the Fields That Investigate Romance and Substance Abuse Can Inform Each Other. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 687. []
  4. Gawda B. (2019). The Structure of the Concepts Related to Love Spectrum: Emotional Verbal Fluency Technique Application, Initial Psychometrics, and Its Validation. Journal of psycholinguistic research, 48(6), 1339–1361. []
  5. Heshmati, S., Cabreros, E. I., Ellis, O., & Blackard, M. B. (2021). Love and Friendship Across the Lifespan. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. []
  6. Bowlby, J. (1979). The Bowlby-Ainsworth attachment theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2(4), 637-638. doi:10.1017/S0140525X00064955 []
  7. Pinkus, R. T. (2020). Love and Belongingness Needs. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences, 2694–2697. []
  8. Price, M., Hides, L., Cockshaw, W., Staneva, A. A., & Stoyanov, S. R. (2016). Young Love: Romantic Concerns and Associated Mental Health Issues among Adolescent Help-Seekers. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 6(2), 9. []
  9. Gómez-López, M., Viejo, C., & Ortega-Ruiz, R. (2019). Well-Being and Romantic Relationships: A Systematic Review in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(13), 2415. []
  10. Braithwaite, S., & Holt-Lunstad, J. (2017). Romantic relationships and mental health. Current opinion in psychology, 13, 120–125. []
  11. Kansky, J., & Allen, J. P. (2018). Making Sense and Moving On: The Potential for Individual and Interpersonal Growth Following Emerging Adult Breakups. Emerging adulthood (Print), 6(3), 172–190. []
  12. Sun, L., Canevello, A., Lewis, K. A., Li, J., & Crocker, J. (2021). Childhood Emotional Maltreatment and Romantic Relationships: The Role of Compassionate Goals. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 723126. []
  13. Rafaeli, E., Cranford, J. A., Green, A. S., Shrout, P. E., & Bolger, N. (2008). The good and bad of relationships: how social hindrance and social support affect relationship feelings in daily life. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 34(12), 1703–1718. []