Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s Love Addiction

Zach Rhoads By: Zach Rhoads
Reviewed By: Dr Stanton Peele

Posted on May 16th, 2022 - Last updated: October 2nd, 2023
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.


We have been watching the Johnny Depp lawsuit against Amber Heard with great interest. Except we don’t care if Johnny Depp wins his defamation suit against Amber Heard. Nor will we render an opinion about whether “mutual abuse” can be used to describe a relationship where there is such a power differential (on Depp’s end).

Why, then, are we interested in this celebrity lawsuit?

As Joe Rogan realized, out loud, during his recent conversation with Christina Pazsitzki, “[Johnny Depp] may have had a love addiction.”

We agree. Both Depp and Heard participated in an addictive relationship, one that both say destroyed their lives. What is our basis for this claim, and why do we care?

(Quotes in this article from Times except where indicated)

Love, love, love

They tied the knot on Feb. 3, 2015, during a simple ceremony before a justice of the peace at Depp’s mother’s home. Heard said she had talked herself into believing this was the right thing to do. “We were making the right decision,” Heard told jurors, recalling her frame of mind on her wedding day. “It was magic. I was marrying the love of my life. It was complicated. But I thought it was the love of my life.” 

Amber Heard married (and loved) a man who controlled and assaulted her

The marriage occurred after Heard said Depp had been beating her for years.

The first time he hit her, she said, was about two years before they were married, when the actress laughed at one of his tattoos. He slapped her across the face three times, she said, a gesture so stunning that she initially responded with a laugh because she thought it must have been a joke.  “I knew it was wrong and I knew that I had to leave him,” Ms. Heard testified, “and that’s what broke my heart because I didn’t want to leave him.”

Love addictions are the hardest addictions to quit.

This behavior typified their relationship from the start

According to Heard, Depp couldn’t deal with being married to a successful actress, which she was becoming:

Ms. Heard testified that Mr. Depp physically abused her throughout their relationship, recalling that his anger was triggered by suspicions she was being unfaithful, which would not abate despite her repeated denials.  As Ms. Heard described it, Mr. Depp was a controlling presence in her life, intent on having a say over what she wore and what acting jobs she took. She testified that in 2014, he became angry about the fact that she had a romantic scene in a movie with the actor James Franco, leading to a confrontation on a private plane [where Depp kicked her in the back, not only hurting her but humiliating her in front of others on the plane] — one of the central incidents in dispute.

Is a love addiction really dangerous, like drugs can be?

There may be drug addictions more perilous than this relationship, but very few have caused such consistent damage in such a short period of time.

Heard says that Depp thwarted her promising career, preventing her from getting jobs.  In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Heard wrote:

Friends and advisers told me I would never again work as an actress — that I would be blacklisted. A movie I was attached to recast my role. I had just shot a two-year campaign as the face of a global fashion brand, and the company dropped me.

For his part, Depp said Heard’s allegations cost him “everything”: a new “Pirates” movie was put on hold, and Depp was replaced in the “Fantastic Beasts” film franchise, a “Harry Potter” spinoff. He is suing Heard for $50 million as a result.

Heard is counter-suing Depp for $100 million.

Along with the various beatings and assaults each party recounted, Heard claimed that Depp raped her with a bottle, and each blamed the other for Depp’s finger tip being cut off in a fight.

The trial, meanwhile, is doing nothing good for either of them.

The marriage was impossible from the start

Heard filed for a divorce and got a restraining order against Depp in 2016, the year following the marriage.  She and Depp reached a divorce settlement in August 2016.

Why did they fall in love and marry?

Why would two successful people enter a marriage when their intimate relationship was already a destructive, humiliating failure broadcast across the globe?  Although Heard and Depp seemed incapable of controlling their urges and behavior, there must be some underlying motivations at play.  

Heard seemed to feel that being in love with a global superstar (but a declining one who abused her) would make her life complete.  Did Depp and the marriage give her a sense of value she lacked?

Why, for his part, was Depp so motivated to marry and to subjugate a woman, half his age, whose growing acclaim deeply distressed him?  Did controlling and extinguishing her rising star replace the feelings of power and of being worshiped that his declining reputation no longer provided?

Is there such a thing as “mutual abuse”?

Many seemingly feel that to agree that the couple were mutually abusive excuses Depp’s abusiveness — even though Heard was herself violent and fought to stay in the relationship. Their therapist testified:

Anderson [the therapist] testified that Heard once told her it was a “point of pride to her if she felt disrespected to initiate a fight,” and that Heard reported striking Depp “to keep him there, because she would rather be in a fight than have him leave.”

Anderson later clarified that Heard said she “fought back” after Depp got physical. The mutual abuse claim has proven controversial. Some experts say that mutual abuse is a myth, and that Depp and Heard’s dynamic was one of reactive abuse, with power imbalances in which Depp had the upper hand.

Leaving aside whether Heard can be termed “abusive” in the same way as Depp, both parties were motivated to engage in their self-destructive behavior

Another relationship expert testified:

Both partners were egregious in their behaviors, and neither seems to realize their culpability. Things are always easier to make sense of when one person is clearly a victim and the other a perpetrator. I wish life were more concrete and there was always one clear perpetrator and one indisputable victim, but relationships are comprised of people, and people are complicated. In my 27 years of practicing as a therapist, the vast majority of relationships I’ve seen show problems in both partners.

There are no one-sided love addictions

As Brodsky and Peele showed in Love and Addiction, unlike a heroin addiction, both parties use a stake in a love addiction.  Each has to have existential motivations for continuing in an often painful intimacy.  What is most sincere about the testimony of Heard and Depp is their genuine sense of being wronged, harmed, violated, and lessened by the relationship. It is the one thing they share!

Yet each insisted on maintaining it as their signature identity long-term.  Heard herself explained to their therapist that she struck Depp “to keep him there, because she would rather be in a fight than have him leave.”

When people continue, compulsively, in a harmful involvement, seemingly becoming more attached to it the greater the harm that they experience, an addiction is at play.  Heard and Depp prove, once again, that there is no more destructive, compelling addiction than a love addiction.



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