Love addicts live in a chaotic world of desperate need and emotional despair.
What is love addiction?
Love addiction is a compulsive, chronic craving and/or pursuit of romantic love in an effort to get our sense of security and worth from another person. Fearful of being alone or rejected, love addicts endlessly search for that special someone – the person that will make the addict feel whole.
Is love addiction real?
Love addiction is a process addiction. It is confirmed scientifically that process addictions such as love addiction affect the same brain reward system as chemical addictions, and in fact can be equally debilitating as drug or alcohol addictions.
Love addiction is a little harder to define simply because by nature we are all addicted to love – meaning we want it, seek it and have a hard time not thinking about it. We need attachment to survive and we instinctively seek connection, especially romantic connection. There is nothing dysfunctional about wanting love.
Love addiction is diagnosed by a love/sex addiction specialist or health care professional in the same basic ways as other addictions. The three primary issues are:
- An ongoing (six months or more) preoccupation to the point of obsession with romantic fantasies and new relationships
- An inability to exercise control over romantic fantasies and new relationships
- Negative consequences directly and/or indirectly related to out-of-control romantic fantasies and serial relationships
Symptoms of Love Addiction
- Mistaking sexual and/or romantic intensity for love and genuine, lasting intimacy
- Feeling desperate and alone when not in a relationship
- Missing out on important commitments (with family, work or elsewhere) to search for a new relationship
- Seeking a new relationship while still in a relationship
- Constantly struggling to maintain the sexual/romantic intensity of an existing relationship
- Feigning interest in activities that aren’t enjoyable as a way to keep a partner or meet someone new
- Relying on romantic intensity as a way to escape from stress and other types of emotional discomfort
How does it differ from being ‘’in love’’?
While the desire to love and be loved is perfectly normal, the intoxicating feeling of being “in love” can be addictive for some individuals. If you’ve ever been in love, you know how powerful it can be. Suddenly your world is completely turned upside down. You feel an excitement – energy, if you will – that makes everything seem new and wonderful. Some people describe it as feeling like they were walking on air. It’s natural to want this euphoric feeling to last forever.
Of course, most people realize that the wonderful initial feeling of new love doesn’t (and can’t) last forever. In healthy long-term relationships, the initial love gradually gives way to a more mature love – one that is perhaps less intoxicating and euphoric, but ultimately much more fulfilling and stable. For those prone to love addiction, however, the loss of that initial euphoria is akin to the crash that drug addicts feel when their drug of choice wears off. They crave the “high” and begin the search for another fix. Love addicts are no different, which is why they often go from one relationship to the next once the initial high wears off. It’s important to understand that love addiction has very little to do with real love. In fact, it’s actually the opposite. While it might seem that love addicts are eagerly looking for love, the reality is that love isn’t really what drives them. You see, real love involves intimacy, which requires a willingness to be vulnerable. Love addicts are scared of intimacy and the vulnerability that goes with it. Instead, they are seeking the “feeling” – the intoxicating high or infatuation that accompanies a new relationship.
What are the root causes of love addiction?
Love addicts are driven by low self-esteem, a fear of abandonment, and deep, unmet emotional needs. They look to each new love object to give them a sense of security, belonging, identity, validation, worthiness, and purpose. They believe the new love object can take away all their pain, make them feel whole and happy, and love them unconditionally. Of course, no one can provide all of these things or meet such excessive demands. Their expectations are unrealistic and, as can be expected, their relationships always end in disappointment.
Who is Prone to Love Addiction?
Love addicts can be either male or female. However, women tend to be more prone to love addiction in general. This is partly due to the fact that women are very relationship-oriented. Many women put relationships above all else in their life, and often base their sense of identity on their relationship.
Love addicts often have an underdeveloped sense of self. As a result, they feel incomplete on their own and need a significant other in order to feel good about themselves. They tend to place an unusually high value on romance and often frequently daydream or fantasize about their ideal lover – the person who will satisfy all their needs and longings.
It is not uncommon for love addicts to have a childhood history of trauma, neglect, and / or abandonment. Many love addicts didn’t receive much nurturing, positive attention, or love while they were growing up. As a result they often have a deep-seated fear of rejection. Without appropriate modelling of healthy love in their formative years, they have no idea how to develop loving relationships in adulthood. To a love addict, intensity in a relationship is often mistaken for intimacy.
Love addiction doesn’t necessarily pertain only to romantic or sexual relationships. It is possible for a person to relate as a love addict with their friends, children, sponsor, guru or religious figure, or even with a movie star, whom they have never met.
Treatment for Love Addiction
As with any addiction, people who suffer from love addiction typically need professional help in order to overcome it. This may include psychotherapy, a support group, a 12-step program, and / or spending time in a rehabilitation program. Unfortunately, as with all addictions, treatment is often ineffective until the person is able to admit there is a problem, desires to change, and is willing to participate in treatment.
Recovery from love addiction is a process of self-discovery. It requires taking specific steps: breaking through denial and acknowledging the addiction; owning the harmful consequences of the addiction; and intervening to stop the addictive cycle from occurring.
Ultimately, love addicts must enter a grieving process to address the underlying emotional pain that is at the core of the addiction. Love addicts experience withdrawal symptoms. Working with a therapist can help guide the love addict through the process of talking about childhood experiences of abandonment, navigating through the feelings of pain, fear, anger and emptiness that may surface, and releasing old emotions that contribute to negative acting-out behaviours.
You can do a self-test quiz to determine if you might be a love addict. Love Addiction Quiz.
You can also chat to a facilitator on LIVE CHAT for more help and advice. The service is free and you may stay anonymous.
Book a Counselling Session
You can book individual counselling sessions with the following therapists: