Love addiction is a distinct addiction that is not to be confused with other addictions such as sex addiction. Being in love and being loved are natural and healthy but when the love we feel for another person becomes obsessive it impacts on our lives and relationships. On this webpage we will look at love addiction, its symptoms, causes and the treatment which is available.
What is love addiction?
Being a love addict means that the sufferer becomes addicted to the feeling of being in love. Rather than becoming addicted to a person, it is the feelings experienced by being ‘in love’ that are addictive. Love addiction is common and yet, as with other addictions, the love addict may not recognise that they are addicted.
Love addiction has been well documented throughout history over several centuries and yet it was not until the 1900s that love addiction started to become recognised and understood. Love addiction is easy to trivialise, as has been done in songs and books, but it is a destructive condition that has a negative impact on the life of an addict and on their relationships.
In his book ‘The Love Addict in Love Addiction’, Jim Hall, a love addictions specialist, says that there are nine distinct types of love addicts. He explains that love addicts can become painfully obsessed with avoidant and/or narcissistic relationship partners.
It is common for a love addict to idealise the person that they love to a point of seeing them as ‘divine’. The love addict is blindly attached to the one they love and becomes unable to make a realistic judgement about their relationship. It is common for a love addict to believe that only the one they love can make them feel happiness. Love addiction is an obsession which often results in unhealthy behavioural patterns which often result in the suffering.
Signs and symptoms
As with all addictions, love addiction is a dependency. Love addicts need to love in order to feel that they have a sense of purpose. They gain a feeling of self-worth through their love of another person and often they are driven by the hope that love will make them feel complete.
It is the heady feeling of love itself that drives a love addict, believing that it is the love of another that motivates their needs when it is the love of ‘being in love’ that is their ‘drug’. Many love addicts are incapable of receiving affection and demonstrate self-destructive behavioural patterns. It is common for a love addict to have difficulties with self-control and, unfortunately this often leads to unhealthy relationships.
It is also common for love addicts to seek out and form relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable (avoidant partners). Avoidant partners have an inability to let anyone get close to them and are emotionally shut-off. Avoidant partners, in turn, seek out those who have unhealthy emotional boundaries and those who have difficulty thinking for themselves – in other words love addicts. The combination of an avoidant partner and a love addict results in impossible relationships, suffering and heart ache. These relationships result in dependency and, all too often, abuse.
Being in an abusive relationship can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness and shame. It can also impact on emotional growth and a general lack of enjoyment of life.
As with all addictions, the causes are varied and differ from one addict to another, however, experts believe that love addiction often stems from the lack of bonding during childhood. Love addicts often have feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth. Whatever the causes for this condition there is effective treatment available.
Love addiction can be treated in a similar way to other behavioural addictions. There are many organisations which specialise in the treatment of sex addiction such as Sex and Love Addictions (UK). There are various recovery techniques which can be learned by attending group meetings or support groups. Very often such organisations adopt the twelve step programme in a similar way to Alcoholics Anonymous. These organisations can be found online or in your Yellow Pages directory.
A love addict may prefer to seek out the help of a therapist or counsellor who are trained to assist with this particular addiction. You can find a helpful list of such therapists and counsellors on this website or they are easy to find online or in Yellow Pages. Remember that many therapist offer a first consultation which is free of charge and this is a good time to ensure that you feel comfortable with the therapist of your choice.
Talking therapy has proved to be a very useful step to recovery. You will learn how to have and maintain healthy boundaries as you form new relationships. It can teach you to enjoy life as an individual and enjoy time away from a relationship.
The feeling of fear at the thought of losing the one you love has been compared to the fear of a drug addict losing the drug to which they are dependent. A love addict will feel withdrawal but, only by putting your foot onto the path of recovery, will an addict be able to have a healthy relationship, to love and be loved in a mutual partnership.