How to Recognize & Treat Love Addiction
Is it really possible to have too much love in your life? When the love is of an acceptable quantity and backed by healthy motives, it’s fine. But what happens when love spirals out of control? Can you honestly have a love addiction? While it might sound strange, it’s true some people do get addicted to love. In this context, love doesn’t necessarily mean sexual intercourse, but it can include sex and sex-related acts. Regardless, it can quickly take over someone’s life and cause serious harm to both the addict and their love interest(s).
Just how prevalent is love addiction? The statistics are very difficult to cull because love addictions do not present themselves the same way other addictions might. For this reason, love addiction is often overlooked, but it’s a very real problem in our society. Read on to understand more about this treatable addiction that is affecting individuals in communities across the nation.
Understanding a Love Addiction
To a love addict, every romantic relationship is taken to the extreme. This means the love is all-consuming and exciting — every second of every day.
For instance, the person with a love addiction may make every effort to control all situations so he can be with his love interest and keep feeling that wonderful “spark.” Not only is it all he thinks about, but he For those who are not love addicts, love is one part of a larger picture. To the love addict, however, love is comprised of many very particular characteristics, and it’s the most important thing in the universe. For example, a love addict often believes:
- Love must remain constant and not change. Anything that alters the essence of the love is seen as a threat, such as a spouse getting a job with different hours, or even the birth of a child.
- Love involves being focused on the relationship (i.e., the love) all the time. The love addict truly believes if he or she doesn’t have a lightning-focus on love, it may slip away.
- Love does not include trust. Because the love addict lacks self-esteem, he or she cannot trust the other person. Ironically, love addicts may repeatedly cheat on their partners, although they have an intense fear their partners might do the same thing to them.
- Love cannot exist without the other person being totally devoted, too. If the partner isn’t devoted in the same way (i.e., obsessively), the love addict feels like the love isn’t being kept alive. The addict then does everything he or she can to overcompensate or starts to manufacture a fantasy life that doesn’t mirror reality.
- Love is parasitic. The love addict feels love has every right to be toxic and demanding. Often, those who are the objects of love addicts’ affections talk about feeling “smothered.” This is directly related to a parasitic attitude toward love and relationships.
- Love is like a spell. Love addicts feel like they are completely under the spell of love when it happens. They will often do whatever it takes to have a relationship, even if what they do is dangerous. Love takes precedence in their minds and justifies any action.
While many of us find this definition of love to sound foreign, it’s actually not far from what we’ve been taught our whole lives in Western culture.
How the Media Fosters Love Addiction
It should first be said that the media is in no way creating love addiction. However, it IS fostering an environment in which love is treated in a very specific way. Think about all the Hollywood movies you’ve seen. Aren’t many of them based on the idea of finding “the one” or having a love where the protagonists are destined to be together? Consider all the stories about love where all we hear is how much a couple thinks about one another all day, every day. Is it any wonder our views on love could become so skewed?
Of course, not everyone has a love addiction, which is why we know the media can contribute to the notion of an all-consuming love, but they cannot cause it. The causes of love addiction run much deeper.
Common Causes of Love Addiction
Behavioral scientists and therapy professionals have seen common threads running through people suffering from love addictions. They include:
- The person who is addicted to love is actually addicted to the “feel good” sensation of being in love. Remember the feeling you got the first time you went on a date with someone you liked? Those butterflies felt good, right? The love addict feels a need to get those feelings all the time, and their brain is wired to want intense positive emotions more often than other people might.
- The love addict cannot see people as they really are. They say “love is blind,” but to a love addict, this is honestly the truth. The love addict will simply make up a situation, as in the case of love addicts who obsessively follow pop stars and honestly believe their “love” will be reciprocated. Though this is an extreme form of love addiction, it illustrates the point effectively.
- Many love addicts had early childhoods filled with social dismissals and, in numerous cases, emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse. This set the stage at a very young age for a murky understanding of what love was about.
- Love addicts may have had a parent who was a love addict and whose behaviors have therefore become familiar. Additionally, a person with a love addiction may have struggled to get close to one or both parents. Being unsuccessful, he or she decided that all future relationships would not have the same level of resentment and rejection.
- Some love addicts are former (or current) addicts of drugs, alcohol and nicotine. They are substituting one behavior for another, regardless of the outcomes. It is not unusual for psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors to find out someone who is coming to them for love addiction has a history of other addictions.
If you’re starting to see a pattern developing in your own life, it’s critical to begin to get help for a love addiction. Without treatment, the effects of a love addiction can be devastating.
Effects of Love Addiction
It isn’t uncommon for people who are finally getting help with a love addiction to admit to having the following problems in their lives:
- The breakup of relationships. This can be familial relationships as well as romantic ones. Those with love addictions are seen as “clingy” or “obsessive.” These traits are typically not well-accepted and may cause alienation.
- Getting a sexually transmitted disease. Love addicts are looking for a romantic connection, and they may seek out affairs to achieve those connections. Unfortunately, if they do not use proper protection, they may get a sexually transmitted disease like syphilis, chlamydia or herpes. This sexually transmitted disease could then be passed along to other partners or even children.
- The loss of jobs. It’s very difficult to keep a job if you’re always focused on your love interests. Though love addicts can hide their addictions for a while, they usually pop up and cost them in terms of employment.
- The loss of property. Without the ability to keep a job, a love addict can lose their house, car, etc.
- The inability to finish school. For a college-aged student with a love addiction, life in a university setting away from home for the first time can be particularly stressful. This often leads to an increase in love addiction responses, and this can hurt academic scores.
- Incarceration. When love addicts turn to illegal behaviors such as stalking, they open the door to being seen as criminals. This can not only ruin their chances of getting job positions in the future, but it can demolish their self-esteem.
- High blood pressure and other physical stress responses. It’s stressful to be addicted to love, especially when you feel like you have the responsibility of keeping a relationship alive. High degrees of stress can lead to hypertension, which can possibly cause strokes and other problems.
- Depression. When a love addict finds himself or herself without someone special, or without reciprocation, depression can rear its head. If the depression gets severe enough, it could lead to thoughts of suicide or attempts to take one’s own life.
Rather than court these types of negative effects of love addiction, you should opt for a treatment program. Don’t try to go it alone. The success rates are always higher when you’re working with someone who understands how love addiction can be overcome.
Signs and Symptoms of Love Addiction
Are you still unsure you’re definitely a love addict? Some of the signs that are shared by the majority of love addicts are listed here. Use them to help you objectively see if you should pick up the phone today and call someone:
- You believe you would be completely happy – and complete in every way – if someone were to love you.
- You have always had a preoccupation with love. From novels to TV shows to music, you obsessed over every love story and wished it could happen to you.
- You have a habit of talking yourself into loving other people, rather than waiting for someone else to come along. The thought of being without love is scarier than the thought of loving the wrong person.
- You keep going back to your exes because you can’t stand the thought of being alone. Alternatively, you repeatedly get into long-term relationships with the first person you date after a breakup.
- You spend your time fantasizing about past relationships. You might even have started getting in touch with your exes to see if you could rekindle the spark.
- You expect the person you love to make you feel loved and worthwhile. Otherwise, you feel lost and defeated.
- You can’t seem to sustain relationships after the first few months, although you stick with them until you can find someone else.
- You can’t separate sex and love. They both seem to be the same thing.
- You fall in love with strangers and have had multiple affairs.
- You withdraw from everyone in your life in order to spend time on your relationship.
- You attract partners who aren’t interested in you or are unable to give you anything emotionally. This fuels your frustration and need to cling to them for any sign of love.
There are many other signs and symptoms of love addiction, too. The good news is there are plenty of opportunities for you to move past love addiction with intervention and prevention techniques.
Intervention and Treatment of Love Addiction
The first step on the journey to finally dealing with love addiction is the same as any addiction: admitting you have a problem. If you cannot admit you may be addicted to love, you are setting yourself up to fail at recovery. Though this initially will feel awkward, and perhaps cause embarrassment, admitting the problem is essential.
Next, it’s wise to get help through some kind of treatment program. If you’ve been wondering how much love addiction treatment costs, the answer is it varies. There are both inpatient and outpatient programs exceptionally suited to treating love addiction. You may even be able to get some therapies covered by your insurance carrier, which will reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. Regardless, consider whatever you have to pay for treatment to be an investment in your long-term happiness.
During treatment, you will undergo a wide amount of counseling situations, which can include individual and group therapy sessions, music therapy, art therapy and more. The point of treatment is to get to the root of your love addiction. You’ll probably learn a lot you never realized about yourself, or were never able to put into words. Journaling can be supremely helpful as you progress through your treatment.
One word of caution, however: Avoid the temptation to assume your love addiction will magically disappear. No addiction disappears. It will be something you will have to control. But with the right tools, you can successfully overcome it.
Prevention of Love Addiction Relapse
Like other addictions, an addiction to love takes time to treat. During or after treatment, you may even relapse. Should this happen, it’s critical to get back to rehab or therapy immediately. Relapsing is not uncommon; however, it’s an indication you need assistance. A relapse may offer you insights and opportunities, so don’t think of it as a negative situation.
Another way to help yourself avoid relapsing is to go to an outpatient therapy group that’s designed like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. You can confidently discuss your situation in a calm, understanding environment led by a trained professional. Many love addicts feel that without outpatient therapy groups, they would be unable to fully heal.