Love Addiction: What is It? What are the Symptoms? How is it Treated?
Love addiction may sound less harmful than other types of addictions, but it can be just as perilous for your physical and mental well-being. Love addiction can have harmful consequences ranging from loss of child custody, damaged marriages or careers, to sexually transmitted diseases, stalking, or domestic violence. Sometimes love addicts develop other addictions, such as substance abuse, to avoid the emotional pain.
So what is love addiction? Is it the same thing as sex addiction?
Sex addiction and love addiction are similar in that they are both Intimacy Disorders. However, people who suffer from sex addictions find themselves preoccupied with sexual behavior and sex acts, while people with a love addiction are focused on finding romantic experiences. They are seeking emotionally charged experiences and fantasies, not necessarily sexual encounters.
Love addicts find themselves unable to have a genuine, meaningful relationship because they fear the challenges that come with real relationships, like rejection or emotional pain. They seek romantic fantasies as a way to experience love, an emotion many feel they have little ability to truly inspire.
Sometimes, love addicts jump from person to person, seeking the thrill of mystery and seduction. Others cling to a destructive relationship or repeatedly return to an ex-partner because they fear being alone.
What are some symptoms of love addiction?
It can be hard to tell if someone you care about may have a love addiction because our culture glorifies the pursuit of “the right one, or “happily ever after.” However, this search for the “perfect” love can get in the way of true intimacy.
The following behavioral patterns may be signs of a love addiction:
- Inability to sustain a relationship past the initial “exciting” stage
- Feeling worthless when not in a relationship
- Constant dissatisfaction with relationships/always searching for something better
- Using relationships to hide or escape from feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
- Repeatedly dating “troubled” or “emotionally distant” partners
- Trying to hold onto a love interest by “any means necessary,” even if it causes emotional damage or involves unsafe behavior
- Withdrawing from other interests when in a relationship
- Mistaking “intensity” in a relationship for intimacy
- Worrying that a current partner may not be “the one”
- Falling in love quickly and easily
- Lowering standards to avoid being single
- Ignoring warning signs that a partner is not good for him/her or is unwilling to commit
- Considering suicide because of a failed relationship
How is love addiction treated?
Treatment for love addiction is not dissimilar to treatment for other types of addiction, and can involve things like twelve-step programs or psychotherapy. Because people who suffer from love addictions have varied backgrounds, the type of treatment varies from person to person. Many love addicts have a history of childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect. Lack of nurturing care and positive attention during early years can lead to an underdeveloped sense of self in adulthood and a deep fear of rejection. It can be hard to learn how to develop a loving relationship when there were no healthy models to learn from during the formative years.
Individual and family or group counseling can be effective, especially when coupled with support groups and trauma therapy. Of course, the first step to healing is recognizing you have a problem. One of the first things you may be encouraged to do when you seek treatment is to abstain from relationships for a period of time. This helps you focus on yourself. You will learn to recognize some of your own tendencies and develop positive skills to replace maladaptive behaviors.