Of all behavioral addictive disorders, love addiction is perhaps the most difficult to understand and accept. Gambling addiction, for example, is relatively straightforward. The afflicted either spends too much time at the casino, compulsively purchases scratch off tickets, or begins losing his marriage to a seemingly strange inability to stay away from online poker for more than several hours. Grave interpersonal problems, financial instability, and a lack of performance at work inevitably ensue. Compulsive overeating is similarly comprehensible – the afflicted cannot stop eating excessive amounts over short periods of time, leading, oftentimes, to health conditions, weight gain, and psychological turmoil.
What is Love Addiction?
Love addiction, on the other hand, is characterized by compulsive patterns in romance, sexuality, and relationships that result in harmful consequences for the afflicted and his or her partners. Love addiction has been known to lead to marital problems, divorce, lost careers, child custody battles, legal issues, and a slew of potential health problems, such as sexually transmitted diseases. Not to say that one behavioral addiction is less severe or psychologically complicated than the other – no, not at all. Simply to say that of all behavioral addictions, love addiction is most frequently misunderstood as something else – a moral depravity, untamable lust, or perversion. In reality, love addiction is a psychological compulsion driven by fear, deep-seated pain, and, in many cases, unresolved childhood trauma.
Love addiction is often misperceived as a constant quest for true love. On the contrary, love addiction is not about endlessly searching for romantic bliss. In fact, many love addicts will sabotage perfectly heathy and functional relationships for fear of getting to emotionally attached. Some love addicts may be involved in unhealthy, abusive, and detrimental relationships, but find they cannot easily let go. Love addiction is very complex, and has been known to manifest itself in a wide variety of ways.
Characteristics of Love Addiction
Some common signs and symptoms of love addiction include:
- Consistently attracting romantic partners who are emotionally unavailable, abusive, troubled, or untrustworthy
- Overlooking the serious faults in a romantic partnership in order to stay romantically involved
- Inability to cease seeing someone, despite knowledge and understanding that the relationship is unhealthy and destructive
- Inability to maintain a romantic relationship once the initial excitement wears off
- Constantly on the look-out for a better, more fulfilling relationship
- Difficulty setting boundaries or saying ‘no’ when involved in a relationship
- Serial dating, or having multiple affairs when in an exclusive, committed partnership
Those who suffer from love addiction will usually feel a variety of uncomfortable and atypical emotions while involved in a romantic relationship or partnership. They may act in ways that others view as desperate or deplorable. It is important to understand that, like other addictive disorders, love addiction manifests itself as an uncontrollable psychological compulsion. While others may view the behaviors of the sufferer as erratic and bizarre, he or she truly knows no other way to function.
Love Addiction – Feelings of Desperation
Those who suffer from love addiction may feel some (or all) of the following emotions when it comes to relationships:
- Feelings of unease or discomfort when single, or away from a current partner for an extended period of time
- Compromising self in order to pursue a romantic partner (personal well-being, financial stability, reputation, etc.)
- Inability to focus on other areas of life (career, personal health, family) because thoughts are so consumed by beginning or maintaining a relationship
- Feelings of unmanageability in other areas of life because of the incessant search for love or relationships
- Feeling that a relationship would make life tolerable
- Going to great lengths to hold onto a potential love interest or romantic partner
- Feeling exceptionally low and depressed (even contemplating suicide) when relationships end
- Difficulty setting personal boundaries when in a relationship, based on an overwhelming desire to please
- Believing that a relationship will solve all personal problems, and put an end to all uncomfortable feelings
Many will mistake love addiction for sex addiction, and while the two frequently go hand-in-hand, they manifest in very different ways. However, those afflicted with love addiction may engage in unhealthy and potentially dangerous sexual behaviors. It is common for those suffering from love addiction to engage in anonymous or unprotected sex with multiple partners, failing to take consequences into consideration. Love addicts may frequently confuse sex for romance and real love, or trade sex for perceived love and affection. They may continuously attempt to escape unbearable feelings of discontentment and loneliness through both sex and relationships.
Love Addiction Treatment
We at Next Chapter have extensive experience in dealing with a wide variety of co-occurring disorders, including love addiction and substance dependency. Many of the men that we treat suffered from trauma in early childhood, which was left unresolved and, in turn, lead to a slew of relational issues later on in life. Adequate treatment for love addiction must work to address the deep emotional wounds that typically fuel the condition. In most instances, these wounds are initially caused by childhood trauma: enmeshment, physical or sexual abuse, emotional neglect, or attachment issues. In many instances, individuals who suffer from love addiction will simultaneously struggle with co-occurring disorders – either mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorders, or co-occurring addictive disorders, such as drug abuse or alcoholism. For more information on love addiction, or on our comprehensive program of trauma and addiction recovery, please feel free to contact us today.