It is completely normal to desire love and affection – falling in love is a beautiful and often euphoric experience, one that most human beings innately crave. However, the invigorating feeling of being in love can prove addictive for some. In most long-term romantic relationships, the initial feelings of excitement and elation eventually give way to more mature and stable feelings of deep emotional connectedness and comfort. This deeper, more intimate love is often less exhilarating and more fulfilling, and it is the foundation upon which lasting partnerships are formed.
For those who suffer from love addiction, however, constantly seek the initial thrill of romantic endeavors, finding that when the butterflies and anticipation begin to fade, their interest does as well. They may jump from relationship to relationship, looking desperately for the ‘high’ they felt when falling in love for the first time. The loss of that initial elation is similar to the crash a drug addict may feel when coming down for the first time – the crash that sends him right back to use, thus beginning the vicious cycle.
Love Addiction – Truly Detrimental to Those Afflicted
The concept of love addiction may be new to some, but the disorder has been studied by addiction specialists and medical professionals for decades. In the book “Love and Addiction”, published in 1988 and written by Archie Brodsky and Stanton Peele, addiction is defined as “an unstable state of being, marked by a compulsion to deny all that you are or have been in favor of some new and ecstatic experience”. Those who chase the thrill of love, ignoring interpersonal and emotional consequences and recklessly pursuing the next high, can be just as devastated by the disease of addiction as those who drink to anesthetize and pop pills compulsively.
Understanding Behavioral Addictions
When an individual develops a dependency on something – whether it be drugs, alcohol, sex, or gambling – he or she sincerely feels as if the substance or behavior is absolutely crucial to the continuation of proper functioning. Getting through the day without this substance or behavior becomes an impossibility. When it is unavailable, the devastating effects of withdrawal begin to set in. For those suffering from substance dependency, these withdrawal symptoms are typically both physical and psychological – for those afflicted with behavioral addictions, the withdrawals are predominantly psychological. Though not physically fatal, the emotional suffering that a love addict repeatedly undergoes can be truly crippling.
Love Addiction – Common Traits
Those who suffer from this disorder will likely face severe consequences at work, at home, and in the majority of their interpersonal relationships. They may fall into periods of deep depression when they find they have no access to the ‘love’ they crave, which may in turn potentially lead to self-harming behaviors or attempted suicide. They may turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping with the emotional torment they feel, in turn developing a co-occurring addictive disorder. It is absolutely crucial that any individual afflicted with such a behavioral addiction seek professional, therapeutic help.
In order to better understand love addiction, let us examine some of the more common traits that individuals afflicted with this specific disorder tend to exhibit:
- Inability to remain “alone”.
- Lack of a strong sense of individual purpose or motivation.
- Tends to be involved in dramatic and intense relationships that fizzle out quickly.
- Regards sexual attraction as ‘love’.
- Goes to great lengths to avoid rejection or dismissal.
- Considers romantic involvement a ‘necessity’.
- Denial of any issue.
- Propensity towards other addictive behaviors.
- Either over-controlling or exceedingly eager to please.
- Tends to fall into periods of deep depression.
Underlying Causes of Love Addiction
While love addicts can be either male or female, studies have shown that women are far more prone to developing this particular disorder. It is common for those afflicted with love addiction to possess a harshly underdeveloped sense of self. They look to relationships to define them and their worth as individuals. On an individual level, however, they are typically left feeling incomplete and invalidated. They therefore place an abnormal emphasis on romantic endeavors, seeking distraction from their own deep-seated feelings of inadequacy – which usually stem from childhood trauma. Individuals who have undergone abandonment, neglect, or significant abuse (either physical or sexual). It is not uncommon for love addicts to have a childhood history of trauma, neglect, and / or abandonment. Many individuals who are suffering from love addiction did not receive enough positive attention, parental nurturing, or love throughout childhood and early adolescence, resulting in an overwhelming fear of rejection or disapproval. Because they lacked adequate modeling of healthy relationships in their early years, they are left without the capability of developing wholesome and lasting relationships in adulthood.
Treatment for Love Addiction
Because we at Next Chapter focus so heavily on the lasting effects of childhood and adolescent trauma, we do frequently touch on the subject of love addiction. While the condition may be completely crippling in some, it is more common that it presents itself in many minor ways (through certain behavioral patterns, fears, and emotional restrictions), which can collectively become quite hindering. In order to successfully treat love addiction, the afflicted individual must undergo intensive therapy and work to uncover all underlying, contributing factors. For more information on our specific therapeutic program of recovery, or to learn more about love addiction, please call today.