Love and relationship addiction are part of the behavioral or process addictions.  Like its cousins, food addiction, sex addiction, gambling addiction, shopping and spending addiction, love addiction describes a set of behaviors and emotions that slowly progress and become unmanageable, often leaving an affected person depressed and suicidal.  In a society that glorifies love and romance, it is often difficult to know when one has crossed the line and is trapped in the undertow of this subtle but damaging process addiction.

Although sex and love addiction are often linked together, many experts agree that sex, romance and relationship addiction are actually three separate addictions.  While they share many of the same signs and symptoms, love and relationship addictions are often not as blatant and can be passed off as non-problematic, even by mental health professionals.  In addition, it is important to note that romance and relationship addiction are not the same as an addictive relationship, but rather romance and relationship addicts tend to form addictive relationships, as do other types of addicts.

Some of the hallmarks of love and romance addiction are as follows:

  1. Excessive neediness within relationships
  2. Excessive fantasizing about the object of one's affection (to the point of not being able to think of much else)
  3. Giving up one's own needs, opinions, desires and ideas in order to please the partner and out of fear of being emotionally abandoned
  4. Not being able to let go of a relationship or accept that it's over
  5. Placing physical attraction and/or sexual chemistry as a priority when considering a relationship with someone
  6. Feeling as if one's life is over and/or considering or attempting suicide when a relationship ends
  7. Inability to be alone, feeling uncomfortable in solitude or without a relationship
  8. Romantic intrigue, which is defined as flirting, innuendo or other manipulative behaviors designed to "hook" someone in
  9. Constantly pursuing and obsessing over emotionally unavailable people
  10. Neglecting family, friends, work or school because of a relationship

Many love addicts suffer from trauma or childhood abandonment issues.  Because these bonds were never properly formed or were prematurely cut off, an individual does not have a sense of secure attachment within him or herself and feels compelled to seek one out elsewhere.  The obsession with unavailable people is often a replaying of a familiar yet painful relationship within one's family of origin.  In addition, love and romance addicts have chosen dysfunctional relationship patterns as a "drug of choice" by which to blunt or dull boredom, psychological pain, depression, fears of abandonment and/or low self esteem.  Left untreated, like the chemical addictions, love and romance addiction will progress and worsen over time.  A preoccupation with fantasy leads to altogether real life consequences, such as the loss of meaningful relationships (both romantic and platonic), loss of job, financial difficulties and poor physical health.

Recovery from love and relationship addiction focuses on reclaiming one's sense of self, divorcing one's identity from his or her relationship status, defining healthy sexuality and learning how to cope with painful emotions.  Often a period of celibacy or abstaining from romantic relationships is necessary for a period of time in order to re-establish a healthy baseline of emotional functioning.  Many love and relationship addicts find a great deal of help with the use of a 12- Step program such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) or Codependents Anonymous (CODA).  Engaging in longer-term individual and group psychotherapy can also help tremendously with learning how to have healthy boundaries and confront one's fear of loss.

New Hope Recovery Center is a substance abuse treatment facility, but some people with an alcohol or drug addiction also suffer from some form of process addiction as well. We provide groups, counseling, and formulate treatment plans in order to address the process addictions while in treatment for the substance.

If you or someone you know struggles with a form of addiction, please call New Hope Recovery Center 773.883.3916 to talk to someone about what type of options there are for treatment. All calls and assessments are completely confidential. If you feel more comfortable emailing you may email us at info@new-hope-recovery.com.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center