Love addiction is a process addiction that affects both men and women. The love addict is addicted to the feeling of being in love. Many who are love addicted do not realize that they are. Sex, love and relationships are natural human behaviors. However, those affected by love addiction take these feelings and subsequent behaviors to very unhealthy and destructive extremes.
The Pattern of Love Addiction
The typical pattern of a love addict is to fall quickly (sometimes instantaneously) in love with a person without really knowing him/her. Because they do not really know this person, they fall in love with their idea of the person, who they frequently see as “perfect”. The love addict is in a constant search for the “right” person, who they believe will complete him/her and eradicate feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and emptiness. A common core belief of the love addict is that only the unconditional love of this perfect person can bring happiness, and that without that person and that happiness, life is not worth living.
The Brain in “Love”
According to many researchers such as Stanton Peele and Pia Mellody, falling in love causes a chemical reaction in our brains and stimulates the reward system in much the same way cocaine or heroin does. The love addict, after experiencing the “highs” that these chemicals cause, becomes dependent on that high and will begin to chase it.
Love Addicts and Love Avoidants
Love addicts tend to be attracted to those who are known as “love avoidants”. Love avoidants are people who are deeply fearful of long term commitment and emotional intimacy. Both the love addict (dependent) and the love avoidant are currently incapable of healthy, intimate relationships, and so each is attracted to the other as a way to escape reality. A love addict will often say that he/she really wants an truly intimate and mutually satisfying relationship with another person, however, there are many underlying psychological issues that prevent this from happening and actually cause the person to subconsciously destroy his/her relationships through the constant need for reassurance, dependent behavior and emotional intensity.
Like drug or alcohol addiction, untreated love addiction is a progressive disease that brings increasingly severe consequences. Love addicts have a deep-seated fear of ending up alone and so they will often stay in relationships that are abusive or otherwise destructive and unhealthy. A love addict will often go outside of a committed relationship in a compulsive attempt to chase down the high that he/she craves so intensely.
Love Addiction Withdrawal
When a relationship ends, the love addict will most often go into a withdrawal phase that can render him/her incapable of participating in everyday life. This can result in an inability to work, take care of children, and complete activities of daily living. It is also not uncommon for a love addict to become suicidal (and in rarer cases homicidal) upon the loss of a relationship or love interest. There is a propensity to cope with the withdrawal symptoms using drugs and/or alcohol, which lead to further problems.
Help for Love Addiction
Like the chemical addictions, there is evidence-based treatment for love addiction available, despite the fact that mental health professionals still have not agreed on a universal definition for the disorder, and it is not considered an addiction or a behavioral disorder per the DSM-V. There are several levels of treatment for love addiction, including trauma-focused residential programs, intensive outpatient programs, individual therapy with clinicians trained in treating sex and love addiction, and group therapy. Additionally, many love addicts achieve long term recovery in the 12-step program known as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA). The goal in recovery for love addiction is to treat the underlying psychological pathology and gain an understanding of healthy, non-addictive love.
Written By: New Hope Recovery Center
New Hope Recovery Center is located in Chicago and offers individualized alcohol and drug addiction treatment in a loving supportive environment. Contact New Hope Recovery Center at 888-707- 4673 (HOPE).
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