The term “addiction” is most widely used when talking about substances such as drugs and alcohol. So, when it is used in relation to a more abstract concept such as love, it may seem a bit farfetched to some.
But what are people referring to when they talk about a love addiction?
While not an official diagnosis, love addiction, sometimes known as pathological love, refers to when a person forms an unhealthy attachment to romantic love.
This is much more than a case of falling in love “easily” or having many romantic partners. In fact, when this becomes a true dependency and addiction, it can make it an enormous challenge for someone to think about or concentrate on anything else.
Diagnosing a love addiction
While you cannot formally be diagnosed with love addiction, it comes under the umbrella of other clinical diagnoses.
Depending on its nature, a love addiction could share many characteristics with impulse control disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and mood disorders.
There are also many shared characteristics with a substance addiction. People who fall in love can experience withdrawal, dependency, euphoria, cravings, and other symptoms present in substance addiction.
This is because the dopamine reward system in the brain gets activated by romantic love in the same way that it gets triggered by substances and other addictive behaviours.
Like substance addiction, an addiction to love is typically characterized by a range of behaviours, including obsession, compulsive behaviours, anxiety, and other negative life consequences.
What are the signs that you might be addicted to love?
Whether you’re in a relationship or not doesn’t make you immune to love addiction. It can manifest at any stage of the “journey”, whether you’re pursuing a lover, you have a partner or a relationship has just finished.
For example, if you’re single, you may:
- Be consumed by or idealise the idea of “being in love”
- Find yourself talking constantly about love or falling in love
- Feel an uncontrollable desire to get in touch with your romantic interest
- Spend a lot of time thinking about your romantic interest and/or planning a hypothetical future with them
- Spend less time on usual pursuits or hobbies because you’re distracted by this person
- Continue to pursue someone who doesn’t feel the same way
- Seek out a partner as a “fix” for when you feel low, anxious, worried, or need reassurance
Conversely, if you’re in a relationship, you might:
- Not care about who the relationship is with, just that you have a partner
- Stay in a relationship despite toxic traits, rather than face being single
- Put your partner on a pedestal and refuse to see any flaws in them
- Step up the relationship (by getting engaged or moving in together) to avoid the relationship deteriorating
What’s more, having come out of a relationship, you might:
- Feel empty and incomplete
- Try to resurrect the relationship just to avoid being alone
- Try to stay connected with your former partner, even if they don’t want to
- Experience a strong desire to fall in love again immediately
Feeling unable to stop yourself from engaging in such behaviours, despite any negative consequences for yourself or others, helps to characterise this as a behavioural addiction.
What causes love addiction?
As with most other types of addiction, there are a lot of risk factors that can lead to love addiction. The most prevalent is perhaps the child-parent relationship growing up.
This is because the relationship between a child and their parents forms the foundation for how they learn what love is. This includes how to give and receive love in a healthy way. If this formative connection is unhealthy (including neglect), it could set the tone for the child’s future relationships.
Another factor that could lead to the formation of addiction is past trauma. In the case of love addiction, this could come in the form of a physical or sexual assault.
Substance abuse and mental health disorders may also be risk factors as they alter the way the brain functions. This can have a profound impact on an individual’s desires, coping mechanisms, and perspectives on healthy relationships.
How do you treat a love addiction?
Love addiction is a web of unhealthy behaviours which, if they are not addressed, not only risk making the situation worse but can also prove to be a major obstacle in forming meaningful, lasting relationships in the future.
In order to break this vicious circle, enlisting the help of a professional therapist could be the first step.
Speaking with a therapist can help you to develop the tools you need. Therapy, in addition to strengthening your communication skills, can help you gain perspective on your achievements and worth. For example, a person with love addiction may believe they’ll never be good enough to achieve mutual love.
Working with a trained therapist can also help you to achieve personal empowerment and life satisfaction. It can help you understand that an individual has worth beyond their romantic relationships. It can also help you to set more achievable relationship goals.
What’s more, if “love” is a quick fix for emotional issues, therapy can help you to explore and develop more healthy coping mechanisms.
Treatment at White River Manor
If you’re experiencing love addiction, at White River Manor, we can help.
We all deserve to experience healthy love and attachment, and seeking the right support is the first step to achieving that.
Our team of experienced professionals understands the challenges of people tackling addiction – no matter what it is. That’s why our recovery Programs are tailored to every individual and their unique life experiences.
Get in touch with us today!