People develop addictions as a way to protect themselves from painful feelings that they cannot cope with. “Love”, fantasy, romance, sex, food, shopping, gambling and other process addictions often “pop up” or increase when people get sober from substance use. Love addiction (compulsively seeking romance/fantasy), food addiction (binge eating, restricting) and co-dependence often precede other forms of addiction as early attempts to manage feelings.
Love addiction, while often thought to be less serious than other addictions, is very real and extremely painful.
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Love addiction comes in many forms. Some love addicts carry a torch for unavailable people. Some love addicts obsess when they fall in love. Some love addicts get addicted to the euphoric effects of romance. Others cannot let go of a toxic relationship even if they are unhappy, depressed, lonely, neglected or in danger. Some love addicts use sex to manage feelings; others are sexually anorexic.
Using fantasy, romance or sex to tolerate difficult experiences or emotions
Endlessly searching for “the one”
Constantly seeking a new romance or significant other
Obsessing about romantic partners when not with them
Fantasizing about being rescued by an all perfect lover
Choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable
Using sex, seduction and intrigue to hold onto a partner
Missing out on important family, career or social experiences in order to maintain a sexual high or romantic relationship
An inability to leave unhealthy relationships or returning to previously unmanageable relationships despite repeated promises to self or others
Mistaking sexual experiences and romantic intensity for love
Avoiding sex or relationships for long periods of time to “solve the problem"
How can someone be addicted to love?
Relationships with parents or primary caregivers play a significant role in our core beliefs, values, self-perception, and ability to form healthy relationships as adults. Individuals who develop love addiction often grew up with at least one emotionally unavailable or distant primary caretaker or experienced some form of trauma and/or loss. This experience sets the stage for a relationship template where needs are not met and fear of abandonment or fear of closeness can develop. Most love addicts are unconsciously attracted to emotionally unavailable partners who are not capable of intimacy, which mirrors their relationship template and repeats the familiar pain of their childhood.
When we” fall in love” or develop a romantic attraction to someone, our brains release and produce certain chemicals, including endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin, which contribute to feelings of excitement and euphoria. From a scientific point of view, this chemical process also facilitates attachment and contributes to the desire to procreate, thus perpetuating the species.
Some signs/symptoms of love addiction are: