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What is Love Addiction?

A woman hugging her partner as she affectionately starring at him while they are seated in a hallway

Butterflies in your stomach, sleeplessness and inability to concentrate, tingles of anticipation as you count down the minutes until you see the object of your desire … falling in love can be exciting, overwhelming, and all-encompassing. It can also be addictive. Love addiction can harm your relationships and your ability to function in daily life. 

Defining Love Addiction

People who experience love addiction feel the need to keep falling in love. They seek out the euphoric high that is so common in the early stages of love. The disorder can lead to an overreliance on relationships and a feeling of loss of control.

The compulsive nature of this addiction can appear similar to the early stages of drug use. At first, people experience intense pleasure and euphoria. But then they become dependent on that feeling and crave it uncontrollably. You may vow never to fall in love again. But then you have depression when not in a relationship and seek out someone new.

Signs of Love Addiction

Researchers say romantic love can activate the dopamine reward system in your brain in the same way as drugs, alcohol, gambling or other addictive behaviors. You may experience intense euphoria at the idea of a new romance. At the same time, you may be unable to connect with a partner and form a healthy relationship beyond the honeymoon stage.

Symptoms include:

  • Needing to be in love
  • Feeling unable to be alone and seeking out and chasing new love interests
  • Feeling incomplete without a partner 
  • Having more interest in being in love than in sustaining a healthy relationship
  • Fearing the idea of a partner leaving
  • Putting your partner on a pedestal
  • Obsessing over romantic interests or potential partners
  • Losing interest in a new partner when attachment forms
  • Pursuing relationships for the sake of the honeymoon phase
  • Using new relationships to hide from negative emotions or situations
  • Becoming clingy and overly dependent on a partner. 
  • Relying on love, romance, or a romantic partner for happiness
  • Experiencing withdrawal-like symptoms when not getting the love and romance you crave

Love Addiction vs. Sex Addiction 

Love addiction shares some symptoms with sex addiction, or hypersexuality disorder, which leads to the need to engage in sexual acts to experience a sense of euphoria, 

Both have similar symptoms, including:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Trust issues
  • Episodes of extreme emotions such as anger or fear
  • A difficulty forming or committing to relationships
  • Difficulty expressing or sharing emotions

Love and sex addictions are similar in some symptoms. They also share a cause. Both likely are the result of unresolved trauma. It’s the behaviors that you choose to cope with the trauma that differs.

A woman who is holding her partner's face and appropriately kissing it while they are standing on a park

Why Does Love Addiction Happen?

Childhood trauma, low self-esteem, and abandonment issues can lead to love addiction. People who experience trauma may use love and validation to survive adverse experiences. Then they continue to seek this type of intense love. Others become addicted to love because they are depressed and need to fill a void in their lives.

Children who grow up with love-addicted role models may follow similar patterns. They may use relationships to soothe underlying emotional issues, such as depression. You can become dependent on love and approval from another person to help deal with childhood trauma such as abuse and emotional neglect.

Love addiction can also have neurochemical triggers. Love causes heightened brain activity and changes in the brain processes. This change creates a reward system and makes people feel that they cannot be “normal” without intense romantic love. Like other addictions, dependency and problems with withdrawals occur.

Why is Love Addiction Harmful?

Love addiction can cause emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, and compulsive behaviors. It can lead to divorce, infidelity, poor job performance, relationship conflict, inability to perform everyday tasks, clinginess, and emotional distress. People may experience intense emotional highs and emotional lows, such as disappointment or heartbreak. It can also lead to toxic or abusive relationships and unsafe behavior. 

Harm this addiction may cause includes:

  • Engaging in risky sexual behavior to keep a partner
  • Experiencing low self-esteem
  • Becoming unable to develop healthy attachments and relationships
  • Feeling vulnerable and hurt 

Can You Overcome Love Addiction?

If you’re addicted to love, then you have taken an essential first step. Overcoming this addiction begins with an awareness of how these behaviors affect you and the people in your life. Once you realize that you have a problem, you can take steps to correct it. Begin by taking a break from romance and spending time with friends and family. Work on building your self-esteem.

Overcoming this addiction on your own can be challenging. If your relationships and behavior concern you, it is best to seek professional help. A therapist can offer support and coping strategies. Treatment will help you identify the causes of your addiction, learn what triggers these behaviors, and teach you how to prevent them. 

Treatment methods include: 

How ILC Can Help

By addressing core issues and deep-rooted trauma, not just the resulting behaviors, you can overcome your addiction and experience healing and lasting transformation. 

Love should never hurt — romantic relationships can be positive and healthy. There is no reason to allow the harmful effects of love addiction to destroy your life.

Integrative Life Center is here to help you recover from addiction. Call today to get started.

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