It may sound like an inconsequential problem that pales in comparison to serious substance abuse, but love addiction is no laughing matter. In fact, love addiction can be as devastating as any other addiction, culminating in broken relationships, damaged careers, parenting problems, financial woes, legal issues and health problems, including increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. In some cases, serious love addiction can end in tragedies such as stalking, domestic violence, suicide or homicide.
There’s nothing wrong with romantic love, and a new love interest is euphoric and exciting. For most people, however, giddy infatuation eventually gives way to a mature, stable relationship that gives depth, purpose and meaning to life.
What is Love Addiction?
Individuals with love addiction have difficulty forming strong, healthy bonds with another person, and are incapable of developing real intimacy and trust. Instead, they experience a compulsive, destructive craving for romantic love. Although they believe the “right” person will make them whole and happy, they are easily disappointed, jumping from relationship to relationship as soon as the initial excitement begins to fade. Love addicts tend to have difficulty establishing appropriate boundaries.
Like any other addicted person, love addicts are often in denial about the addiction and the problems it causes. Love addicts are often described by others as needy, jealous, insecure or overbearing. They tend to fall in and out of love quickly, and frequently demand total devotion from their love interests.
A person who is addicted to love may also:
- Engage in multiple affairs or serial dating,
- Withdraw from family and friends to focus on every new relationship,
- Lose interest in events, hobbies or activities once found enjoyable,
- Change interests or hobbies based on the other person’s preferences,
- Attract unstable, untrustworthy partners or those who are unable or unwilling to commit,
- Try to make over partners to fit an unrealistic, fantasy image,
- Remain in or return to bad relationship for the sake of being “in love,”
- Become severely depressed or suicidal when a relationship ends.
Love Addiction is Frequently Rooted in Childhood
No single factor explains why some people become addicted to love, but depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses are often involved, and a childhood history of addiction is common. Most people with love addiction have some type of childhood issues that carry over into adulthood, such as abandonment, rejection, abuse, smothering, insecure attachments or inappropriate exposure to pornography or adult sexuality.
The result is often an unrealistic image of perfect love that becomes more comfortable than reality. The “rush” that comes with addictive love becomes an effective way to avoid problems, much like other addicts escape with drugs and alcohol, overeating, gambling or sex.
Treating Love Addiction
Love addiction is a complex problem that usually doesn’t resolve without assistance. Counseling is often beneficial for love addicts, who may need help to build self-esteem, set appropriate boundaries, and develop realistic expectations of partners and relationships. Many love addicts need therapy to address past issues of neglect, abandonment, abuse or other traumas, as well as underlying problems such as addiction, eating disorders, anxiety or depression.