Obsessive love addiction is a behavioral disorder not unlike other addiction to certain activities, such as sex or gambling. It involves problems related to impulse control and adverse changes in behavior that revolve around experiencing the “high” associated with falling in love and maintaining these feelings at whatever cost.
Like any behavior that is associated with increased levels of feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine or serotonin, love can become addictive. Also, many love addicts report experiencing emotional withdrawal symptoms similar to those of drugs or alcohol after ending a romantic relationship or losing the “rush” effects of newfound love.
Symptoms of obsessive love addiction include the following:
- Obsessing about the object of desire, overwhelming attraction
- Neglecting work, school, and family to be with the person of obsession
- Attempting to conceal the extent of the obsession from others
- Believing that a relationship will finally make one “complete”
- Inability to comply with self-imposed rules around relationships
- Feeling the need to “protect” the object of desire
- Possessive thoughts and behaviors, including jealousy of others
Similar to a person who is unable to control their drug use, a loved addict will also fail to control their behavior despite attempts to do so. They may also experience desperation, depression, anxiety, and other unpleasant emotional symptoms when they are forced to be apart from their romantic partner. They often exhibit an extreme need for romance to feel normal, even when the relationship they are in is dysfunctional or unsatisfying.
People who have obsessive love addiction also tend not to take rejection very well. If this occurs, a worsening of addictive behaviors is likely. Other signs of this condition, include the following:
- Repeated texts, calls, emails, etc. to the romantic partner or love interest
- A constant need for reassurance and validation
- Monitoring the actions of the person and where they are going
- Attempting to control the person’s whereabouts and the activities in which they engage
The Six Main Forms of Love Addiction
Love Addicts Anonymous suggests that there are six types of love addiction, including the following:
Obsessed, in which a person cannot seem to let go of a romantic relationship, even when the partner has proven themselves to be emotionally unavailable, abusive, or generally unable or unwilling to commit. Those who suffer from this are believed to have problems with impulse control.
Codependent, in which a person believes that caring for their romantic partner – often to their own detriment – is necessary to keep the partner in the relationship. Codependent love addicts often suffer from depression and low self-esteem.
Narcissistic, which describes the person in the relationship with the aforementioned codependent partner. Narcissists, in this case, are emotional manipulators that tend to use coercion, deceit, and even violence to maintain control in a romantic partnership. They may become anxious and abusive if they perceive they are being neglected or rejected.
Relationship, in which a person is addicted to being in a relationship, even if they are no longer in love with their partner. Even if the relationship is unsatisfying or dysfunctional, they feel that this is better than the alternative – being alone. Or, if faced with inevitable loss, they may quickly line up another person as a replacement.
Ambivalent, in which a person can let go of a romantic partnership(s), yet they are unable to move forward into a new relationship. Ambivalent love addicts vacillate between craving love and avoiding it, and may abruptly end relationships when things get too serious. These individuals have often experienced some childhood trauma and have deep-seated problems with intimacy.
Romance, in which a person is addicted to the process of romance and not necessarily a particular partner. Unlike sex addicts, who usually do not bond with their partners, romance addicts do bond on a certain level, but not to a long-lasting extent. They often have more than one partner or overlap partners that are used to fulfill feelings of being desired and validated.
Factors That Contribute to Obsessive Love Addiction
The causes of love addiction, in general, consist of a combination of underlying emotional issues. These may be related to childhood trauma, abuse neglect, or abandonment, and mental health issues such as impulse problems, depression, or anxiety.
Other causes of love addiction include low self-esteem, growing up with a lack of positive role models in romantic relationships, and delusions about the concept of “living happily ever after” as is idealized by our culture.
Obsessive Love Addiction as Related to Substance Abuse
Research conducted by Syracuse University found that falling in love was similar to cocaine addiction. Both are borne of a biological process involving the rapid release of adrenaline, dopamine, and other feel-good chemicals. These reactions cause the person to associate an object of desire with feelings of pleasure, reward, and euphoria.
Any experience that releases endorphins and other reward chemicals in the central nervous system can contribute to an addiction in some people. Although there is not a direct chemical component, such as that with cocaine and other psychoactive substances, a significant emotional compulsion can develop.
Although substance abuse tends to be more common among those with mental and emotional problems, it is obvious that not all love addicts will become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Instead, they may be a higher risk of doing so, due to the underlying issues that contribute to both conditions. These include mental illness, the experience of childhood trauma, and other distress that may lead to self-medicating behaviors.
Specific mental health conditions that especially likely to contribute to both love addiction and substance abuse include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Attachment disorders
- Borderline personality disorder
- Delusional or obsessional jealousy
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Anxiety and panic disorder
Genetic factors may also come into play, as both behavioral addictions and substance abuse may have biologically-based similarities, especially those related to impulse control.
Lastly, behavioral addictions and substance abuse, when coexisting, tend to make each other worse. If a love addict is particularly stressed out about romance or a relationship, he or she may be more likely to abuse substances or do so more excessively. Conversely, the use of drugs and alcohol often serves to promote emotional dysregulation further, and the cycle is therefore perpetuated and goes on and on.
Treatment for Obsessive Love Addiction and Substance Abuse
Love addiction and substance abuse are both mental health conditions that may be caused by many of the same underlying issues. They may also exacerbate each other, and failure to treat one or the other can result in a relapse back into addictive behavior.
Recovery by the Sea offers individualized, comprehensive programs designed to treat all aspects of our clients’ mental health and physical well-being. Our programs feature therapies and activities clinically-proven to be essential for recovery, including psychotherapy, counseling, and group support.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction to love and drugs or alcohol, contact us today! Our mission is to ensure that we help as many people as possible reclaim their lives, free from substance abuse, and go on to enjoy long-lasting happiness and wellness!