Can You Be Addicted To Love?
Published on December 1st, 2022
Updated on September 9th, 2023
Everyone deserves to be loved, but loving people in healthy ways is an important part of mental health. Sometimes, people can find themselves in patterns of obsessive or possessive love. Some may even find themselves intensely craving love or feeling addicted to love.
Love addiction is something a person can struggle with. Without properly addressing it, love addiction can have many consequences on a person’s life.
Although the idea of being addicted to love or relationships may be new to some people, relationship experts have been aware of the pattern for decades. However, because the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not include love addiction as a diagnosable mental disorder, it is often misrepresented in the mental health field.
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Despite this, those who struggle with love addiction know it can have some pretty significant impacts on them. Love addiction can affect a person’s mental health and overall sense of well-being.
What Is Love Addiction?
Love addiction is sometimes also referred to as pathological love. It occurs in those who feel the need to always be in love, regardless of whether the situation or the person is a healthy match. For a love addict, when a relationship comes to an end, or they fall out of love with a partner, a replacement is never far behind. Strangely enough, love addiction has little to do with real love. Love addicts, although they may not realize it, are not actually seeking a true love connection with another person.
Instead, they are seeking the feeling – the excitement and that intoxicating high – that comes with a new relationship. Love addicts are driven by unmet emotional needs, low self-esteem, and a fear of abandonment. Falling in love (and being in love) is a way for them to distract themselves from the difficult feelings of loneliness. It also serves as a means of gaining validation.
Struggling with love addiction is problematic in other ways as well. Love addicts tend to spend an excessive amount of time focused on their love interest, leaving little room for anything else. This hyper-focus often leads love addicts to neglect other important areas of life. The following may suffer as the love addict fixates on their love interest and relationship:
- Other relationships
- Personal wellness
- Lifestyle goals
- Mental and emotional health
Love Addiction And Codependency
Love addicts are largely codependent. This unhealthy dependency on a partner is what love addicts perceive to be authentic love. A love addict seeks relationships for different reasons, including:
- Finding a partner to take care of them and fix their problems
- Coping with abandonment
- Seeking validation to help them feel good about themselves
- Having a distraction from other life challenges
- Using a relationship as a means to cope with insecurities and low self-esteem
- Managing or compensating for a fear of rejection, unlovability, or failure
- Coping with a fear of loneliness
- Filling a void someone else has left
Love Addiction Versus Sex Addiction
Love addiction is not the same thing as sex addiction. Sex addiction involves compulsive sexual behaviors that interfere with a person’s quality of life. The sexual behaviors can involve obsessive sexual fantasies or sexual activity but do involve a need for intimacy or romance.
The sexual activity used to fuel sex addiction may be deviant in nature. A sex addict may cheat on their partners, engage in impulsive or risky sex, or struggle with other sexual dysfunctions. They may also use sex as a means to cope with painful or unwanted feelings and stress.
Sex addiction is different from love addiction in that sex addicts are not dependent on a lover to fix their problems or to make them feel validated. Instead, they seek gratification and relief through sexual acts.
Warning Signs Of Love Addiction
Because love addiction is not technically a diagnosable mental health disorder, there is not a universally agreed-upon set of symptoms. Yet, there are some pervasive commonalities among those who struggle with love addiction. Some warning signs that may indicate a love addiction include:
- A sense of emptiness when alone
- Becoming emotionally attached easily
- Having poor boundaries with others
- Spending too much time fantasizing about romantic relationships
- Using relationships to escape from life’s problems
- Feelings of desperation when away from a romantic partner
- Confusing a sexual attraction with love
- Tendencies toward other addictions and/or compulsive behaviors
- A lack of a sense of self or personal identity
- A history of unstable relationships and abandonment
- Falling back onto unhealthy relationships when feeling vulnerable or upset
- Struggling with codependency issues
Who Is At Risk Of Love Addiction?
Love addiction can affect anyone, but there are life factors that may increase the risk of love addiction. Individuals who have an underdeveloped sense of self may be more susceptible to love addiction. Lacking a strong sense of self leaves many people seeking romantic relationships in an attempt to feel whole.
Adults who experienced trauma as children commonly have a fear of rejection or abandonment. That fear almost always affects their romantic relationships. Love addicts frequently have a history of the following:
- Childhood trauma
Love addiction can also result from not receiving the love, care, and emotional nurturing a love addict needed as a child.
Healing From Love Addiction
Some may think love addiction sounds harmless, but it can have serious negative effects on the lives of those it impacts. It is an addiction and should be taken seriously. Thankfully, as with all addictions, it can be managed in harnessed to minimize its effects on a person’s life.
With therapy, love addicts can learn how to have authentic, loving, and healthy relationships. They can also learn how to love and trust themselves so the need for a romantic partner does not feel so urgent and distressing.
Everyone heals differently, and some things work better than others depending on individual needs. If you struggle with love addiction, any (or all) of the following may be useful in breaking free from the addictive cycle:
- Educate yourself on your addiction
- Take responsibility for your actions
- Set boundaries for yourself and others and honor those boundaries
- Get to know yourself – spend time alone, journal, meditate
- Attend support groups
- Consider attending Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous groups (SLAA)
- Seek therapy and work with a therapist to create a relapse prevention plan
Find Your Motivation For Recovery
You can begin addressing your love addiction by identifying your motivations for healing. Motivations for healing from love addiction can be found by reflecting on the following questions:
- What are the negative impacts of love addiction on your quality of life?
- How has love addiction hurt you and your sense of well-being?
- How has love addiction affected your relationships?
- What would your life be like without an addiction to love?
- How would you grow if you were not affected by love addiction?
- What your life be like if you did not suffer from love addiction?
Confronting and addressing a love addiction often requires help from a mental health professional. Having guidance from a therapist when addressing your love addiction can make a difference in how well you recover.
If you are struggling or do not want to address your love addiction on your own, it is recommended that you consult with a mental health professional. A mental health professional can help you find the core of your love addiction and teach you ways to manage your love addiction in a healthier way.