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Do I Have a Love Addiction?

Thursday, 29 March 2018 13:57  by Abigail T.

What is the difference between real love and an addiction to the feeling and idea of love? Sometimes we chase the idea of love and the perfect relationship and lose sight of the things that we need in order to really, truly experience love.

What is the difference between real love and an addiction to the feeling and idea of love? Sometimes we chase the idea of love and the perfect relationship and lose sight of the things that we need in order to really, truly experience love.

Love addiction, like any addiction, is real. Many of us have experienced it at one point in our lives without even realizing it. Understanding the signs and symptoms of love addiction cam help you to move toward healthy and lasting relationships.

What Is Love Addiction?

What is an addition? Addiction begins with pleasure. Pleasure may result from substance use or engaging in an activity. There is nothing wrong with enjoying pleasurable sensations and feelings. However, when pleasure turns into compulsive behavior and interferes with your responsibilities, personal health and relationships, you may have an addiction. Addiction makes you feel unable to control the urge to engage in a specific activity, despite the problems that it may cause for your physical, mental and emotional health. Love addiction is like any other addiction.

For example, no matter how bad a relationship is for you, you may find yourself unable to let go. You may compulsively do whatever you can to please your partner in exchange for their attention. You may also find yourself chasing after unhealthy, unfulfilling relationships because you are focused on finding someone to love or are uncomfortable being alone.

You may have a love addiction

Love Addiction Affects Your Ability to Form Healthy Relationships

An addiction to love can make it difficult to develop and maintain a healthy relationship. You rely on another person to bring you happiness and you put pressure on them to make you feel loved, or pressure on yourself to find happiness with the wrong person. You may fantasize about obtaining a rush of love somewhere else. You may cheat on your partner as a result or you might try to control their behavior to meet your needs.

In a healthy relationship, you do not try to control the other person. Nor do either of you depend on the other for happiness, though being with them should certainly make you happy. In a loving relationship, you are with your partner because you want to be — not because you feel you need to be. With love addiction, you may feel unable to live without a significant other, even if the relationship is more harmful than good.

Don't beat yourself up

If you think you are addicted to love, the first step is not to beat yourself up. It is normal and natural to want to experience love. Next, realize that love needs to happen inside of yourself before it can be given to someone else. This does not mean you have to wait until you are a perfect person to experience love. Rather, it only means you need to be able to separate your self-worth from a relationship and love yourself for who you are as an individual person.

Once you recognize the symptoms of love addiction, you will be able to work towards recovery. In time, you will be able to develop meaningful, healthy relationships that are based on love instead of a fear of being alone or incomplete. It is possible to develop a strong and loving partnership at any point in life, no matter your relationship history.

What Are the Symptoms of Love Addiction?

One of the surest ways to tell you are addicted to love is if you stay in a relationship even if it makes you unhappy most of the time. You may even stay in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship to avoid the pain of being alone or out of fear you will never find love again.

If you are wondering if you are addicted to love, rather than actually in love and in a healthy relationship, here are general symptoms to look out for:

  • You are obsessed with the idea of being in love: You are preoccupied with fantasies of romance and love and may expect love to reflect the romance you find in film, music or other works of art. You may fantasize about romance and passionate love even while in a relationship.
  • You are obsessed with another person: You may obsessively think about your partner or a potential partner and you would do anything to be near them. You may neglect friends, family or hobbies because all your time revolves around this other person. You may mistake sexual passion for emotional intimacy.
  • You cling to the other person: When you are with the person, you act clingy, feel the need to check up on them often and express a constant need for their attention regardless of how they feel. You may fight to make the relationship feel passionate.
  • You are unable to let go of a bad relationship: You may stay in a bad relationship, even if you are suffering from emotional or physical abuse. You may also settle for less out of fear that you will never find love with someone else, or you may continuously return to an unhealthy relationship.
  • You value initial attraction over long-term intimacy: You may find yourself always chasing and expecting the initial spark of love. While in a relationship, you may look the love "high" somewhere else once passion has faded with your current partner. You may feel you need to find your "soulmate" to be happy in life.

Chasing the initial thrill of love

  • You cannot handle the relationship ending: If your partner threatens to leave or end the relationship, you become overwhelmed by intense feelings of despair. You would do anything to prevent the relationship from ending, even if it is abusive or makes you unhappy.
  • You cannot tolerate loneliness: The pain of being alone or not in a relationship is unbearable to you. You feel you would accept anyone as a partner just to avoid being alone. You may put all your time and energy into attracting a partner to avoid this pain. When no one is available to you, you may compulsively use sex or fantasies to escape.
  • You would sacrifice anything to please your partner: More than once, you have sacrificed time with friends, families or yourself to please your partner. You agree to change for your partner and you try to behave the way they want you to behave. You put all your effort into making them happy and you are terrified of displeasing them for fear they will leave you.
  • You are jealous and possessive: You get jealous when your partner speaks to or speaks of the opposite sex and you try to prevent them from interacting socially out of fear they will be attracted to someone else. You try to control the decisions they make, and you make them feel guilty when they go out with friends.
  • You love someone even if they do not love you back: You may obsessively try to change someone's mind about you even if they rejected you. If you are in a relationship, you may put more effort into the relationship than your partner does.

You may put more effort into the relationship

  • You feel powerless: You may feel weightless and ready to drift along to your significant other’s every wish and whim. You may feel like you have no control over your thoughts, feelings or actions and like you have lost your identity.
  • You think you need love from another person to be happy: You think your partner is responsible for making you feel secure, happy and loved. You feel like your life could never be complete without another person filing you with love.

With love addiction, you often know your relationship or behavior is harming you, but you continue these actions because the pain of letting go is greater — even though, in reality, it is temporary.

Brain chemicals involved in initial attraction

Love is like a drug. Scientifically speaking, the initial attraction releases high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine — brain chemicals that make us feel euphoric and energized. The brain reacts to attraction the same way it reacts to cocaine or sugary foods. You may search for a constant love-high whether you are in a relationship or not and suffer withdrawal when a relationship ends.

Many substance abusers also take drugs to escape the pain of emotional wounds. Without the drug, person or relationship, you are forced to face traumatic memories or painful feelings alone.

All addictions are treatable and start with admitting addiction and seeking help to move towards recovery. Once you admit you are addicted to love, you can begin to dig deeper and uncover the causes of your love addiction. You will then shed light on what you really want and deserve in life. As a result, you will be closer to finding the type of relationship you truly desire deep down.

What Causes Love Addiction?

Many addictions can be traced back to traumatic childhood experiences. Traumatic experiences such as abuse or abandonment teach us at a young age not to trust other people. As a result, we may cling to people who make us feel safe. However, a partner in an adult relationship should not and cannot serve the role of a parent. Instead, both partners should support each other equally.

Both partners should support each other equally

While there may not be a lot of scientific resources on the topic of love addiction to date, like any addiction, love addiction is a psychological dependence on something outside of oneself that will drive someone to commit compulsive and self-destructive behavior. Possible causes of love addiction may include:

  • Low self-esteem: You may believe love will make you whole, valuable or worthy. Similarly, you may feel you are not good enough for the right partner or you may fear there is something wrong with you that a good person could never love. Low self-esteem often has deep roots in childhood experiences.
  • A dysfunctional family: During childhood, we develop a viewpoint of what normal relationships are, and if we come from a dysfunctional family we may easily accept unhealthy relationships as the norm. For example, you may have learned it is normal for people you love to hurt you if you had an abusive parent or guardian.
  • Distrustfulness: You may distrust people from past abuse, and this can cause you to avoid genuine intimacy. Instead, you may seek the shallow waters of love in its early stages.
  • Loneliness in childhood: Childhood loneliness may have carried into adulthood. As a lonely child, you may have thought the reason for your loneliness was a personal flaw. As an adult, you may feel you need someone to validate who you are to avoid the negative feelings that you developed during childhood.
  • Unresolved childhood trauma: Neglect, abandonment and physical, emotional or sexual abuse are all factors that can lead to addiction. For example, if you were neglected as a child, you may seek the parental unconditional support and love you were missing in childhood from an adult partner.
  • A family history of addiction or mental health issues: An addictive personality may be hereditary. Disorders like depression are also often inherited. Depression, for example, can make normal life struggles more difficult to cope with. Also, it is possible you learned addictive behavior from family members.
  • Co-occurring disorders: Depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders may affect your ability to find and maintain a healthy relationship.

If you recognize any of the factors as the cause for your love addiction, do not lose hope. All of these elements can be addressed and treated no matter how many years they have been buried and no matter how severe they are. The potential for a great relationship is within your reach, regardless of your past.

Potential for having a great relationship

What Is the Treatment for Love Addiction?

Because love addiction is usually rooted in childhood, many people choose to seek professional treatment. This can help you rebuild a sense of self and discover why you rely so much on the idea of love.

Here are some tips to help you focus on self-love and self-reliance:

  • Seek professional help: A professional can assess your individual case and help to put together a customized treatment plan. They can help you find the cause of your addiction and will help you process difficult unresolved emotions from past traumatic experiences.
  • Address other mental health issues: If you suffer from depression, anxiety or overwhelming stress, you may benefit from seeking treatment for these issues as well. By addressing other mental health issues in your life, you will have an easier time taking a step back and evaluating your current or past relationship with honesty and clarity.
  • Reconnect with hobbies: What did you enjoy doing before you became addicted to love? Are there any new hobbies you are interested in, like jewelry-making or blogging? Picking up a hobby will help you disconnect from love addiction and reconnect with a sense of self.
  • Reconnect with friends and family members: You may have neglected your relationships with other important people in your life as a result of love addiction. Try rebuilding positive relationships with friends and family to help you rebuild your identity as an individual.

Reconnect with friends and family

  • Focus on self-care: Eat healthy foods, get exercise, adequate sleep and treat yourself with love and respect. Set goals for yourself that do not revolve around love and relationships.
  • Aim to relieve stress: Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of addiction, so do what you can to reduce stress is in your life. Take long walks by yourself or with a friend, play with a pet or spend a day pampering yourself.
  • Refrain from romance: If you are not in a committed relationship, try not participating in any romantic activities for at least six months. During this time, explore your emotions and thoughts and look to determine what you need to be happy as an individual and what qualities in a partner would be a good fit for you. If you are in a relationship, try not to make any big decisions without honest introspection first.
  • Accept the initial difficult feelings: It will be hard to turn your focus inward. You might have a lot of painful memories that you would rather not think about. You may feel lonely, sad or desperate. Realize that these emotions are part of the growth process. Once you are closer to knowing yourself, you will be closer to accepting and loving yourself as you are, and that's the first step to a healthy relationship.

What Does a Healthy Loving Relationship Look Like?

Some people seem to have the perfect relationship. You might know a couple who acts content around each other, never seems to fight and appears to be completely in-sync. On one hand, you may feel envious of this couple. On the other, you may believe their peaceful relationship is lacking the passion and thrill of love you crave.

The truth is, all relationships require effort and no relationship is perfect all the time. Every relationship has good days and bad days, so to expect perfection is unrealistic. However, a healthy relationship is not abusive and requires equal effort by both partners. If there seem to be more bad days than good, there may be deeper issues at hand.

What does a healthy relationship look like? A relationship filled with love is not one that exists on a roller coaster. Love is not meant to be experienced as a series of extreme highs and lows. Instead, a loving relationship is more like a slow cross-country drive. Occasionally, you will hit a road bump or detour — but overall the ride is gentle, calming and safe.

In a loving relationship, both partners will:

  • Have the same basic values and life goals
  • Work to achieve goals together
  • Have a strong sense of trust
  • Feel comfortable communicating honestly and openly
  • Maintain separate identities
  • Encourage and support growth
  • Strive to understand each other
  • Feel comfortable discussing wants and needs
  • Listen to each other's wants and needs
  • Know how to compromise
  • Respect each other's differences
  • Set realistic expectations for the relationship
  • Contribute equally to the relationship
  • Contribute equally to the relationship
  • Treat other kindly and with empathy and consideration
  • Enjoy each other's company and share similar interests
  • Give each other space to pursue their own interests and spend time with friends
  • Accept each other for who they are
  • Feel connected like friends
  • Show affection
  • Feel comfortable, relaxed and safe around each other

No relationship is perfect

No relationship is perfect because no person is perfect and every person shows love in their own way. It's also quite normal to have different interests than your partner and to have disagreements from time to time. We are all complex individuals with our own separate needs. However, the above traits exist in one way or the other in relationships built to last.

If you and your partner both harbor unresolved emotional issues, it may be difficult for either of you to maintain a healthy relationship. Getting the help you need will benefit all of your relationships — but most importantly, the relationship you have with yourself.

Know When to Ask for Help

Any type of addiction is treatable. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is ask for help — especially if your relationship or desire for love is overwhelming your responsibilities and daily routine.

Addiction can be difficult to overcome on your own. It is complex and often involves many factors, including childhood traumas and other co-occurring mental health issues. If you feel trapped in a relationship because you are afraid to be alone, or if you find yourself in a state of complete despair without a relationship, you may be addicted to love. The first step to healing and moving closer to a healthy and intimate relationship is to admit your addiction and get the treatment you need and deserve.

At Brookhaven Retreat, we strive to help women who struggle with depression, anxiety, addictions, unresolved trauma or anything else that holds them back from experiencing true happiness. You deserve a healthy long-term relationship that adds to your life and supports your dreams and your authenticity.

You have what it takes to move forward from love addiction and closer to genuine intimacy. But the first step to healing is admitting you have an addiction. Take our quiz out find out if you are addicted to love or contact Brookhaven Retreat today to get in touch with professionals who care.

Contact Brookhaven Retreat

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