Are you addicted to love

Love addiction - Centres for Health and Healing

When we hear the word ”addiction” we automatically think about some form of substance abuse, such as alcohol or drug addiction.

The prospect of a person getting addicted to love seems way too much of a far-out notion to many.

Addiction vs non – addiction

When somebody says they ”have an addiction to something”, they often mean they have an extreme passion for a cause or some pleasurable activity.

For example, perhaps an individual enjoys watching cute puppy videos on youtube or binge-watching their favourite Netflix series.

Addiction

Addiction in the above examples is not addiction in the literal sense.

Addiction is a severe mental health condition that impacts the body and brain.

True dependency and addiction can make it challenging for a person to think about or concentrate on much else.

Impulsive behaviours

When someone has an addiction to something, they often exhibit a range of impulsive behaviours.

In the above instance, the person may feel an intense urge to seek out whatever substance or behaviour they are addicted to, despite any adverse consequences on their physical or mental health.

Falling in love

Looking at the above description on addiction, we could convey the same meaning into specific relationship behaviours, transmitting such tendencies into a ”love addiction”.

Relationship or love addictions may follow specific behavioural patterns that lead to addictive behaviours, such as:

  • Always talking about love or falling in love
  • Feeling empty and incomplete without romantic love
  • Being consumed with the idea of ‘’being in love’’ instead of sustaining healthy relationships

But is it possible for a person to be addicted to love?

Love addicts

Typically, addiction is a term that describes a drug or alcohol dependency.

However, studies on addiction increasingly support the existence of other addictions, such as behavioural or process addictions.

Behavioural addiction

Behavioural addiction, often referred to as a process addiction, is defined by UKAT as a type of addiction characterised by the compulsion to engage in a specific rewarding behaviour (other than substance abuse).

Such behaviours get carried out despite any negative consequences that such conduct may have on the affected individual or their loved ones’.

Behavioural addictions include:

  • Shopping addiction
  • Gaming addiction
  • Gambling addiction

However, some experts argue that relationship or love addiction could also fall into the above category.

Controversy

Some relationship experts argue that using the term addiction in sex and love is controversial.

Moreover, the absence of objective diagnostic criteria for love addiction doesn’t help matters.

What does ”loving someone too much” mean? Are you an addict just because you hate being single?

Love addict

Broadly, just because a person shifts between relationships quickly or falls in love too easily doesn’t mean they’re ”addicted”.

Additionally, longing for a relationship or finding a new love interest immediately after an existing relationship ends doesn’t make someone addicted to love.

The key is deciphering between healthy-driven behaviours and concerning thinking and behavioural patterns that cause an individual profound and ongoing distress.

Studies on love addiction

Studies on love addiction - Centres for Health and Healing

Several studies on relationship addiction have provided evidence about love addiction in developing romantic relationships.

A case study conducted in 2018 revealed a connection between love and dopamine.

The researchers noted a vital component of the above study, who reported that while cravings were a present factor between couples, any urges tapered out over time and blended into a more stable and long-lasting love (Crystal Raypole, Healthline, January 2020).

However, researchers found that when love was one-sided or unrequited, love felt more addictive.

Reward system

Another study conducted in 2016 identified love as a natural addiction, where people who fall in love experience withdrawal, dependency, euphoria, cravings, and other similar indications present in substance addiction.

The science behind such findings suggests that the dopamine reward system in the brain gets activated by romantic love in the same way that it gets triggered by substances and other addictive behaviours.

During a breakup

Another fascinating study found that the addictive tendencies of love are also present during a breakup.

The research examined the brain activity in twenty participants who had recently gotten rejected.

The study found that similar brain areas activated by cocaine cravings also got stimulated after the participants received a romantic rejection.

Risk factors

One of the vital questions around love addiction is what causes a person to become addicted to love?

The literature suggests that, like any other addictive – behaviour, addiction around love and relationships results from many complex factors.

Such factors include:

  • Childhood and upbringing
  • Family history and genetics
  • Environmental factors
  • Brain chemistry

Some relationship experts argue that love dependency is because of low self-esteem.

Others believe that our attachment styles contribute to the cycle of love addiction.

Are you addicted to love? Signs and symptoms to look out for

Signs and symptoms of love addiction - Centres for Health and Healing

Although love addiction is not recognised as a diagnosable condition, mental health professionals agree on a few critical signs that may warrant concern.

They involve:

  • Continuing to lust after or ‘crave’ someone who doesn’t feel the same way
  • Idealising the idea of love
  • Consistently following the same relationship patterns
  • Not caring about who you are in a relationship with, as long as you are not single
  • Needing to keep falling in love (or staying in love)
  • Putting a romantic partner on a pedestal and refusing to see their flaws

Is love addiction treatable?

When a relationship first blossoms, it releases a charge of dopamine and endorphins into our bodies which can feel amazing. 

In contrast, the breakdown of a relationship is the exact opposite and can trigger profound depression.

Addiction cycle

Personality types may contribute to why certain people get attracted to the above cycle, an emotional see-saw where they often feel empty without it.

The ”high” that a person experiences when they believe they have found their soulmate gets counteracted by deep depression when the relationship comes to an abrupt end.

Such a cycle may lead to impulsive and destructive behaviours that usually affect a person’s ability to function and make clear decisions.

Awareness

According to relationship experts, overcoming love addiction begins with awareness.

When an individual realises that their relationship patterns are repetitive and do not serve them, they can learn the necessary steps to avoid repeating the negative cycle in the future.

However, some experts argue that awareness alone isn’t enough. 

There needs to be cultivation around learning new skills and adopting healthier coping mechanisms, vital aspects of positive change.

Like any addiction, learning better coping mechanisms is integral in managing addictive tendencies that may arise, whether substance addiction or behavioural addiction.

Re-framing love

Many people who tend to idealise love would benefit significantly by looking at relationships through a more realistic lens.

By reframing what love means in the cold hard light of the day – the individual may begin to re-frame their thoughts, perceptions and ideas about a potential partner.

Love can be amazing, but it can also be hard to sustain a healthy relationship.

While it’s great that a partner can provide us with emotional support and a sense of belonging, it is not possible or realistic for someone to meet all of our wants and needs.

Inherently, keeping our identity and sense of self is imperative if we want our relationships to thrive.

Self – love

Self-esteem and self-love are intertwined, and an imbalance of either may lead to addictive behaviours and relationship dependency to fill the empty void.

Building your self-esteem may not always be easy, but there are ways that a person can improve their confidence. They include:

  • Abolishing negative self-talk: A person with love addiction may believe they are not good enough to have mutual love. Challenging such notions may be helpful. For example, a person may replace negative beliefs with positive ones, i.e., ”I am not good enough” with ”I deserve to be happy.”
  • Assessing relationship standards: By setting more achievable relationship goals, a person may enjoy the dating game and decrease any feelings of failure. Having unrealistic goals can lead to frustration, anger, and self-criticism when a person fails to achieve them.

Moving forward

Moving forward with love addiction - Centres for Health and Healing

According to research, some factors may affect a person’s ability to move away from love dependency.

Emotional trauma is one such factor, especially when unresolved trauma is a crucial driver behind such behaviours (as it is with many forms of addiction).

When a person feels ‘stuck’, they will likely require therapy to help them move forward.

A therapist can help those with relationship problems to address any unresolved issues that may contribute to feelings of distress and a lack of fulfilment.

Relationship cravings and constantly chasing that euphoric ”high” of new love can prevent someone from creating the long-lasting bond and mutual affection that they deserve. If you think you may be experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned in this article, perhaps it’s time to speak to a specialist who can help.

Lisa Davies - Program Director of Vaughan Recovery and Kirby Estate

About Lisa Davies

Lisa is the Program Director at Centres for Health and Healing. She lived for most of her life in the Durham region, before moving to Peel five years ago.

Lisa is a Master Hypnotist and is certified in Hypnotherapy (2008), Self-Hypnosis and in 5-phase Advanced Therapeutic Healing. As a Member of National Guild of Hypnotists, she is also specialized in hypnosis training in pediatrics, pain management, neuro-linguistic and stage programming.

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