When a debilitating depression ensues because of singledom and only lifts when a new relationship blossoms, or when a person manages to stay single for a few days before plunging into the next relationship, or when someone believes life without love is worthless, love addiction may be on the cards.
Most will agree that love, at least in the initial stages, can be an enchanting and alluring feeling, one you’re bound to chase. But when this adoration toward love turns into an unhealthy obsession, the signs of love addiction can hamper a person’s mental state.
Our movies romanticize the obsessive feeling of being in love, and when we’re in it, we seem to forget about all else. So, is love addiction real? What are the signs, and how does it negatively affect a person’s life? With the help of psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, let’s take a look at everything to do with love addiction.
What Is Love Addiction?
Love addiction is when a person develops an unhealthy obsessive fixation toward one or multiple romantic interests or any object of love. Though we all love being in love, it can be termed an addiction when it leads to a lack of control over a person’s actions to achieve a desired emotional effect, which in this case is love.
A negative impact on mental health, renouncing other interests, and not feeling “normal” unless in a relationship are all symptoms. Love, by its very nature, has always been immensely passionate and all-encompassing. After all, what’s a love that doesn’t consume you? As Henry David Thoreau puts it, “There is only one path to heaven. On earth, we call it love.”
When you’re in love with someone, an overwhelming sense of euphoria often takes over. It can get impossible to not let yourself bask in the joy you’re experiencing. “I can’t live without you,” seems to roll off the tongue without much thought or effort put behind it. As do other declarations like, “I’m addicted to you.”
When you’re facing love addiction, you may feel all those things — just in a rather immature fashion. According to studies, love addiction is when an uncertain, unrealistic and blind love takes over a person’s life.
It manifests with the person acting out in irrational ways, often to the detriment of themselves and those they love. Dr. Bhonsle explains further, “People who become fixated on the idea of love or the object of their love experience love addiction. It borders on the concept of limerence. People get into relationships to escape disturbing aspects of their personal lives.
“The relationship, then, becomes a crutch that helps create the bridge between despair and self-esteem. It’s a way of essentially telling yourself, “If somebody loves me, that means someone can tolerate me and that I’m worth something.” People essentially seek to find meaning through love, as though to fill a void.
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“A love addiction can also happen with someone you don’t have a romantic affiliation with. It can even happen between someone a person barely knows, like a teacher or even a stranger. People who are addicted to loving someone are usually doing so because they want someone to make them feel good about themselves. Or, they have felt abandoned and punished in the past. Whether that happened or not is debatable, but they believe they felt that way.
“In most cases, there’s an emotional pain that’s at the core of the addiction. Without love, they are not able to organize themselves, they’re not able to go about life in a dignified manner. Being single for too long can have percieved negative effects on them.” Now that you know the answer to, “Is love addiction a thing?”, let’s take a look at what causes it, and why facing love addiction can be detrimental.
What Causes Love Addiction?
“Whatever you were denied as a child, you hanker after for all your adult life,” explains Dr. Bhonsle, talking about the possible roots of this disorder. He adds, “You hanker for it without even understanding why you do. It’s either because you were denied it and longed for it or circumstances have led you to places where you have not had access to it.”
The circumstances a person goes through while growing up can shape their personality without them even realizing what’s happening. Let’s take a closer look at what the possible causes of love addiction may be:
1. Experiences with family or childhood memories
One of the main causes of love addiction is the affected person’s experiences in their formative years. Be it lasting memories of events, negative things their parents said to them, a traumatic experience, they all play a part.
Dr. Bhonsle explains, “Children who were neglected can become love addicts. It’s entirely possible that they witnessed their parent’s turbulent marriage and went out on a quest to find themselves a love that’s better than what their parents shared.
“It’s also possible that they may have been fed a lot of fantastical ideas of what love is. They may have created an unattainable idea of what love means. When they get something that doesn’t live up to the Hollywood idea of love they’ve cooked up, they get disappointed and look for the newness and excitement of love somewhere else.”
“In their family dynamics, sibling rivalry can also cause love addiction. If you grew up with a sibling who always bullied you or always threw you under the bus, you can grow up with a deep sense of rejection. Anything that exacerbates a sense of rejection, whether you weren’t the popular kid in school or whether you grew up with a sibling rivalry, can all play a role in love addiction.”
2. Abandonment issues
A person can develop abandonment issues due to ambivalent primary caregivers or if they’ve been abandoned by a long-term partner. Or as Dr. Bhonsle explained, there may just be a case where they think they’ve been abandoned but it actually hasn’t happened.
Their abandonment issues hence trigger the never-ending act of finding the next best relationship. The fear of rejection leads them to believe that the only way to truly feel appreciated is to be in love, and when the newness of it dies down, they’re out to look for the thrill of it again.
3. Finding reason and self-worth
As Dr. Bhonsle explained, those who suffer from a love addiction mostly tend to find romantic relationships to avoid the unfavorable thoughts they have about themselves. The only way for them to find self-worth is to be worth something in someone else’s eyes.
Dr. Bhonsle also explains that people who have established that going through life is a chore may also try to find meaning and motivation for life through being in love. They may use love to justify their being alive, which often leads to unhealthy relationships.
4. Unhealthy role models of love
If a child’s role models of love were people who chased it obsessively, love addiction can become a learned behavior for them as adults. The perception of love a person forms is usually through the first examples they see of it.
If those examples revolve around a parent being excessively and obsessively clingy with their partner, they may grow up believing that that’s the only way to feel or express love.
5. Past trauma or mental health issues
Physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse can all make a child or person feel unworthy of love. When a person’s self-worth is jarringly low in their own eyes, they may associate it with how much another person loves them.
In other situations, depression or social anxiety, or other mental health disorders like BPD and NPD may also lead to love addiction. In these situations, a person finds solace in the way a partner appreciates and loves them since they fail to do the same for themselves.
The causes for a love addiction range from childhood experiences to neurochemical triggers that may not always be truly understood. Studies also suggest that love addiction may be more common amongst the younger generation (college students) than in adults.
What Are The Signs Of Love Addiction?
As we mentioned, love is a feeling that tends to overtake a person’s life. Feeling down after a breakup is extremely normal, and feeling elated when a new relationship falls into place doesn’t necessarily mean you’re addicted.
It can, thus, get difficult to tell the difference between facing a love addiction or just enjoying what’s coming your way. Studies claim that about 3% of the world’s population struggles with love addiction, but the amount of people who think this is what they’re going through is definitely far larger since we all Google our symptoms and get worked up from time to time.
The signs of love addiction may tell you if there’s something you need to take a look at, but an accurate diagnosis of love addiction can only be given out by a licensed mental health professional. Hence, take a look at the following love addiction symptoms with an open mind, since a self-diagnosis will only make your anxiety worse. Dr. Bhonsle helps point out exactly what you should keep an eye out for:
- Unable to remain single, feeling the “need” to be in a relationship to be normal
- Becoming extremely dependent on a partner
- Not feeling satisfied in a relationship, jumping to the other one prematurely. I.e a “love addiction cycle”
- Jumping into new relationships without knowing the new partner
- Experiencing depression after a breakup that only lifts when the next relationship rolls around
- Putting the feelings, needs, and wants of a partner over their own to please the partner
- Having a debilitating fear of rejection that leads to an insecure attachment style
- Neglecting interests, family and friends to pursue a love interest
- Clingy, insecure, or distrustful behavior in relationships
- Snoopy to an unhealthy degree while in relationships
- Seeking constant reassurance of love and self-worth from partner
- Tolerating one-sided, abusive or toxic relationships to be able to be “in love”
- Wanting to be in a relationship for the sake of being in one
- Stalking their perceived love interest, incessant communication, harassment
- An unhealthy obsession with someone you barely know
- Unable to concentrate on day-to-day activities since you’re preoccupied with thoughts of love
- Trying to revive out to old, difficult relationships despite promising not to do so
- Manipulating a partner to stay in the relationship
- Misconstruing signs of attraction for signs of intense and passionate love
A love addiction cycle can be pretty easy to spot. An unaffected person may leave behind them a string of bad relationships and may present themselves as someone who’s incapable of being in a healthy bond but seeks it obsessively nonetheless.
“One of the biggest love addiction symptoms is that a person focuses more on the tokenisms of love than the semantics of it. They’re all for the excitement and Valentine’s Day, but they don’t find joy in the compassion and empathy that form with a stable relationship,” says Dr. Bhonsle.
He also points out that the signs of love addiction become a problem in a person’s life when their mental or physical state or their quality of life is negatively impacted because of them. It’s important to understand that some romantic relationships may exhibit some of the signs we listed out above, but that doesn’t mean they feature partners who are addicted to love.
Moreover, the signs will appear different for each individual. As we pointed out, the causes of love addiction range from family dynamics to traumatic incidents experienced in the past. Therefore, the reasons for the love addiction also have a huge role to play in how it’s going to manifest in a person’s life.
Related Reading: 15 Signs A Commitment-Phobe Loves You
How To Overcome Love Addiction
Is love addiction a thing that’s been derailing your life? It may affect you every day, and you might also ignore every aspect of your life but the relationships you always want to cultivate, regardless of who your partner is. In such cases, it becomes imperative to figure out how to overcome love addiction.
1. Seek professional help
When asked how to overcome love addiction, Dr. Bhonsle was quick to respond with, “Seek the help of a mental health professional. They must figure out what unaddressed needs from their childhood have lingered into their adult lives. That source of pain needs to be understood. That’s the only way any progress can be made.
“People also need to realize that there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. Everyone struggles in unique ways, everyone has different problems. With the help of therapy, you’ll be able to excavate what caused the problem. Just by being aware of it, you can figure out what your next steps can be.”
If a love addiction is getting in the way of your personal life, it can negatively affect your mental health rapidly. You may not understand how to be independent in your relationships, and the clinginess can ultimately crumble it. If it’s help you’re looking for, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists, including Dr. Bhonsle, can help you figure out how to not rely on love for happiness.
2. Learn the art of self-reliance
“People must also realize that seeking professional help doesn’t mean they must then absolutely rely on therapists to fix them. You will make progress by relying on yourself and raising your own self-esteem,” explains Dr. Bhonsle.
Of course, raising your self-esteem and learning to be alone isn’t going to be easy, especially when you don’t want to admit you have a problem. The sooner you try to fix the signs of love addiction, the more you’ll see yourself being content with your own company.
3. Acknowledge and stop your damaging actions
“Is love addiction real? Even if it is, I don’t think mine is that severe.” It’s easy to hide behind similar things you may tell yourself. However, when your need to chase relationships has started to negatively affect your life, it’s important to assess what behavior patterns you need to break.
Do you chase relationships regardless of who you’ll be with just so you can be in one? Try to take some time to get to know your potential partners better. Is the need to be in a relationship your primary focus in life? Spend a while with yourself, and realize what it takes to be happy while you’re single.
4. Find a support system
One of the biggest signs of love addiction is when a person promises to themselves or a friend that they’re going to stop involving themselves with people but fail to uphold that promise. Nonetheless, the fact that you have someone telling you to stop can act as a bit of a reality check, and it may help you acknowledge that you have a problem.
If you have people around you who you can trust and rely on, you can always seek their help and opinion when trying to fight your obsessive attitude toward relationships. Instead of falling head over heels for someone when they send you a few messages in a row, maybe tell your friends that you’re falling in love too fast. They’ll knock some sense into you.
5. Love yourself
You’re only going to be self-reliant when you manage to accept yourself for who you are and love yourself for it. By doing so, you’ll also be fighting any insecurity issues you have that might have led to unhealthy relationships in the past.
To be able to love yourself, it’s vital to silence the inner critic you have. Instead of harboring a distorted self-image, try to praise yourself for the things you do right. Have realistic expectations from yourself, and you’ll realize you don’t need an outsider to give you a feeling of self-worth.
Related Reading: How To Love Yourself – 21 Self Love Tips
6. Don’t disregard your feelings
If you think you’re going to fight a love addiction by pretending it’s not there, it’s like fighting diabetes by telling everyone you don’t have it. Doesn’t work, right? You must acknowledge that you feel the need to be in a relationship to feel normal, and what you do after acknowledging that is equally important.
Once you’ve acknowledged what you feel, you must think about the why of it. Are your insecurity issues making you want to be in a relationship? Fix your insecurity, and work on yourself. Have your toxic family dynamics left deep-seated issues? Try to get help and work your way through it.
Understanding your case of love addiction and what to do about it varies heavily for each individual. Dr. Bhonsle leaves us with a few things to keep in mind. “At the end of the day, it boils down to how you think of yourself.
“With the help of tactics like self-discovery, spiritual methods, habit formation and developing interests, you can increase your self-esteem and cultivate an enthusiasm for life. There are way too many things to romance other than just another human being. Fall in love with your journey, and don’t force love with another person,” he advises.