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Love Addiction

love addiction

Love addiction is a destructive form of love characterized by obsession, jealousy, insecurity, and excessive interest towards their partner.

What Is Love Addiction?

Research 1 indicates that romantic love can become addictive in certain circumstances. Love addiction can be defined as a desperate attempt to find someone to love that is fueled by excessive interest and their irrational fear of being alone. It is also known as pathological love. People with such addictions exhibit signs of codependency on their partner and often lose touch with their reality. Experts tend to believe that this condition can be regarded as a behavioral addiction or impulse control disorder, even though it is not officially recognized by any diagnostic criteria. According to a study 2 , this phenomenon has certain similarities to substance dependence, such as:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Uncontrolled desire for the individual or object or related stimuli
  • Anhedonia
  • Low or negative mood
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleep deprivation
  • Intrusive thoughts about the individual or object
  • Focussed attention
  • Problematic behavior patterns
  • Functional impairment
  • Pursuit regardless of awareness of negative consequences

“Pathological love is characterized by being a behavior of taking care and paying attention to the beloved partner in a way which is repetitive and careless of control in an amorous relationship,” explains a 2007 study 3 . It has also been observed that such behaviors and tendencies can also alter the personality traits 4 of the sufferer related to the romantic relationship. The natural instinct of human beings is that we need an attachment to survive and instinctively seek connection from other human beings. This addiction develops when an individual experiences an avoidant bond during childhood. A 2010 study 5 found that having an avoidant childhood ultimately leads to developing a craving for love and attention. Many addicts are often unable to end relationships and even try to desperately fix them to prove to themselves that they are worthy of being loved and winning at love. One study 6 found that the prevalence rate of this addiction is 3-10%.

Understanding Love Addiction

Love can be thrilling, but can also be perilous. Initially, we may feel euphoric but as time passes, it may even cause personal ruin and self-destructive behavior. Having a maladaptive pattern can be challenging. A 2016 study 7 pointed out that addicts opt for partners who are emotionally unavailable that triggers the unhealthy cycle of relationships. They love being in chaos and are fearful of being alone or rejected. Due to this, they constantly search for that special someone to help fill the void.

The addiction stems from the intense emotional experience of falling for someone. This leads them to look for someone to attend to their fears and emotional needs. Their entire life choices are based on their search for this perfect relationship and the “high” associated with the initial stages of love. It is painful and draining because it requires constant attention and reassurance from unavailable partners. A 2003 study 8 found out that there are numerous similarities between addictive substance use and love and sex-based interpersonal attachments. They can include:

  • Exhilaration
  • Ecstasy
  • Craving
  • Irregular psychological responses
  • Obsessive patterns of thought

A 2012 study 9 suggests that the subjective state of being in love is tied to biochemical reactions occurring in the brain. These reactions involve such compounds as dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, and serotonin. This plays a major role 10 in the development of trust, the creation of feelings of pleasure, and the signaling of reward. In the early stage of intense romance, men and women express several traits similar to addiction. A 1986 study 11 found that like addicts, they focus on their beloved (salience), and they yearn for their beloved (craving). The person in love feels a “rush” of exhilaration when seeing or thinking about their partner. With time, the relationship grows and the lover seeks to interact with their partner more frequently (tolerance). In case the partner breaks it off, the lover experiences withdrawal symptoms such as –

  • Denial
  • Protest
  • Sadness
  • Tearfulness
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Binge eating
  • Irritability
  • Chronic loneliness

Lovers are found to relapse the way addicts do. Even long after the relationship is over, events, people, songs, places, or any other external cues associated with their sweetheart can trigger memories and initiate renewed craving, obsessive or compulsive calling, writing, or showing up in hopes of rekindling the romance despite facing adverse consequences. However, it is also essential to keep in mind that not everyone exhibits these behaviors after a breakup, just like not everyone who uses a substance exhibits dependency and withdrawal 12 effects. Moreover, a 2005 study 13 found that some people also go to extreme lengths by doing degrading or physically dangerous things to win back their beloved. Romantic partners are also found to sacrifice or die for their partner. Romantic jealousy also leads to major crimes such as homicide or suicide.

However, the need to seek relationships doesn’t always have to have a negative impact. It is also normal human behavior to seek human connection and fall in love. But, it may be a matter of concern when you depend on relationships and take your life decisions on the basis of it.

Read More About Mood Disorders Here.

Signs Of Love Addiction

Signs Of Love Addiction
Love Addiction


Addictive behaviors related to love, sex and relationships can be challenging. Hence, it is essential to understand the behaviors and feelings of an addict. Some of the signs and symptoms of this condition are:

  • Being anxious that your partner is going to leave
  • Avoiding emotional intimacy
  • Being unable to stop thinking about them
  • Joining their life purpose and happiness to their partner
  • Having unresolved childhood trauma
  • Craving and searching for a romantic relationship
  • Mistaking intense sexual relationships for love
  • Being desperate to please
  • Being unable to be alone
  • Being unable to maintain an intimate relationship once the excitement wears off
  • Using compulsive sex and fantasy to fill their void
  • Choosing partners that are emotionally unavailable or physically or verbally abusive
  • Using sex, manipulation, and seduction to hold on to a partner & keep them attracted or interested
  • Returning to painful relationships repeatedly despite promising to oneself or others not to do so
  • Using sex, porn or compulsive masturbation to avoid being alone
  • Choosing partners that require a great deal of attention and care but do not meet or try to meet the emotional or physical needs

Causes Of Love Addiction

Causes Of Love Addiction
Love Addiction


The exact causes of this condition are unknown. However, some of the causes of this condition are as follows:

1. Influence of parental behaviors

One of the causes of children growing up to be love addicts can be due to their parent’s divorce. Most children find it difficult to cope with their parent’s divorce since it’s intensely distressing to them. This can also affect the child’s sexual behavior and can compromise their emotional and relational stability. One 2009 study 14 pointed out that children from divorced families are at heightened risk for reduced commitment to marriage and lack confidence that marriages can remain stable and happy. Having emotionally unavailable parents, not getting validation from them, or having alcoholic parents may also affect a child’s emotional and psychological stability. A 2013 study 15 pointed out that some adult children of alcoholic parents may constantly seek approval from others. They may also become people pleasers who are often found to get devastated if someone is unhappy with them.

2. Getting adopted

Studies 16 have shown that attachment issues occur when a child and a parent cannot form a secure and emotional bond with each other. Children with insecure attachment styles are found to have relationship issues in their adult life.

3. Losing a loved one

Another cause of this condition can include losing a parent or a sibling. They grow up feeling a void of the person they lost and they feel like they are incapable of loving other people. They may also grow up believing that loving another person can cause them harm. A 2019 study 17 also pointed out that losing a sibling can also pose psychiatric problems such as depression, poor mental health, anxiety, and others.

4. Abandonment, negligence or child maltreatment

Being neglected or having a fear of being abandoned can also lead to addictive behaviors. Child maltreatment includes emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, and physical neglect. Negative parental feedback and lack of emotional interaction can be extremely detrimental to the development of self-esteem. A 2018 study 18 pointed out that children who suffer from neglect and emotional abuse have peer difficulties and poor social skills.

Love Addiction And Stalking

One pathology that is often associated with romantic love is stalking. Stalking can be defined as unwanted or repeated surveillance by someone towards another person. There are usually two common types of stalkers:

  1. Those who sustain pursuit of a former sexual/romantic relationship who has rejected them
  2. Those who pursue a stranger or acquaintance who has failed to return the stalker’s romantic overtures.

A study 19 reported that 74% of those stalked by a former intimate partner reported violence and coercive control during the relationship. In both types, the stalker exhibits several characteristics components of all addictions including focused attention on the love object, increased energy, following behaviors, and obsessive thinking about the impulsivity directed toward the victim. A 2005 study 20 suggested that stalking also activates aspects of the reward system in the brain. When a relationship ends, although it may hurt, some people may not be in the same place as their partner. In such cases, some addicts begin to stalk the person. Romantic rejection can have a profound sense of loss and negative affect. A 1993 study 21 found that 95% reported they had rejected someone who was deeply in love with them. Like many addictions, romantic rejection can also jeopardize one’s health, since abandonment rage stresses the heart, raises blood pressure, and suppresses the immune system. It may also induce clinical depression and in extreme cases homicide and suicide. A 2013 study 22 found that every day 4 US women are killed by their intimate partners. A 2018 study 23 indicated that high commitment to a romantic relationship may serve as a risk factor of depression and therefore of suicide when the relationship is terminated. Some broken-hearted lovers can even die from heart attacks or strokes caused by their depression.

Treatment For Love Addiction

The first step towards recovery is to acknowledge that you have a problem. It is important to take time for yourself. There are several treatment methods that are used to treat patients with this condition. They are:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This therapy helps to identify the negative thoughts and patterns associated with their behavior. These thoughts are then replaced with positive thoughts to attain the desired behavior. The therapist may also help the patient with coping techniques to manage the symptoms better. CBT helps in dismissing false beliefs and insecurities an individual has about themselves. A 2011 study 24 found CBT demonstrated to be effective for cognitive reappraisal and behavioral improvements.

Read More About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Here.

2. Mindfulness Practices

Being mindful can be defined as becoming aware of the present moment. It may be extremely beneficial for the patient to engage in mindfulness practices. Some mindfulness practices can include:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Journaling

A 2013 study 25 pointed out that mindfulness brings about various positive psychological effects including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms, and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation.

Overcoming Love Addiction

Just like any addiction, it can be challenging to overcome this addiction. Some of the ways to overcome it are as follows:

1. Evaluate your relationship

The best way to overcome this addiction is to evaluate the relationship. If you tend to idealize love, it may be helpful to analyse and assess how you’ve been in previous relationships. Some of the questions you can ask yourself are:

  • Do you often go for people who are emotionally unavailable?
  • Do you often look for relationships right after you break up with someone?
  • Are you often desperate to please your partner?
  • Are you unable to be alone?

If these are some of the patterns of your relationship, then it is essential to work on them.
A partner who is committed to you will provide emotional support and build a connection and bond that meets your emotional and physical needs.

2. Build your self-identity

Relationships are meant to be interdependent. Due to this, it is essential to build your identity and a sense of self. This also means that you don’t lose yourself in the relationship. Healthy relationships take effort. If you don’t know yourself and what you want, it may be impossible to build a healthy relationship.

3. Take a break from relationships

The best way to overcome this is to take a break from relationships. Problematic patterns become a concern when we don’t stop to evaluate ourselves and our relationship patterns. Take a step back and observe your own behavior. In case you are not in a committed relationship, avoid interacting in any potential romantic relationship for at least six months. This involves no texting, calling, hookups, or online dating sites. Issues can arise when we aren’t sure what you need or want. Forming new relationships immediately after breaking up not only affects you but also your partner. It is essential to be honest with your intentions to avoid causing harm.

4. Love yourself

Being dependent on your partner and displaying addiction-like behaviors can stem from a lack of self-esteem and confidence. In such cases, it is essential to practice self-love. Practicing self-love will allow you to build realistic standards for yourself. We often engage in negative self-talk such as “I’ll never find that perfect person”. Loving yourself involves understanding what you want from a relationship. Spend more time understanding your needs and wants. Positive self-talk can help you to feel better and can help you build stronger and better relationships.

Read More About Self-Love Here.

5. Learn to build healthy relationships

One of the best ways to heal from such addiction is to learn how to build healthy relationships. Some healthy relationship traits include:

  • Accepting each other the way you both are
  • Supporting each other’s goals and aspirations
  • Being honest and communicating openly with each other
  • Avoiding criticism, insults or negative comments aimed at your partner
  • Willing to discuss, negotiate and compromise when conflicts arise
  • Being respectful towards each other

Read More About How To Practice Healthy Love In Relationships Here

Recovery From Love Addiction

Getting over an addiction is always challenging. Experts 26 suggest that we all are practically addicted to love, although the degree may differ. Even though substance dependence and romantic bonding have much more in common, it is possible to recover from this addiction with determination and practice.

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References:
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