Love addiction is characterized by compulsive behaviors surrounding romance, sexuality and relationships, resulting in harmful consequences for the addicted person. Love addiction can result in divorce, loss of one’s career, child custody and legal problems, as well as health issues such as sexually transmitted diseases. Love addiction can manifest in many different ways.
Love Addiction Causes
The underlying causes of love addiction are complex and typically rooted in early life experiences. The most prominent contributing factors are childhood neglect or abandonment, rejection, and physical, emotional or sexual abuse. As a result of insecure attachments in childhood, people addicted to love may lack confidence and a sense of self. In adolescence or adulthood, this can result in feeling insecure when bonding with others and struggling to establish appropriate boundaries. In an effort to maintain relationships, love addicts may act desperate, clingy or needy. The pursuit of “perfect love” often serves as a coping mechanism, enabling an individual to escape into fantasy rather than tolerating an imperfect reality.
What Is Relationship Addiction?
Relationship addiction is related to love addiction. Some people crave a relationship so badly they accept any traits in a prospective mate, even when there are problems such as abuse. Others move from relationship to relationship, thinking they have fallen in love, followed by withdrawal symptoms and cravings when things don’t work out.
Similarities to Other Addictions
Physiological changes can occur in individuals with love addictions. Similar to the way many drugs impact feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, love addiction may also impact brain chemistry. Using brain imaging, scientists have shown that feelings of intense romantic love engage brain pathways associated with energy, focus, motivation, ecstasy, despair and craving. These same primary regions are linked to substance and non-substance addictions.
In the book The Chemistry of Love, the author associates infatuation-related increases in the brain chemical phenylethylamine (PEA) with feelings of excitation, exhilaration and euphoria. The PEA molecule bears a striking structural similarity to pharmaceutically manufactured amphetamine. Like drug addictions, people addicted to love may become dependent on the physical and psychological arousal triggered by PEA, dopamine, norepinephrine and other brain chemicals. While romance can be a natural and healthy part of relationships, the continual pursuit of the romantic “high” can actually impede development of genuine intimacy.
Love Addiction Treatment
The goals of love addiction treatment include building healthy relationships, setting appropriate boundaries and achieving genuine intimacy. In the past decade, experts have started to recognize love addiction as a distinct and treatable problem. As a result, treatment options have expanded and include a mix of residential love addiction treatment centers, outpatient programs, traditional and alternative therapies, and 12-step support groups such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
During love addiction treatment, clients may be asked to abstain from romantic or sexual relationships for a specified time period. This break allows dedicated focus on underlying issues, such as co-occurring addictions or psychiatric disorders. Clients may be encouraged to uncover rationalizations and justifications they use to maintain their addiction. Love addiction often stems from childhood abuse or abandonment, therefore trauma work can be an integral part of treatment. During therapy, clients may discover they are continually attracted to partners who reinforce the pain they experienced in early childhood. This insight is an essential part of breaking the addictive cycle.
Love Addiction Recovery at The Ranch
At The Center for Relationship and Sexual Recovery at The Ranch, we use a blend of traditional and experiential therapies to help clients address neglect, abuse, enmeshment and attachment issues that may contribute to love addiction. Our approach to treating love addiction includes separate treatment programs for men and women. In this safe, supportive environment, we help clients uncover, accept and move beyond their obsessions with romance and fantasy.
Leveraging a variety of trauma-focused therapies, mindfulness practices and shame-reduction methods, our compassionate treatment team helps clients embrace their authentic selves so they can discover mature, authentic love. An integral part of the process involves building self-esteem and developing healthy relationship patterns and coping skills. Co-occurring issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and eating disorders are also addressed during treatment. Learn more about The Center for Relationship and Sexual Recovery at The Ranch or call 844-876-7680.