Love addiction is characterized by compulsive patterns in romance, sexuality and relationships that have harmful consequences for the love addict and their partners. Love addiction may result in lost marriages, careers and child custody, legal problems, as well as health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases.

Love addicts are plagued with desperation and seemingly unending fears. Terrified of rejection, pain and unfamiliar experiences, and having little faith in their ability or right to inspire love, they wait, wish, and hope for love, perhaps their least familiar experience.

Treatment for love addiction must address the deep emotional wounds that fuel this condition — wounds that usually stem from childhood and include trauma, enmeshment, emotional neglect, abuse and attachment issues. Co-occurring mental health disorders must also be diagnosed and treated for full recovery. Learn more about The Ranch treatment center’s love addiction treatment program or call 844-876-7680.

Warning Signs of Love Addiction

Love addiction isn’t just about an endless search for love. Some love addicts sabotage good relationships for fear of getting too close. Others are in unhealthy relationships but cannot let go. Love addiction can manifest in many different ways. Some common characteristics of love addicts include:

Destructive Relationship Patterns

  • Inability to stop seeing or dating someone even with the knowledge that it is destructive
  • Frequently attracting partners who are emotionally unavailable, untrustworthy or troubled
  • Difficulty sustaining relationships after the initial excitement wears off
  • Constantly searching for a newer, better relationship
  • Serial dating or having multiple affairs
  • Overlooking a partner’s faults to perpetuate the fantasy of a relationship
  • Having a hard time saying no when in a relationship

Feelings/Actions of Desperation Around Relationships

  • Feeling desperation or uneasiness when  single or away from a romantic partner
  • Compromising  financial stability or reputation by pursuing a romantic partner
  • Using any means necessary to attract or hold onto a love interest
  • Inability to set appropriate boundaries
  • Difficulty concentrating on other areas of life because  thoughts are consumed by starting or maintaining a relationship
  • Feeling that life is unmanageable because of the search for love and relationships
  • Contemplating suicide when relationships end
  • Feeling the need for a relationship to make life bearable
  • Believing that someone can “fix” you

Unhealthy Sexual Behaviors

  • Engaging in sex or a relationship regardless of the consequences (e.g., abuse, the threat of being caught, or the risk of contracting an STD)
  • Having anonymous or unprotected sex
  • Confusing sex and romance for real love
  • Escaping feelings of loneliness or unhappiness through sex or relationships
  • Flirting with or sexualizing someone even if it wasn’t the intention
  • Having more than one romantic partner at a time, even if it is against your values
  • Trading sex for love, affection, money or power

Needing a Relationship to Feel Worthy

  • Believing that the problems in your love life result from continuing to remain with the “wrong” person or not finding the “right” person
  • Feeling that life would have no meaning without a romantic relationship
  • Changing hobbies, interests, needs and/or beliefs based on the person you are dating
  • Feeling unhappy or worthless when alone but scared or dissatisfied when in a relationship

Preoccupation With Relationships or Finding a Relationship

  • Checking up on or spying on a romantic interest
  • Fantasizing about finding the perfect person when you’re not in a relationship
  • Thinking that you could do more with your  life if you were  not so driven by romantic pursuits
  • Feeling like you’re under a spell or in a daze when in love
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, career or interests to focus on a romantic relationship
  • Having partners describe you as overly needy, desperate, smothering or jealous

Causes of Love Addiction

The causes of love addiction are complex and typically rooted in early life experiences. The most prominent factors that contribute to love addiction are childhood neglect or abandonment, rejection, and physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

As a result of insecure attachments in childhood, love addicts may lack confidence and a sense of self. In adolescence or adulthood, they may feel insecure in their bonds with other people and struggle to establish appropriate boundaries. Love addicts may become desperate in their efforts to maintain relationships and are sometimes labeled “clingy,” or “needy.” The pursuit of the perfect love often serves as a coping mechanism that allows the individual to escape into fantasy rather than tolerate a painful reality.

How Love Addiction is Like Other Addictions

Similar to how many drugs effect  feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, love addiction can also impact the brain’s chemistry. Physiological changes may occur in those with love addictions. Levels of phenylethylamine (PEA) — a chemical in the brain involved in the euphoria that comes with falling in love — rise with feelings of infatuation, boosting euphoria and excitement. Like those addicted to drugs, addicts may become dependent upon the physical and psychological arousal triggered by PEA and other brain chemicals.  While romance can be a natural and healthy part of relationships, the love addict pursues romance and the “high” of new love without ever developing genuine intimacy and connection.

Treatment for Love Addiction

The goals of love addiction treatment include building healthy relationships, setting appropriate boundaries and achieving genuine intimacy. Love addicts learn to move beyond an obsession with romance and fantasy and embrace the realities of mature, authentic love.

In the past decade, experts have begun to recognize love addiction as a distinct and treatable problem. As a result, treatment options have expanded and include a blend 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 treatment, love addicts are asked to abstain from romantic or sexual relationships for a specified time period. This break allows them to focus on the underlying issues and any co-occurring problems such as drug or alcohol addiction, depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Because love addiction often stems from childhood abuse or abandonment, trauma work can be an integral part of the treatment plan.

Love Addiction Treatment at The Ranch

At The Center for Relationship and Sexual Recovery at The Ranch, we use a blend of traditional and experiential therapies and approaches to help clients address neglect, abuse, enmeshment and attachment issues that may contribute to love addiction. Trauma-focused therapies, mindfulness practices, shame-reduction methods and an overall approach that helps clients uncover, accept and learn to love their authentic selves encourage them to build self-esteem and develop healthy relationship patterns and coping skills. Co-occurring issues like depression, anxiety, substance abuse and eating disorders are also addressed during treatment so clients can begin recovering from all of the challenges that prevent them from having healthy, intimate relationships. Learn more about The Ranch love addiction treatment program or call 844-876-7680.