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, child custody and legal problems, as well as health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases.
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 affect 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. Our unique approach to treating love addiction helps clients uncover, accept and learn to love their authentic selves. Coupled with trauma-focused therapies, mindfulness practices and shame-reduction methods, clients are encouraged 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 and intimate relationships. Learn more about The Ranch love addiction treatment program or call 888-844-5865.