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There can be little doubt that the emotion we call love can have a powerful effect on a person's physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Some have even suggested that the act of falling in love with another person could be considered a mild form of mental illness, since the process can cause a person to alter his or her habits and personality so abruptly. It is definitely possible to become addicted to being in love, and this addiction can trigger some damaging physical and emotional side effects if not kept under control. A love addict may not be doing anything illegal like drugs or physically damaging as overeating, but he or she is still putting himself or herself at risk by pursuing inappropriate or dangerous relationships.
A love addict feeds off the emotional charge of love or sex in the same way a drug addict receives a high from heroin or an alcoholic enjoys the intoxication of alcohol. This is not the same level of emotion an average person might experience if he or she met an attractive new co-worker, for instance. A healthy person might feel sexually or emotionally attracted to another person, but he or she would not obsess over ways to meet that person or create an imaginary romantic relationship in his or her mind. This kind of addict often sees other people in a more idealized way, especially when it comes to providing emotional rescue or personal validation. A healthy person might feel hurt if his or her proposition is rejected, but a love addict may view it as a betrayal by a soulmate.
There is also the idea of co-dependency which tends to permeate these relationships. A healthy person may share in the excitement of his or her partner's good news or commiserate over a bad experience, but a love addict will often use his or her partner's emotional state as a key for his or her own. Whenever a partner is having a bad day at work, the addict partner will also manifest frustration or anger or depression. If a partner is feeling especially happy or upbeat, a co-dependent partner will also mimic his or her mood. For many people who struggle with love or sexual addiction, this emotional codependency often leaves them feeling as if they can no longer form independent emotions of their own. There is also a tendency for these addicts to avoid any conflicts with their partners in order to avoid any possibility of rejection.
One classic sign of a love or sexual addiction is extreme separation anxiety. The thought of spending too much time away from a romantic or sexual partner can literally cause the addict to break down physically and emotionally. Addicts can go through the same physical and mental withdrawal symptoms as drug addicts or alcoholics. Some may start imagining scenarios in which the missing partner is committing adultery or otherwise plotting to end the relationship. Even those in healthy romantic relationships may have irrational thoughts from time to time, but a love addict will often obsess about a partner until the relationship reaches a breaking point. Many addicts are skilled in the first stages of a romance or sexual seduction, but lack the emotional skill set to maintain a long-term relationship.
There are recovery programs available for those who may be suffering from love addiction, however. Many are patterned after the 12 step programs associated with Alcoholics Anonymous. A recovering love addict may be required to stop or severely limit all contact with current or past romantic partners while in treatment. Trained counselors will often explore the addict's personal history to uncover any connection to his or her present behavior. While these addicts aren't strictly forbidden from forming new romantic relationships following rehabilitation, they are usually encouraged to recognize certain triggers which could lead to unhealthy relationships or a self-destructive cycle.