There’s no denying that intoxicating, all-consuming high you feel when you first fall in love. You have a goofy smile on your face and your friends notice you glowing from the inside out. But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies for everyone: Some people find that love is all-consuming. For them, being in love is like being on cocaine—literally! Indeed, love has transformed countless otherwise-rational people into obsessive, sometimes possessive partners.

Though the so-called “honeymoon phase” of a relationship is normal, in some cases love’s overwhelming emotions turn into something dangerous and destructive. It can be difficult to fight love’s powerful grip on the brain, and some people experience this to the extreme—an occurrence known as love addiction, defined as “a compulsive, chronic craving and/or pursuit of romantic love in an effort to get our sense of security and worth from another person.”

why-we-love-cvrIn a love addict’s mind, intensity is often mistaken for intimacy. As soon as the infatuation and passion of a new relationship fade, love addicts feel empty and disappointed. It’s common for them to jump from one relationship to the next, craving that initial “love high.” Love becomes their drug to soothe the underlying emotional pain. “Romantic love is not an emotion…It’s a drive. It comes from the motor of the mind, the wanting part of the mind, the craving part of the mind,” says Helen Fischer, Ph.D., a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University and author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love.

Love addicts are essentially a victim of their fantasies, desperately clinging to the delusion that true love will fix everything. They invest all their time and energy on the person to whom they are addicted and make this person their top priority, regardless of whether or not their feelings are reciprocated. Love addicts look to their beloved as a solution to their problems and someone who gives them a sense of validation and worth. At the core of the addiction is the irrational belief that he or she is “the one” who can make them feel whole and happy. A love addict’s relationship involves far more codependency than love.

“People who experience love addiction typically have unrealistic expectations for giving and receiving love,” says Shannon Rauh, a certified sexuality educator. “They can become fixated on their partner and try to control him or her. They need attention, validation, and connection all the time. They are truly craving emotional intimacy.”

In a love addict’s mind, intensity is often mistaken for intimacy. As soon as the infatuation and passion of a new relationship fade, love addicts feel empty and disappointed. It’s common for them to jump from one relationship to the next, craving that initial “love high.” Love becomes their drug to soothe the underlying emotional pain.

woman-alone-windowLove addiction can stem from a past history of neglect and unmet emotional needs during childhood, an absence of healthy relationship role models growing up, or both. Love addiction can stem from a past history of neglect and unmet emotional needs during childhood, an absence of healthy relationship role models growing up, or both. Often, when children do not receive adequate attention and affection from one or both parents, they experience low self-esteem and a fear of abandonment as an adult.

“As with any addiction, recovery from love addiction is a process of self-discovery. It requires taking specific steps: breaking through denial and acknowledging the addiction, owning the harmful consequences of the addiction, and intervening to stop the addictive cycle from occurring,” says Alexandra Katehakis, director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles. Three steps to changing your thoughts and breaking the cycle:

1. Be willing to let go. It seems daunting, but saying goodbye to an unhealthy relationship is much less painful in the long run than holding on. You’ll thank yourself in the future once you find a truly healthy and meaningful relationship.

2. Believe that healthy love exists and learn how to identify it. A romantic partner should enrich your life, not define it. Know that you need to receive as much as you give.

3. Look for a pattern. Are there similarities between your experiences as a child and your relationships as an adult? Consider how your past experiences may influence your current choices so you can be more aware in future relationships.

Are you a love addict? Take this quiz to find out.

Click here to see Rose’s tips for healthy and happy relationships

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12 Comments

  • Stacy Petersen
    Posted November 19, 2015 11:49 am 0Likes

    Oh wow… I definitely had one of these destructive relationships in my past…. Key is to accept and learn from your mistakes!!

  • Jaqueline
    Posted November 19, 2015 12:16 pm 0Likes

    I need to pass this quiz along to my girl friends! I know so many people who jump from relationship to relationship because they fear being alone. And then sadly they get bored because the initial butterflies disappear.

  • Victoria
    Posted November 20, 2015 3:08 pm 2Likes

    I think a lot of people struggle with love addiction more than they think. After all, love is a powerful thing!

  • Mike
    Posted November 23, 2015 2:44 pm 0Likes

    No surprise here, I’m a love addict. I’ve always been a serial monogamist and all my relationships have been serious ones. But I’ve finally found the right one this time around, she said yes! Thanks for the article.

  • Harrison
    Posted March 6, 2016 5:21 pm 1Likes

    You’ve been through the hard part of trying everything you could
    think of and nothing worked. You’ve gone through the break-up, and
    you realize that there’s nothing left to do but to move on. But, your
    heart has been broken and you don’t know how or where to start
    “moving on“. This spell will help you to focus on moving in a more
    positive direction, one step at a time. It will begin to open up
    opportunities to build yourself up and strengthen your inner being
    in such a way that you actually begin to feel empowered by what
    you’ve been through! Not only will you find yourself moving on, but
    you’ll find yourself moving in a much more positive direction. The
    funny thing is, that others around you actually start
    feeling empowered just by being around your positive energy!

  • Yusuf
    Posted February 4, 2017 5:12 pm 1Likes

    Love addiction is especially devastating it can cause alot of pain and heartache. The delusion that a relationship or love would cause me happiness caused myself great pain.

    • Kaitlin Vogel
      Posted February 6, 2017 12:22 pm 0Likes

      I’m sorry to hear you’re in pain, Yusuf. I know love can be painful at times, but it’s important to remain optimistic about your life. Sometimes we don’t know the reason why relationship ends, but as time passes, the truth becomes clear. Stay strong and good luck!

  • Carol rose
    Posted June 30, 2017 1:19 am 2Likes

    I am obsessed with attention from men. My children are suffering from it. I lie to them and go out with guys. I talk to several guys at once. I am a recovering addict from drugs for 16 months. Now- I’m trying to recover from love addiction. Ugh

    • Rose Caiola
      Posted September 20, 2017 12:27 pm 1Likes

      Hi Carol,

      Hope you crossed over. So proud of you.
      xo

  • Juma
    Posted July 12, 2018 1:32 pm 0Likes

    Most people say you need to walk out of toxic relationship but I just don’t know how to walk out and go…once I was told that I got the key to my own freedom but I can’t walk out of this cage am in and set myself free…I don’t why!!! I just love her too much…someone help please am walking dead!!!

  • Sue
    Posted August 19, 2018 1:38 pm 0Likes

    Juma. Read How to break your addiction to a person by Howard halpern. It helped me leave. Also love addicts anonymous group meetings. And psychotherapy to understand your childhood and inner child therapy. And nature, art, writing, fun activities.

  • Kevin
    Posted March 9, 2019 2:14 am 0Likes

    Sigh. I just realized this last few weeks that I suffer from this big time. I’ve known it to some extent but didn’t really own it. And I can’t bear one more dysfunctional relationship. I’ve hid behind this empathic mask of giving and loving and being kind and thoughtful and and and. When someone asked me what is the core of my issue I said I fear being alone. But I’ve had so many relationships and at 49 yrs old I can’t anymore. It’s so hard to be alone. Being alone makes me feel sick physically mentally and emotionally. But I cannot go through another abusive relationship because I keep attracting the broken ones thinking I can fix them. I’ve spent so much time on them and not on me…..not to mention how much money I’ve spent. as a veteran of 12 steps I know that it’s possible to heal but this one scares the living daylights out of me. It makes me feel so low and I worry if I will ever heal and have a real relationship

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