Love addiction is a human behavior in which people become addicted to the feeling of being in love. Love addicts can take on many different behaviors. Love addiction is common; however, most love addicts do not realize they are addicted to love. Love addiction can be treated with various recovery techniques, most of which are similar to recovery from other addictions such as sex addiction and alcoholism, through group meetings and support groups. (Bireda 5)
The normal process of falling into love addiction begins when a person begins to feel sympathy with another person after going through an initially innocent moment of attraction and automatically idealizes the other to the point of divinity. The individual is then blindly attached to the other person, becoming incapable of making a realistic analysis of the situation; they may project all kinds of illusions onto the other person, believing them to be the only one that can bring happiness. This process can be very quick. For some, this can be a brief experience that is only the first step toward a more mature relationship. There are, however, those who never go past this stage of blind love. (Timmreck 12-14)
Obsession can be considered the primary symptom of any addiction. In love addiction, the individual's insecurity gives rise to an obsessive attachment to the object of their affection. It typically manifests as an insatiable hunger that distorts the person's perception of reality and often results in various unhealthy behaviors and suffering. (Timmreck 15)
Writers describe different types of individuals who become addicted to love relationships.
Susan Peabody describes several types of love addicts:
- Obsessed love addicts: This type of addiction comes with the inability to live independently from another person, or a feeling of possession.
- Codependency addicts
- Relationship addicts: This can represent itself as an addiction to the idea of having a relationship instead of a person. There are two types: those who are constantly in and out of relationships and those who will not let go of a bad relationship for the sake of having a relationship.
- Narcissistic love addicts
- Ambivalent love addicts
- Torch bearers
- Seductive withholders
- Romance addicts: This can represent itself as an obsession over romance itself, including, but not limited to adventure and passion. People suffering with this type of love addiction worry about romantic rituals such as dates, dinner, sex, and everything else that has to do with a passing romance. This can often be a representation of the person's individual fantasies. Love addicts will seek seduction and conquest, but quickly tire of it. A typical example is the legendary Don Juan.
Therapist and author Jim Hall describes nine types of love addict:
The typical love addict demonstrates the most predictable relational patterns for the majority of people who fall into addictive relationships. Time and again they become preoccupied and obsessed with attaining or keeping the perfect person, "soul mate," "Superman," or "Wonder Woman" who will make their lives meaningful and give them unconditional love/positive regard they are so desperate for. In their obsession, fantasy, and denial they quickly fall into and become infatuated in relationships. Essentially their identity is formed only through their relationship with their partner. Because of impaired boundaries, they are in constant pursuit of merging with their partner; therefore, they become overly dependent ("clingy") and smother their partners. They take all focus off themselves (escaping) while throwing themselves into their partner's life. They try to earn love and attention that will guarantee they will not be left, abandoned, and alone—one of their greatest fears.
Romantic love addicts are "romance junkies" and relationship "hoppers." They compulsively hop from one infatuated relationship to another in an attempt to keep their supply (dependency or addiction) going. Initially they often believe they're in love with a person they start a relationship with, but they don't truly fall in love. Romantic love addicts are addicted to the fantasy created in their minds and have false hopes (unrealistic expectation) that one day they will find the right one who somehow will keep the "rush," passion, and intensity going all the time—an impossible task for anyone.
The anorexic love addict compulsively decides to avoid intimacy. It is the avoidance of giving or receiving sexual or emotional intimate contact. Their emotional state becomes a rigid and compulsive avoidance of relationships. The Anorexic Love Addict falls victim to in an obsessive state in which the physical, mental, and emotional task of avoiding romantic relationships rule one‘s life. Again and again (sometimes it may be just one painful experience) they experience the painful grief and withdrawal symptoms when a relationship. They come to a point where they are tired of feeling let down and betrayed, and they decide "no more relationships." In their distorted perception the experience of feeling betrayed, abandoned and rejected again and again is too much to take. Anorexic love addict types move from one emotional polar extreme to the other with no in-between. Their reality becomes either all black or all white (either desperate for love or desperate to keep away love).
The non-romantic love addict becomes obsessed with another person but the obsession has nothing to do with romantic love. They can become obsessively addicted to anyone—an acquaintance, friend, priest, teacher, co-worker, child, or celebrity. Even if the non-romantic love addict is in a committed relationship or married, they can become emotionally attached, dependent upon and addicted to someone outside without romantic or sexual intentions, including someone of the same sex.
The avoidant love addict is the type of partner "typical love addicts" most commonly and repeatedly fall for in relationships. Avoidant love addicts become dependent on their partner's neediness and are only attracted to people who they can control. They rely on feeling empowered from a person who looks up to them, worships them, puts them up on a pedestal, which provides a kind of narcissistic supply. Traits of narcissism—being wanted, needed, and worshiped—is their drug. It is why they are attracted to love addict partners in relationships. The sense of having control in relationships is very important, and control feeds their grandiosity and sense of being entitled. Feeling power, and therefore control, over their needy love addict partner provides them a source of self-worth and meaning in their own lives. Moreover, it keeps them from potential intimately connecting and being vulnerable in relationships, which is often one of their greatest fears.
The abusive love addict is an individual who employs both emotional and physical abuse, violence and intimidation in relationships. Abusive love addicts virtually always attract typical love addicts willing to tolerate callous and spiteful acts against them. They exhibit the same elements of the emotionally avoidant love addict but with the added element of becoming abusive. Their goal is to keep their partner in prison, emotionally and physically. They feel empowered and secured when they control their partner.
Battered love addicts are love addict types who routinely tolerate and stay in relationships with abusive love addict partners. Women and men who fall into abusive relationships are virtually always dependent at some level on their partner despite the harm they receive. Battered love addicts are usually but not always females.
- Sex and love
The sex and love addict displays the uniform patterns of the "typical love addict", but the additional characteristic is the sex and love addict type also is highly preoccupied with sex and sexual fantasies with only one particular person, usually a romantic partner. They are not in love with their partner so much as they are in love with the sexual acts with their partner. The sex and love addict rarely seeks sex outside of a romantic relationship (unlike the pure sex addict). The sexual obsession with one partner becomes a significant driving force for staying in a relationship. Like most love addicts they will tolerate misery and pain in a relationship; however, they do it solely for maintaining sexual intimacy with that one person.
The parental love addict's obsessive behavior is directed toward their children. In order to escape feelings of inner emptiness and impaired sense of self, the parental love addict becomes dependent on one or more of their children. They see their children as extensions of themselves and become enmeshed in their daily lives. Intensely over-involved with their children, they have a great need to make their children anything that makes them (the parent) feel secure. They want their children to like them at the cost of providing healthy parenting. They placate, give too much, and do too much, which leave their children feeling inadequate, invalid, and suffocated. They can not see that their children are doing bad while claiming to do good. They frequently violate their children's boundaries. They share too much information, vent, and manipulate their children for their own gain. Love is not the problem in these cases; the problem is in the choices parental love addicts make in the name of love.
- Bireda, Martha R., Mike Link, and Peter Roberts. Love Addiction: A Guide to Emotional Independence. Minneapolis: New Harbinger Publications, 1990.
- Hall, Jim. The Love Addict in Love Addiction: Everything Love Addicts need to know about themselves and their relationships. See articles at http://loveaddictionhelp.com/
- Timmreck, Thomas C. "Overcoming the loss of a love: preventing love addiction and promoting positive emotional health." Psychological Reports 66 (1990).
- "Love addiction - how to break it." CNN.com. 2008. Cable News Network. 20 Oct 2008.
- Peabody, Susan. Addiction to Love: Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships. Random House. See her article, "Typical Kinds of Love Addicts."
- Codependent No More
- Disease model of addiction
- Obsessive–compulsive disorder
- Sex and love addiction