We all know that people can get addicted to substances such as alcohol and drugs. But believe it or not, love and sex can also be addictive – and as destructive as compulsive substance use.
New developments in addictive psychology point to a condition which I refer to as 'People addictions'. Love addiction, sex addiction and co-dependence all fall into this category.
While some psychologists believe that love addiction and sex addiction are identical, there are succinct differences between them.
Sex addiction manifests in compulsive pattern of pursuing sexual arousal independent of emotional attachments.
Love addiction is usually characterized by a dependence on the emotional stability provided by a romantic partner
It can result in obsessive, controlling behaviour, such as remaining stuck in an unsuitable relationship, or refusing to accept that a relationship is over, which can lead to stalking, physical and emotional abuse and, even suicide or murder.
Although a certain degree of love addiction is always present in any intimate relationship, it is estimated that love addiction is now, sadly, more widespread than the true love.
While these two addictions are motivated by different factors, they can be interlinked, e.g. a love addict using sex as a tool to manipulate or as revenge.
Secondary addictions such as alcohol or drug abuse may also become a factor as the addict tries to numb the constant pain that accompanies the overwhelming feelings of loss of self and identity.
Causes of love addiction
Usually addiction is cause by inadequate or inconsistent nurturing, low self-esteem, and absence of positive role models for committed relationships.
Combine this with media constantly indoctrinating us with cultural images of perfect romantic love and happily ever after endings or songs like “I can’t live if living is without you”, and we can easily blur the lines.
We may become unable to differentiate between obsession and love, and continue to 'love' in a destructive, obsessive manner. This erodes self confidence and trust in us and our relationships, resulting in more obsessive, destructive behaviour.
We often believe that emotional pain, fear of being left by the partner, or a strong emotional dependence is the attributes of true love. In reality, these are symptoms of love addiction.
Some signs of love addiction
• generally feel alienated - 'don’t fit in'
• have an inability to enjoy being alone - often feeling depressed or crying
• feel terrified that you may never find someone to love
• fall in love very deeply and very quickly
• only feel happy or confident when physically with the partner
• experience feelings of loss and desperation when not physically with the partner
• remain in a relationship even though it does not fulfil your needs
• feel like your life has ended when the relationship ends, or consider suicide
Recovery from love addiction
This takes patience and willpower:
• Face the truth: you have a problem and have to change
• Make an inventory of unsuitable behaviour and feelings - this tells you what to change
• Get help: therapy, 12-step groups (there are SLA groups everywhere), self-help books, workshops, videos etc.
• Change what needs to be changed - and keep at it on a daily basis.
Remember, you CAN maintain a positive and healthy relationship!