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Love Addiction Withdrawal 
What it means and how to deal with it

By Jim Hall, MS, Relationship Recovery Expert


Are you or someone you know experiencing the pain and obsession of love addiction withdrawal from a person, ex, or relationship? If so, please read on.

Article Summary:

What is Love Addiction Withdrawal?




How long love withdrawal lasts

How to deal with love addiction withdrawal

Healing love addiction withdrawal


Story of Tracy, a 30-year-old anxiously attached love addict, shares her relationship withdrawal story after a breakup:

"When he said it was over, I stopped breathing. I could not gather my thoughts. I felt like it wasn't happening, but it was. It was surreal.

My stomach turned upside down, my mouth was dry, I was sweating, my heart trembling. Out of intense denial, I said to him-- you're not serious, are you? What's going on?

Broken up and having no contact with him was feeling like death.

In an unsteady voice, knowing deep down it is true, a rush of panic and shock waves pulsated through my body as the dagger pierced my chest.

As weeks went on, I was trying to grapple with the intensity of it all. I had micro-moments of imagined sanity.

In denial, with frequent periods of intense crying and waling, I could hear the loud echoes of my bouncing off the walls. All the emptiness in my body was present every waking moment. I felt I had lost my soul.

I couldn’t identify who I was; how could he do this. this person whom I gave my all to- he was such a kind, giving, and passionate person in the beginning- what happened to him?…

This isn’t who he is…I know he still loves me. Oh-- how I wish we could get back to how it was…he was the one I loved so much… we could have such a beautiful future together. He seemed to have it all together-have everything I dreamed of in a person. 

At night, was the most intense anxiety and loneliness- rushing through me, all of the emptiness felt… the only peace I felt was when I was sleeping.

When I awoke each morning-instantly, the pain and overwhelming reality of being alone struck like lightning--- More weeping- I wonder what he’s doing right now. Is he thinking of me, does he miss me?

My obsessions went on and on every minute of every hour- why did I make so many mistakes- details of all the ‘mistakes’ I made- I didn’t consider his mistakes, his issues, and the crap I tolerated from him.


No, in my mind I removed all of his flaws, I always justified it all- It was me, my fault, how could I be such a loser, no one will love me the way he loved me… oh, how I wish I could be with him. How I wish I could do it over again.

Damning myself continuously- I need to talk, touch, see him- I can’t take this hole in my chest- he was my soulmate, we were perfect together, we had such an amazing connection! I don’t think I will be loved again the way he loved me. No one could replace what we had together!

Then I’d flip to extreme anger--- then resentment--- then back to obsessing, desperately wanting him, he completes me- I yearn- I want to connect with once again, and again- I need relief, at least for a moment to stop this anguish. 

That son of a bitch- how could he do this to me, then thoughts of revenge- I want to hurt him, I want him to suffer as I am…. but I want him, I hate him, I love him. Fuck! This is not fair.

Drive byes, calling- hanging up – then occasionally, contact, actually speaking to him, only to get the cold voice over the phone, but it didn’t matter, he was my Prince, my drug that gave me relief. And in my denial, my detox, the fixes kept me going… if only momentarily. Always pining for the end of this pain, I just felt like dying.”


Normal Breakup Grief vs. Love Withdrawal 

It's normal for people who experience the loss of a relationship through divorce or a break up to experience a grieving process--feel hurt, pain, abandonment reactions, sorrow, and heartache.


There might be a sense of failure, hopelessness, loss, despair, fear, or desperation. They will move through a grieving cycle (with varying lengths of time). Eventually, as they move through these emotions, they will come to feel better and heal.

For the love addict and some with an anxious attachment style, the grief goes beyond the normal stages of the grieving process where they get stuck in one or more of the levels of grief, which turns into extremely painful withdrawal.

It is not a withdrawal from a drug or alcohol-- but an emotional withdrawal.


They ache, throb, and desperately want relief. They experience a deep yearning and obsession to have any connection with their lost partner. Because they identified mostly through their partner's eyes, they feel a loss of self-identity because the symbiotic attachment (the addiction) is now gone.


Withdrawing from love is life without the medication relied upon-- coming down from the unrealistic fantasy to reality, no longer available to numb and deny the self.


Love Withdrawal Similar to Withdrawing from Other Addictions

Withdrawal in a drug addiction occurs when an addictive substance or behavior is stopped.


Except, with love addiction being a process addiction (behavioral addiction), withdrawal symptoms occur when a relationship comes to end. 


Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms occur sometimes before a relationship ends because of the anticipation of it ending by the love addict.


Addicts must continue the behavior or use of a substance in order to feel a continued high or just to feel normal as tolerance increases.


When the addiction is halted or removed from the addict for any reason, inevitable withdrawal symptoms will be triggered-- this is what happens when a love addict's relationship is broken-- especially when there is no more contact with an ex.


Symptoms of Love Addiction Withdrawal 

I see clients coming off a breakup struggling with multiple symptoms of love addiction withdrawal.

Signs and symptoms of love withdrawal can be emotional and physical.


  • Emotional symptoms can include panic, anxiety, restlessness, fearful and worried thoughts, deep states of depression or grief, denial, distorted thinking, irrational thoughts, feeling out of control, and powerless.
  • Physical symptoms of love withdrawal can include insomnia, tension, nausea, weight loss, vomiting, flu-like symptoms, and other physical ailments. 

Some might describe feeling completely diminished and insufficient as a person, flooding the "being" of their soul. Love withdrawal might feel like you're swimming upstream against the currents of fate--fate working against you with no end.

For love addicts, the intense feeling of rejection by an ex-partner sends a false message that reinforces what they already believe inside--they are not worthy of being with.

Family members and friends haven't a clue or any frame of reference to the trauma the love addict is experiencing. Their simple solutions of, "just get over it" or "leave him/her, and find someone new" never work. Such comments often fuel the love addict's inner sense of shame, weakness, or unworthiness.

Ironically and unconsciously, one powerful way love addicts try coping with withdrawal symptoms is to hold on to is denial which is often tied to the obsession that an ex-partner "wasn't so bad."


Obsessing Over an Ex after a Breakup-- A Telltale Sign and Symptom of Love Relationship Withdrawal

A primary symptom of love withdrawal is obsessing over an ex or having ongoing (seemingly unending) intrusive thoughts and/or images of an ex-partner.

Obsessive love thoughts could occur in many forms-- such as having recurring fantasies about recapturing the love interest and romantic relationship--the magical person they lost, the good times, sex, passion, chemistry, intensity--while ignoring or filtering the truth that it was more chaos than bliss.


Obsession fans a love addict's feelings of rejection into an emotional inferno. It is the pinnacle of all the experiences of withdrawing from love and other addictions


The preoccupied thoughts often seem to take control and one feels extremely powerless to stop them. Even if love addicts want to stop (or slow down) obsessive thoughts, they are often unable to.


Obsessive thinking is often the purest form of distortion or irrational thoughts in withdrawal involving the compulsive need to think about certain people, situations, and/or behavior over and over again.


The obsessed person tends to focus on a single element in its extreme and process everything associated with the particular element as all black or all white.

How Long Will Love Withdrawal Last?

If you're confronting the turmoil of withdrawal, you probably want to know— how long do these withdrawal symptoms last.


How long love addiction withdrawal lasts is one of the most frequently asked questions from my online recovery clients. Understandably, since it is such an excruciating experience for most.


I understand from a personal and professional perspective what you are going through. I've been there. Withdrawal can feel frightening, anxiety-ridden, and profoundly distressing-- and you want it to stop asap! 

The truth of the matter is-- How long love and relationship addiction withdrawal will vary from person to person.


Having helped many people going through this awful experience, what often determines how long withdrawal from a breakup lasts depends on how a person takes care of themselves—in other words, getting support from a helping professional (therapist, counselor, coach) who understands how to best guide them through the healing process, with results.


In my love addiction coaching practice. I’ve had clients experience a rapid decrease in their withdrawal symptoms- for example, within one to two weeks. But again, it varies from person to person.


Similar to withdrawing from any other substance or behavioral addiction, it often takes time to get over an addictive relationship attachment.

Get Help for Love Addiction Withdrawal- go to Online Love Addiction Coaching.


In many cases, the answer to how long love withdrawal lasts will depend on what actions and choices you take given this uninvited opportunity. 

Yes, I said opportunity. It is true.

It may seem crazy to call this an opportunity when love withdrawal can feel like falling through what feels like an unending scorching black hole. 

The experience of withdrawing from an addictive relationship is a tremendous opportunity for growth.


Transformation and growth often occur from painful life circumstances.


Generally, when we face the pain and grief of withdrawing from an addicted relationship, we tend to go into survival mode turning to old coping strategies or adapted behavioral responses from childhood. 

For example, a survival mechanism like returning to an unsatisfying relationship with an avoidant or narcissistic ex-partner to dissipate the love withdrawal symptoms—which is detrimental.

Many of us will not learn from our pains of withdrawing, but instead, continue to carry unresolved attachment wounds, and self-destructive coping mechanisms into our next relationship, and the next, keeping love addiction alive, and unhealthy patterns continuing.

It is logical to say, if we allow this to happen, growth and healing cannot occur, and we continue to abandon ourselves and any chance of genuine love and intimacy in our future. 

How long withdrawal lasts is often determined by how much you engage in an effective recovery process. 

Fully embracing a solutions-oriented healing process can significantly improve and speed up the healing process.

Being fully engaged in recovery can mean different things to different people.

However, from experience, it means- for example, committing to a healing process and growth process, seeing a counselor/therapist/love addiction specialist (preferably one with expertise around love addiction), and doing what is needed. 

Fully engaging in recovery means reading love and relationship addiction literature. It might mean attending support or recovery groups (e.g., healing groups, online or local 12 step groups). 

It means being open and honest with yourself about what you truly want in your life and the type of partners you want to spend your time with.

It means having and working on important tools and exercises to help you break denial and the obsession of an ex-partner, increase your self-esteem, improve boundaries, and gain clarity into what is most important to you. 

Engaging in recovery also means knowing you won’t be perfect on the path. 

Do not expect perfection- no one will recover perfectly. We heal with faith and persistence- with a knowing, we are perfectly- imperfect.

Factors that could worsen and lengthen the painful symptoms of love withdrawal.

An important matter that may challenge how fast you heal from the misery of withdrawal are any experiences of loss in adulthood; even childhood.

For example, when I (Jim, author) experienced three very close deaths in my family before my very last withdrawal experience from an addictive relationship (breakup). 

My mother died less than three years before this breakup; my younger brother died a year after; then my grandmother (with who I was also very close) died around five months after my brother—all of whom I had a close relationship.

These were significant losses that required a healthy grieving process.

Around the same period, grieving was replaced with an addictive relationship. I felt grief during this period, but I also anesthetized myself pushing much of my grieving away with a romantic partner (my new drug).

So when this relationship failed, these ungrieved losses contributed significantly to the withdrawal. My world (I felt) came crashing down; the pain and agony felt unbearable. 

During this period, I believed I could never get through it, but I did.

You may feel you will never escape the agony of withdrawal, but you can, and will if you focus on your self-care and do what is best for yourself.

More importantly, you don’t ever have to go through this experience again-- that is if you take your recovery seriously.

The point in mentioning this- is that even if you experienced even one close loss (death, break-up, divorce) in the last 10, 20, even 30 years— and you didn’t allow yourself to grieve and process your emotions appropriately, this can often profoundly affect your current loss of a relationship today and further fuel the pain and obsession.


Another factor that will no doubt contribute to how long withdrawal will last is the amount of contact and communication you have with an ex-partner, your drug.

Every time you have contact it is like a recovering alcoholic still experiencing symptoms of his or her withdrawal, stopping by to a local bar, sitting down, and taking one or two shots or more-- which temporarily provides relief. Contact is like a heroin addict taking a relieving hit of the pipe.

A no contact rule is critical to your healing process.


Why is withdrawing from an ex (usually a love avoidant and/or narcissist) so intense... Why does withdrawal sometimes feel like dying? - You may ask.


The answer: 

Love addiction is a powerful addiction that causes lots and lots of pain. Like any other addiction, no one escapes the negative consequences. 

Moreover-- you likely have experienced wounding in childhood; childhood losses, trauma, and abandonment which are unresolved and you have repressed. 

With the help of counseling, an expert in love addiction-- facing these experiences, grieving them, and letting them go can be profoundly helpful in recovery.


Your Brain In Love Withdrawal- Is In Biochemical Readjustment Mode

It’s essential to keep in mind that when you are going through withdrawal, your brain is in a readjustment period.

Addiction, including love addiction—initially puts your brain in an unnatural state of balance. Intense romantic love initially releases high levels of an essential ‘feel-good’ chemical, dopamine, which gets the reward circuit activated, which causes euphoria-- similar to cocaine and heroin. 

This activated dopamine in our brain reward center, is the “high” love addicts strive to keep going as a romantic relationship progresses.

When the addiction supply has run out (romantic partner disappears- relationship loss),  it is like removing cocaine from a cocaine addict's life – the result is a painful emotional and physical withdrawal.

Because of the biochemical changes in the brain, such as dopamine, have been on overload as a result of this addiction, many brain chemicals are also depleted. 

Love addiction also depletes the neurotransmitter, serotonin in the brain setting off obsessive, anxiety-ridden thoughts, --the obsessive-compulsive behaviors associated with infatuation. 

So part of the process of overcoming withdrawal is to realize we must temporarily tolerate some of the pain and uneasiness while being mindful that your brain (which has been in an addictive state for some time) is going through a period of readjustment, or getting back to biochemical homeostasis. 

We must ‘lean into the pain”, acknowledge and face the discomfort of withdrawal, knowing you will live through it; you will not go ‘crazy,’ and you will come out stronger than you were before.  

By ‘leaning into the pain’ and face it head-on---you will allow your body and mind to detoxify and finally rid the self of withdrawal symptoms and overwhelming desire to act out toxic relational patterns.

However, we must not try doing this on our own. 

We need support. 

We need tools. 

We need one or more persons (healthy safe persons) to, in a sense, hold our hands in this process. 

We truly need reminders to keep reality in check, validation, and encouragement.

By doing what is right through this process (support, tools, healthy self-care) --you will significantly reduce the impact so you get through this period. 


You might say to yourself, "No Way – I can’t take this… it’s not worth it" 

But the truth is, it is worth it. You are worth it.


Also, you are not alone. 


How to overcome the symptoms of love addiction withdrawal?


You may be experiencing the unexpected withdrawal symptoms from a relationship that has ended or one that is on the verge of ending.

You might feel "crazy", insane like you're dying. 

Let me just say off the bat-you are not going crazy. You are not insane, or crazy. You are going to be ok. I understand what you are going through. Withdrawing from so-called “love” because of love addiction is an extremely agonizing experience.

The obsessions, the emptiness, the panic, the sense of not knowing who you are; the feeling of never finding love again... it all can feel insurmountable.

You feel like you don’t know what to do or how you will get through it-it seems like it will never end. It will come to an end-- and hopefully, you come out much stronger and wiser as a result of this experience-- this is possible.

In a sense, what you’re feeling is an important part of you that has been trying to surface; one in which you have been avoiding or postponing for a long time now, yet you have never been able to outrun it.

Far too often, the painful symptoms of withdrawal are so unexpected and bewildering that it leads many people to ongoing relapse in which there is a return to unhealthy behaviors, unhealthy relationships, and no healing-- an ongoing pattern that will no doubt continue in the years to come.


But this does not have to be you.


Although it feels unbearable and unending-- you will survive. In fact, if you take healthy steps (steps I recommend) to take care of yourself during this period of withdrawal, you won't only survive, you will thrive and become emotionally stronger than you ever have been.

I can look back at my experience of entering what seemed like the deepest and darkest hole I ever saw and can honestly say--  I am extremely thankful it all happened.


I know if I did not go through this experience,  you would not be reading this and I would not have had the life I have now. It was a true blessing. And I know when you're experiencing this right now that just sounds impossible, like rubbish, I understand.

But I do believe if I was able to get through love withdrawal, so could you. 


As hard as it is right now, it's important to see this as a chance in your life for real healing and change-- for the moment, try your best. 


But this will only be true if you don't run and escape... healing and learning from this experience will only be true for you if you take the steps that will help you break the toxic pattern. 


Certainly not doing anything or believing another romantic partner is the answer, or returning to your toxic relationship will lead you back to where you are today- it's almost a gaurantee.  

Don't accept the lies in your head of what your love addiction may be trying to say to you.


The experience of withdrawing provides you the opportunity to embrace recovery and future happiness- I know by experience.  It's hard but worth it.

If you find yourself descending into an endless negative thinking pattern and feeling stuck, it is crucial to seek therapy to help you move forward to a healthy and hopeful path. 


You will get through withdrawal- you will feel better.


Honor yourself and your life. Invest in your wellbeing- you have a right to do so. Step into self-care and recovery.

Author: Jim Hall MS is a love addiction specialist and online recovery expert who helps those struggling with love addiction discover a healthy path to overcome obsessive dependency patterns, develop the skills, self-love, and self-assurance to have healthy, happy relationships.

For a personal consultation- advice, and/or relationship and recovery support with Jim Hall -- Online Love Addiction Coaching.



If You Are Facing Love Withdrawal from a Breakup or Divorce...

Dissipate the Excruciating, Obsessive Symptoms of Love Withdrawal.

Surviving Withdrawal: The Breakup Workbook for Love Addicts



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