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What Is Love Addiction?
Addictive Relationships

By Jim Hall MS, Love Addiction Recovery Specialist


An individual with Love Addiction will experience an unhealthy attachment to a person or feelings of euphoria. While this attraction usually has a romantic or sexual component, love addiction is primarily about a desire for intense emotional connection. It is often driven by an attempt to satisfy unmet emotional needs.


Love addiction is considered a behavioral addiction as the addictive lover becomes overly dependent and obsessed with a romantic partner (usually an insecure-avoidant or narcissist), creating an addictive relationship. This compulsive dependency fuels a push-pull cycle that negatively affects the two individuals involved-- the insecurely attached love addict and love avoidant.


Falling in love can be the most wonderful of all emotions-- creating a sense of euphoria, loss of time, and a powerful motivation to bond with a partner.

Love is a beautiful thing.


However, when love turns into an addiction –- it could veer out of control and enter the realm of pathology.


Love addiction is when someone gets addicted to one particular person, carried out by obsessive, compulsive, and maladaptive behaviors. Like any addiction, it is used to provide an addictive lover with a sense of meaning and purpose.

People fall into many categories of addictions (alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, etc.) -- love addiction is one of the categories- and is a big one! And is much more common than many people realize.

Addictive relationships significantly diminish the capacity to experience healthy relational intimacy and often severely impacts emotional health and well-being.

Where other addicts may obsess about their drug choices such as alcohol, heroin, gambling, or sex— for love addicts, it is the one person in a romantic relationship.

People first learning of love addiction may often think “How could love addiction be real-- how can someone be addicted to something seemingly good, love?

Research is showing remarkable parallels between the naturally rewarding phenomena associated with love with that of addictive drugs such as alcohol, heroin, or cocaine--- and findings suggest that 'love' can indeed (for some) become a pathological dependency that causes havoc in people's lives.

"When you're in the throes of romantic love it's overwhelming, you're out of control, you're irrational, you're going to the gym at 6 a.m. every day -- why? said Dr. Helen Fisher, Ph.D., an anthropologist at Rutgers University and the co-author of a study on the brain and romantic love. "And when rejected, some people contemplate stalking, homicide, suicide.

This drive for romantic love can be stronger than the will to live." Passionate romantic love is associated with many traits linked with all addictions and has led a number of researchers and psychologists to conclude that romantic love can become an addiction.


Signs of addictive relationships might include: 

  • Avoidance
  • Enmeshment/engulfment/smothering
  • Perceives drama and intensity as bonding/intimacy and normal
  • Sense of worthlessness/emptiness without a relationship partner
  • Difficulty accepting responsibility
  • Consuming obsessions of love
  • Irrational/distorted beliefs about relationships
  • Hero, Entitlement, and pathological giving
  • Boundary Collapse
  • Impression Management
  • Conflict Avoidance 
  • Fear of Intimacy/Being known/Vulnerability


The negative consequences of love addiction can vary. Depending on the level or extreme of one’s love addiction, negative consequences can range from violence (to others or self) to increased feelings of shame, depression, impaired emotional growth, chronic emptiness, loneliness, and loss of intimacy and enjoyment in life. 

In the extreme- love addiction may cause more murders and suicides than any other addiction. 


Addictive relationships negatively affect both partners. They are full of toxic 'push-pull' relationship patterns, love-hate dynamics, drama, and intensity, where negative intensity and obsessive thinking are mistaken for intimacy and connection.


Denial, fantasy, and impaired expectations fuel these dysfunctional relationships.

By definition, addiction or dependence is a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific behavior or activity, despite harmful consequences to the individual's health, mental state, or social life.


Most people know about addictions to substances like alcohol and drugs, but not many people understand that love addiction is just as real and just as destructive-- and often more painful, as other addictions.

Because this addiction is not well understood by most helping professionals, it often goes untreated for the countless individuals suffering.


The addiction to so-called "love" lays a toxic, obsessive, and unhealthy dependency on another person. 


Love Addicts can become overly dependent and reliant on any person- a friend, parent, acquaintance, coworker, child, celebrity- just so long as the person/object helps to provide an emotional escape from reality--  just as alcohol, cocaine, or any other addiction would for an addict.

Most commonly- love addiction occurs in interpersonal or romantic love relationships.

The intense dependency on a romantic partner results in unhealthy behaviors, compulsions, and obsessions.

If a love addict had any sense of purpose and self-worth before becoming 'hooked', it dissolves once his or her obsession kicks in (the object- drug of choice) -- which allows the love addict to feel alive; gain a sense of purpose; gain a sense of value, and help to increase a sense of self-worth.



Like heroin addicts, love addicts abandon themselves as all their energy becomes preoccupied with their drug of choice; a fabricated love relationship.


Dispelling the falsehood that one actually becomes addicted to love, the truth is love addiction is not an addiction to real love. While a love addict may look as if they are pursuing real love, they are in fact running away from real intimacy.

To the love-addicted, this truth can be quite astonishing.

Why is this?

Because a love addict often believes real love is actually happening in their addictive relationship-- it appears (or feels) to have some level of intimacy, but in fact, addictive relationships have very little if any, love and intimacy going on.

Truth is... real love is never addictive-- and addiction is never about love.


Love addiction is a compulsive, obsessive, and dysfunctional dependency on a person in a relationship.


The addiction to love is, in reality, an addiction to a fantasy of another person in the relationship. The fantasy feeds the obsession and powerful denial of the other person- and creates the illusion of true love, intimacy, and closeness.


Healthy love, which shows up in healthy attached relationships, has characteristics of genuine intimacy (emotional and physical), honesty, flexibility, trust, respect, safety, and authentic commitment- just to name a few.


In all addictions, there are warning signs- and all addicts deny or severely minimize these warning signs.


In their addiction, love addicts ignore and deny warning signs of their partner (Love Avoidant, who is also unhealthy) in order to keep up the addictive pleasure-inducing rewards (pleasure-inducing rewards are brought about by the reward center of the brain that enhances certain brain chemicals, such as dopamine and endorphin). 


The romantic "high" when a relationship begins is created by the love addict's delusion and fabrication; they "make up" about who their partner is and ignore who their partner really is-- this is what they become addicted to- their drug of choice.


In the love addict's delusion of love- their partner or potential partner becomes-  "too good to be true"- their "Prince or Princess"- "the one I always dreamed about"- "soul mates"- "magical"- "perfect."

In their deep infatuation, the love addict never notices who their partner truly is.


Love addiction is an addiction to a pseudo-love / false love -- in essence, the addiction is to a FANTASY. YES, IT'S TRUE.


A Love addict idealizes their relationship partner and places them high up on a pedestal- believing they have the power to fulfill their intense desire for love and acceptance. They most often become attached to a love avoidant and/or narcissist.


They fantasize about how the relationship is, how it will be, and how it can be. They believe they are in love when in fact; they are "hooked" on a fantasy. Preoccupation, obsession, and infatuation in an addictive relationship become the love addict's identity, their sole purpose in life--and eventually their demise.


When we look at the nature of other addictions, it is easy to realize a parallel pattern in relation to love addiction. For example, the following pattern generally fits all Addiction/Dependency Patterns.

General Addiction and Dependency Patterns (for all addictions)


Altered State of Reality:

Addiction is used as an emotional escape; feels alive; Creates an altered state- fantasy, high, euphoria, and relief.


Diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of behavior, activity, love/attention (person in the relationship), substance/drug, etc.; increased dependency/addiction to keep or recapture euphoria, intoxication, or desired positive effect.

Preoccupation; Pursuing Behavior:

A great deal of focus and time is acquired to attain/keep hold of- behavior, activity, love/attention (person in the relationship), substance/drug, etc.

Neglect/Self Abandonment:

Interests, goals, and important social, recreational, or outside activities are diminished, ignored, or stopped completely.


The addiction is continued despite ongoing persistent problems from behavior, activity, love/attention (person in the relationship), substance/drug, etc.- an inability to stop acting out (i.e., letting go of unhealthy/bad relationships).


Physical and/or Psychological withdrawal symptoms occur when the addiction is stopped; or when the addiction is no longer available (i.e., obsession, fear, panic, anxiety, depression, etc.)

The LOVE ADDICT in Love Addiction goes into detail about this pattern that occurs in love addiction (the addictive relationship cycle)

Many people are often surprised to learn that people can, in fact, become painfully addicted to a person in relationships in the same way they become addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other compulsive behaviors.


There are some people who will argue that addictive love is a "made-up" condition. Their primary argument is that it's not categorized specifically under any mental diagnosis by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual for Mental Health Professionals). "If it's not in the DSM, then the problem does not exist"-- is their thinking.  



Nevertheless, Love Addiction is well recognized and treated at prominent rehab facilities around the US and across the globe as a serious condition that causes undue turmoil, confusion, emotional pain, and chaos in a person's life and relationships.


And at these well-respected treatment centers, the people helping and treating love and relationship addicts are nonetheless Psychologists, Therapists, Counselors, Coaches; Doctors, Nurses... respected and well-trained helping professionals.


For those who currently face or have experienced the pain, obsession, and various symptoms of love addiction-- know all too well how real this problem is.


What makes love addiction so pervasive is that far too many people do not even recognize the obsessive toxic symptoms of love addiction. And if they do, too often there is nowhere to turn for exceptional help, answers, and support.


This is slowly changing-- but yet, countless people still seek help unbeknownst to what's happening to them and why.


They might meet with a local therapist with little if any knowledge of the problem and lack the skills to recover effectively. This is all too common.


So there are countless people still dealing with this issue who are still lost and left in the dark. 


Love Addiction-- Society and culture of dependent toxic love


In Western Society, we get bombarded through media, commercials, magazines, movies, music, etc.) with unhealthy messages of what love, relationships, and intimacy are supposed to look like-- deceiving too many of us with the sick message that the obsessive nature of love addiction is somehow normal.

When so many of us have unknowingly bought into these destructive messages, it, unfortunately, fuels the false hope that another person will make us feel complete and fill an inner void.

Although we have been socialized to think of these obsessions as love, the compelling allure of obsessive attraction lacks real love and the quality of true caring.

Those at high risk for relationship addiction include recovering alcoholics/addicts who use relationships as a form of substitution and/or individuals who grow up in alcoholic/dysfunctional family systems.

As human beings, we all need relationships. We all need to feel love and to be loved.

Nevertheless, when we rely on or "need" someone in a relationship solely to feel alive, gain acceptance, a sense of self-worth and validation--- this creates a powerful dependency/addiction leading to ongoing negative consequences; eventually painful relationships, a destroyed sense of self and unhappiness in life.



If you are dealing with an addictive love relationship - do you ever ask yourself:


"Do I want to continue relationships in love addiction for years to come, or do I truly want to learn a new way of loving; a way of loving that works, that is healthy, real, and authentic, brings me fulfillment, and allows me to be me"? Knowing if you do not do something different; that if you do not start making healthy choices as an adult to better take care of yourself- "this unfulfilled path I've been walking will continue on and on and on and on!"

The behavioral and emotional patterns of love addiction are emotionally ingrained --- you cannot will it away, wish it away; but you do have the power to make positive changes by what choices you make from today onward.

As an adult, you have ownership of every choice you make, and you are in charge of change, healing, and recovery -- even in the midst of feeling powerless. You can overcome and break your addiction to love.



Author: Jim Hall MS is a former therapist turned 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 personal consultation- advice, and/or relationship and recovery support – go to Online Love Addiction Coaching.

Learn much more about Love Addiction (the Love Addict) and unravel the crazy-making dynamics of an addictive relationship between the love addict and love avoidant, in my book... The LOVE ADDICT in Love Addiction


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