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The Meaning of Addiction

By Jim Hall, MS, Love Addiction Specialist

It's often surprising to many first learning about love addiction that 'love' can be a real addiction- the fact is love addiction is a very real and quite painful addiction. A love addict know this reality quite well.
Addiction is characterized by the repeated, compulsive seeking or use of a substance, behavior, or activity to reach euphoric states in the brain, despite negative consequences (harmful consequences to the individuals health, mental state or social life). 

It is often accompanied by physical or psychological dependence, withdrawal syndrome and tolerance. The more one uses the addiction of choice; obsession and preoccupation for that addiction increase. 

Here are six common indicators of ALL addictions:

1. The Object of Desire. There is always an object of desire (which creates the 'high'; euphoria) -- the substance, thing, activity, or relationship that drives the addiction; that sparks obsessive thoughts and drives compulsive behavior.

2. Preoccupation. There's an ongoing obsession with the drug or choice/object of desire; a reliance and dependence that drives the addiction.

3. Compulsive Behaviors. There is a compulsion to satisfy the urges and cravings; to keep the 'high' going; and satisfy the obsession that drives the addicts behavior.

4. Lack of Control. When there is addiction, there is a lack of control over thoughts, compulsions, or behaviors when it comes to the object of desire. This is apparent when addicts try to stop or cut back on a chosen addiction-- it is the hallmark and a central defining feature of addiction and dependence.

5. Dependence. There is a dependence on the object of desire, physical or psychological, or both; so only that one thing can satisfy the desire and fulfill (at least temporarily) the addict.

6. Negative Consequences. Inevitably, addiction is always accompanied by negative, destructive  consequences.
(Staying Sober: A Guide for Relapse Prevention." Independence, MO: Herald House/Independence Press. Rich, P., & Copans, S. A. (2000).)

* Note: these six indicators are noticeably observed in love addiction patterns.

Examples of why addicts use their drug of choice:

  • Escape emotional pain
  • Attempt to feel good about the self
  • Attempt to fill internal emptiness
  • Escape reality
  • Escape boredom
  • Escape loneliness
  • Relieve sense of anxiety, hopelessness
  • Feel connected; sense of having purpose
  • Coping mechanism

Initially, a person is drawn to an addiction because of the way it affects his or her emotions; that is, the euphoric, exhilarated, ecstatic feelings; the euphoric escape from life's realities. When a person becomes 'hooked' or dependent on euphoric feelings associated with something outside (substance or behavior) - an addiction occurs. 

Numerous studies clearly prove that addiction is strongly associated with the brains reward- 'feel good' system. When the object of desire stimulates the neuro-circuits and chemistry of the brain is forced to adapt to the chosen addiction (i.e., alcohol, drugs) that is continually relied upon.

For addicts, an addiction can act as a lubricant to cope with missing or unfulfilled needs, which arise from unpleasant events or situations in ones life (past or present)-- temporarily allowing the addict to disregard, "forget", deny, or repress problems, emotions, and often times, stuff away carried shame from childhood experiences. 

Until the last several decades, it was assumed that people could only get addicted to mood altering substances which had to be snorted, swallowed, smoked, or shot in the body with a needle. Since then, numerous studies have been conducted to explore the relationship between thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and brain chemistry. 

People can and do become addicted not only to substances, but to mood altering compulsive activities and behaviors 

It is now known that people can and do become addicted not only to substances put into ones body, but to mood altering activities and behaviors which create almost identical euphoric states to that of mood altering substances- these are called Process Addictions (love addiction).

Discovering you're a love addict is not an easy thing to acknowledge or accept- no problem we're faced with is always easy to accept at first. In most of us, the word addict often invokes shameful feelings based on the cultural stigma in society that addicts are bad or somehow flawed people-- this is not the fact; don't believe it. Millions of people have faced the disease of addiction.  

Acknowledge the fact that addiction is NOT who you are-- it is a serious problem you have... a problem you CAN overcome if you choose.

Denial is a powerful force in addiction. If you're first discovering you are a love addict- it's important to start the process to break your denial of love addiction (note: often, love addicts don't even recognize their denial).  

Where to start?

Start with learning all you can about this addiction and begin the crucial steps to break free. GATEWAY to Recovery will help guide you with how to jumpstart you on a solid path of recovering from love addiction.

Start your recovery today: 

Get answers and become empowered by registering for a coaching session with an expert - Love Addiction Recovery Help

If you are breaking up and in withdrawal- this recovery workbook will help: Surviving Love Withdrawal

Learn all about love and relationship addiction by reading: The Love Addict in Love Addiction

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