Love addiction is a serious form of codependency where one person places such a high value on another person (partner, friend, family member, etc.) that the relationship becomes all consuming, and the primary focus of the love addict’s attention.
In relationships impacted by love addiction, the love addict makes their partner their higher power.
While love addiction is not an official mental health diagnosis, it is a debilitating condition that can be even more difficult to recover from than other addictions.
In early discovery and disclosure, partners of sex addicts may exhibit traits of love addiction. For example, the partner may be preoccupied and distracted by persistent thoughts about the addict. She may feel intense anxiety when she doesn’t know the addict’s whereabouts or can’t get in touch with him. These symptoms are a result of deception and trauma, and not necessarily a sign of love addiction.
When partners of sex addicts suffer from love addiction, they spend inordinate amounts of time obsessing, ruminating, and seeking information about the sex addict’s activities well beyond early discovery and disclosure.
When love addiction is severe, the love-addicted person may monitor, follow, harass, or even stalk the object of their obsession. They may demand to know all of the addict’s thoughts and fantasies.
Most love addicts come from dysfunctional and/or addictive family systems where their emotional needs weren’t met. They usually experienced emotional neglect and abandonment by one or both parents.
Abandonment creates intense anxiety in children because they depend on their caretakers for their very survival. The anxiety created by neglect and abandonment is carried forward into adulthood until recovery or other intensive healing work is done.
The anxiety love addicts feel mimics the kind of anxiety a very young child would feel if they were separated from a caregiver.
This is one of the reasons love addicted individuals will often feel as though their survival is dependent on having or being with the object of their addiction.
Here are 10 questions to help you determine whether or not love addiction may be an issue for you:*
- Do you find yourself unable to stop seeing a specific person even though you know that the relationship is destructive to you?
- Have you ever believed that if a romantic relationship ended you wouldn’t be able to live without the other person?
- Have you had or do you have sex with the addict when you didn’t want to?
- Do you find yourself obsessing about a specific person even though these thoughts bring pain, craving or discomfort?
- Do you feel desperate about your need for a partner or future mate?
- Do you believe that being in a relationship will make your life bearable?
- When you were growing up, did you often feel invisible or that your parents (or caregivers) didn’t truly know or “see” you?
- Do you find yourself in a relationship that you cannot leave?
- Are you unable to concentrate on other areas of your life because of thoughts or feelings you are having about another person?
- Do you feel that you would have no identity if you were not someone’s lover?
If you answered “yes” to more than 5 of these questions you may be struggling with love addiction. Because love addiction is a chronic, long-term issue, it’s important to educate yourself and seek treatment if the consequences you’re experiencing are severe.
Because love addiction is rooted in family of origin trauma, love addicts must do in-depth family of origin work. This work helps love addicts begin the process of resolving the original issues that led to their current relationship challenges. Find out more about family of origin intensives here.
Twelve-step groups such as Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) or Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA), can be helpful resources for anyone impacted by love addiction. (See Resources for a list of 12-step organizations and recommended reading.)
*Adapted from The Augustine Fellowship’s 40 Questions for Self-Diagnosis and Pia Mellody’s Love Addiction Memory Jogger.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2015)
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