Sober But Addicted to Love

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What is Love Addiction?

When a person is addicted to the process of loving someone it is called love addiction. A love addict develops an unhealthy attachment to another person. That person doesn’t necessarily have to be a romantic interest, it could be a parent, child, friend or even someone they have never met before. Love addicts can end up in codependent or dysfunctional relationships because of their addiction to the intense feelings of lust. The love addict will seek a partner that is emotionally unavailable or abusive and because of their fear of intimacy will stay in the unhealthy relationship. Addiction to love and addiction to a substance aren’t all that different. A love addict is drawn to the excitement and “high” of a new relationship much like someone who enjoys the high of drugs. Oxytocin, also called the “love hormone” plays a large role in relationships in general but for the addict the calming feeling that the hormone triggers becomes like a drug to them. In fact, when the addict is in the recovery phase the withdrawal is much like that of substance abusers. Some withdrawal symptoms can be anxiety, nausea, changes in weight, and depression. According to Psychology Today, “Levels of phenylethylamine (PEA) — a chemical in the brain involved in the euphoria that comes with falling in love — rise with feelings of infatuation, boosting euphoria and excitement. Love and sex addicts may simply be dependent upon (this) physical and psychological arousal triggered by PEA …” The love addict isn’t addicted to actual love, often times they fear intimacy and closeness. The addict may go to great lengths to please the partners that they are with, forgoing their own interests and pushing away friendships and family to feel closer to their partner. The addict can ultimately sabotage their own relationships because they themselves feel unworthy of love. This can be a reason why the addict has a history of short lived relationships. People with a history of neglect or abandonment by a caregiver are at risk of becoming codependent or love addicts in relationships.

Is Love Addiction Different from a Porn Addiction?

Love addiction and sex addiction are both disorders that deal with issues stemming from the addicts feelings on intimacy. A sex addict can be described as someone who compulsively engages in sexual acts. These acts can include persistently looking for and using porn, engaging in sex with unknown people, or compulsive masturbation. A love addict will cling on to the other person in the relationship, sometimes another unstable person. This can create an atmosphere for the extreme lust that the addict is looking for. When the high of the unhealthy relationship fades or the love addict sabotages a relationship they go through a withdrawal phase. The withdrawal symptoms of a sex addict and a love addict are virtually the same. Ultimately, these disorders are very similar, the only difference being that actions and behavior are different. The underlying issue causing the disorders generally stem from the same place, emotional intimacy. Pornography addiction means being compulsively addicted to pornographic material despite the negative mental, physical and social effects. It is a behavioral addiction like compulsive internet use or cybersex addiction. Although diagnostic criteria does not exist for this disorder, it is seen as a compulsive disorder. Like pathological gambling or internet addiction, porn addicts see a decrease in the ability to stop, an increase in use over time, as well as adverse mental effects. According to a study on heterosexual disorders, “When this drive becomes intensive and leads to ‘out-of-control’ sexual activity despite negative consequences and risk of harm to one’s emotional and physical health, its protective and evolutionary values are diminished. Similarly, if sexual activity hinders the completion of non-sex-related vital tasks, this evolutionary positive drive has become negative and arguably turned addictive. Males often engage in sexual activity for pleasure and esteem reasons.”

What Are the Signs That I Am a Love Addict?

Do you think you may be a love addict?

  • Constantly craving intense sexual or romantic interactions. You may find yourself “picking up” people and surfing dating websites.
  • Choosing partners that have emotional issues. You may say you may like to help people with problems, but that’s not the way to be looking at the situation.
  • Difficulty being single. You’re never alone and always feel the need to bring a date to parties and social events.
  • The belief that a partner can fix you. You think that you can’t do it alone. You may be waiting for your “Prince Charming” or the “right woman” to come along while avoiding personal development.
  • Taking care of a partner’s needs before self. Once you find a romantic partner, you find yourself doing everything you can to appease them or make them happy (whether they ask for your help or not). You even help them at the expense of your own personal needs.
  • Addicts find it difficult to be alone. You find that without a romantic partner or friend to tag along with you wherever you go, you feel alone. You tend to avoid these situations altogether.
  • Fear of abandonment. You hate feeling left out of social situations, and have a reputation for becoming angry and offended with friends you feel don’t care to invite you places.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Can have additional addictions. As a co-occurring disorder, love addiction may appear alongside PTSD, anxiety disorder or depression.

Questions to ask yourself if you fear you are a love addict:

  1. Are you in a breakup and then make up cycle with a partner?
  2. Do you think to yourself that a person isn’t good for you?
  3. Do close friends advise that your partner isn’t good for you?
  4. Do you feel empty or lost after a day or two of being without your romantic partner?
  5. Do you experience difficulty sleeping, eating, or carrying out other self-care activities after you and someone break up?
  6. Do you need to feel intense emotions in order to feel alive?
  7. Do you feel amazing when the two of you reconnect after a fight or a falling out?

These might be signs that you are in unhealthy relationships. If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, please contact a rehabilitation center that can help evaluate you.

Breaking the Love Addiction Cycle

According to Psychology Today, here are the initial ways to stop the love addiction cycle:

  1. “STOP what you are doing and stand back to observe your own behavior. Take an inventory of your dysfunctional pattern in your current and past relationships. Write it down. Be honest without blaming anyone else for your choices. Unless you are in a committed relationship, do not engage in any potentially romantic interactions for at least 6 months. That includes no texting, emailing, online dating sites, hook ups, introductions bywell-intentionedd friends and family.
  2. As you do your inventory look for the common themes in your relationships. Does there appear to be a similarity between your childhood experiences and your choices as an adult? If so, it is no accident!
  3. If you are not in a relationship right now, consider getting professional help with your self evaluation before you begin your search again. If you are in a relationship, unless you are being abused, don’t make any decisions or demands until you look at yourself honestly.
  4. Ask yourself how life would be if you took responsibility for your own happiness, successes and failures and loved yourself the way you want to be loved.
  5. Make a plan and follow through on a daily basis. You will be lonely, sad and frustrated at times but in the end, you will have the most valuable gift of all. You will know and love yourself. Only then can you choose well and have the real, albeit imperfect relationship you deserve.
  6. As an act of love that will last a lifetime, accept yourself and the one you love AS IS. It may not come with a big red bow but it is one thing you can be sure everyone wants.”

Is There Such a Thing as Love Addiction Withdrawal?

According to Alexandra Katehakis, MFT, CST, CSAT, yes there is. “Symptoms can include insomnia and sleeplessness, flu-like symptoms, vomiting and other stomach ailments, as well as deep depression and grief states. These symptoms require a detoxification process much like drugs and alcohol do and working with a skilled therapist in addition to attending SLAA (Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous) 12-step meetings can be very helpful, if not crucial, for getting through this painful process. Sometimes love addicts elect to go through this process when they reach the depth of despair about the state of their lives and addiction. This is a painful yet necessary step in the recovery process. Sometimes love addicts have to face withdrawal following the abandonment by a partner, often a love-avoidant one.” Some love addicts often have a deep sense of discomfort and have a challenging time experiencing peace or calm due to the highs and lows of their passionate relationships. Responsibilities relating to work, self-care and parenting may fall to the side as they pursue unhealthy relationships. Although, even those relationships seem intense, they rarely provide any intimacy. Instead, these relationships provide a fantasy that does not reflect the reality of their true effectiveness.

Rehabilitation for People with Love Addiction

There is hope if you or a loved one has a love addiction. If you believe you are suffering from love addiction, rehabilitation is essential to gaining back control and living a healthy sexual life. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to break the cycle of porn addiction. CBT focuses on minimizing dysfunctional thought patterns and actions. This is an effective therapeutic approach for those with mood disorders such as depression. The goal is to take self-defeating thoughts and transform them into positive messages. It also tries to find more positive and effective stress coping skills than substance abuse. CBT is often a short-term therapy that addresses immediate problems and includes abstinence from porn use. The resources to get you back to yourself exist. Now is the time to ask for help. If you love someone you believe may be suffering from a porn or sex addiction, intervention services are available. There are ways to overcome this behavior. With the right people and support around you, it’s achievable.