New relationships are exciting and even exhilarating, but sometimes what seems like love ends up being something else. Most often that "something" is sexual attraction, a short-term romance or perhaps love addiction and that initial excitement quickly leads to disappointment, resentment or worse.
Is there really such thing as love addiction? A growing body of research suggests that people can become addicted to the feelings and “high” produced by being in love in much the same way someone might become addicted to the high of drugs, alcohol, gambling or eating. Just as certain substances and behaviors trigger the dopamine reward system in the brain, the feeling of falling in "love" can be a euphoric experience that drives people to extremes. For some people, losing themselves in love over and over again can be a way to keep from facing other problems, whether it's stress at work, family issues or low self-esteem related to issues from childhood.
Signs of Love Addiction
Someone who is addicted to love, romance or relationships may:
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Be excessively needy, clingy or smothering in relationships
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Fall in â��loveâ�� quickly and easily, feeling powerless to control their emotions
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Fantasize constantly about a partner or the future of the relationship
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Feel compelled to always be a in a relationship, even if it is harmful or requires the individual to lower standards
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Mistake sex and romance for love
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Use sex or seduction to get or keep a partnerâ��s interest
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Focus on the relationship to the exclusion of all else, including friends, family, and personal interests
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Feel the need to look or be a certain way to hold on to the relationship
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Choose partners who are addicted, abusive or otherwise unavailable, often resulting in repeated failed relationships
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Return to an unhealthy relationship despite promises to self or others
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Do things they're uncomfortable with to keep the relationship going
Ã¢Â�Â¢ Use sex and/or romantic intensity to cope with loneliness or unhappiness
Distinguishing Real Love
Real love is easiest to distinguish from love addiction a few months into a relationship, when the “high” of new love is beginning to wear off. In a healthy relationship, the couple can weather disagreements, disappointments, and embrace one another’s differences rather than moving on to the next romantic interest at the first sign of a struggle. Love is not a weapon used to make either feel better, a bragging right that helps out-do friends or something that fulfills every fantasy. It’s about finding someone to share life with, rather than clinging to a fantasy about finding a partner to fit a specific mold.
There is no one right way to love; real love comes in many different forms. Some of the common themes in healthy relationships involve frequent as well as positive communication, respect, directly addressing problems, and not ignoring something or blowing anything out of proportion.
People fall somewhere in the middle of the relationship spectrum. Most of us are not love addicts, but there are aspects of almost all relationships that could use improvement. Just as no person is perfect, no relationship is perfect. The more closely someone relates to the description of love addiction, the more that individual should consider talking to a therapist or other treatment professional. Love and relationship addiction can be just as destructive as other addictions. Like addictions to drugs and alcohol, love addiction is treatable with the payoff being the ability to bring real love and genuine intimacy into your life.
Images courtesy of Escapeabuse.com, Liminas.com
Dr. Carolyn Ross is an internationally known physician, author and speaker on addictions, obesity and eating disorders. She serves as a consultant to The Ranchâ��s eating disorder treatment program in Tennessee, maintains a private practice in Denver, is the author of The Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating Workbook: An Integrated Approach to Overcoming Disordered Eating as well as The Joy of Eating Well and also hosts a weekly radio show, The Vital Life.