Can you imagine love so all-encompassing that nothing else matters? For those addicted to love, obsessive attachment is a reality. It is also the ideal, a goal to be achieved.
While there is hotly contested debate in the mental health community regarding the matter, there is a general consensus that “addition to love” is as real, and as destructive, as any other kind of addiction. Also known as “pathological love,” the behaviors that characterize this affliction consists of a pattern of consistent, maladaptive and excessive focus on one, or more, romantic partners.
The intensity of the attraction literally results in renouncing all other interests, including one’s own safety. Immature love, love that is uncertain, external and blind becomes a powerful force that permeates the lives of those addicted.
Love – No Matter the Cost
When love becomes the primary focus of existence, every hour of the day becomes “love centric.” Work, friendships and ones’ own safety become irrelevant. All efforts area built around keeping, maintain and securing love. Even fiscal security is on the proverbial chopping block. Whatever the cost, emotional or financial, all efforts are direct at love, nothing else. Self-preservation is not a consideration.
What separates addiction to love from dependent personality disorder or borderline personality disorder is that they are not confined to just romantic love. They include other concerns. It also differs from sex addiction and erotomania, the belief that a person, often a person of high status, is in love with the individual.
Exactly where does love addiction fall when it comes to behavioral health categories? This is an area not clearly defined. Professional opinions vary, widely. One perspective is that this is an “impulse control disorder,” marked by both impulsivity and novelty-seeking. Another view is that this as a “mood disorder” defined by mania and elevated mood, something related to the first stages of romantic love.
How Does Love Addiction Begin?
Most experts agree that love addiction begins in childhood. Such things as neglect, abuse, trauma, even sexual abuse at a young age, can be causes. When a child experiences their parents go through a combative hostile divorce, this can distort their view of relationships. This potentially creates attachment disorders later. Addiction to love can become a survival pattern as a result of attempting to fill the emotional voids created by childhood abandonment.
Can Love Addiction Be Treated?
When it comes to a treatment for love addiction, there is no consensus on what is most effective. There are options that may work either alone or in tandem with other approaches. The use of self-help groups and peer support can certainly alleviate the isolation, and perhaps the shame.
Robin Norwood’s “Women Who Love Too Much,” has been a popular program assisting women who equate love with pain. Keep in mind, love addiction is not confined to one gender. There are an increasing number of books and support groups for anyone of any gender dealing with this serious matter.
Forms of therapy that may prove to be helpful in proving treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This can help in challenging distorted and unhealthy thoughts about love, relationships and attachments.
In the area of medication, pharmacological treatments such as mood stabilizers and anti-depressants could hold promise for some. Bupropion has been used as a treatment for one of the most addictive habits, smoking. So, who knows what medications are possible to treat this addictive behavior now or in the near future? Studies remain ongoing.
Research, definitions and treatments programs are essential, but they cannot work if those living with love addiction do not recognize they have a problem. Shame, embarrassment and the inability to realize that there is a problem are reasons why help is not sought. The reality is that you do not have to suffer alone, and you indeed are not alone. The important thing is to speak up and seek help and know there is something you can do to change your situation for the better. The help is out there.