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The term "love addiction" is a bit of a misnomer. Love addicts aren't really in love with the person who is the object of their affection. Instead, the addiction surrounds a series of compulsive actions that the person is unable to stop.
Love addicts may have an established pattern of brief, but very intense, romantic relationships. If they have a long-term relationship, it is characterized by many highs and lows. Another pattern is when the person withdraws completely from romantic and/or sexual relationships, as a kind of anorexia, to avoid feeling vulnerable. In all these cases, the love addict is focusing a lot of energy on romantic relationships, whether they are involved in one, looking for the next one, or avoiding them altogether.
There are a number of signs that point to a love addiction. Here are some that you can interpret as being red flags:
The causes of love addiction may be traced back to childhood. A person who lacks self-esteem or who never felt they were "special" enough just the way they are may grow up looking to other people to give them constant reassurance that they are OK.
Other people who are addicted to love enjoy the feeling of excitement that being "in love" brings. They have multiple romantic relationships or create drama in their main one (an "unplanned pregnancy," rushing into marriage, or using violence or threats when their partner wants to leave) to get another "fix."
A person who is addicted to love is unable to stop their self-destructive behavior, even in spite of negative consequences, including:
Love addiction treatment can take the form of supportive therapy, a 12-step programs like Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, or both. As in the case of sex addiction, the goal is not to expect the person to live a loveless existence for the rest of their lives. Instead, they need to stop constantly focusing on attracting a love partner or obsessing about one they have lost and move toward a more positive relationship with a real person, not an idealized fantasy of the Beautiful Princess or Prince Charming. Codependents Anonymous could also be of help, as it guides members towards developing healthy relationships.
Recovery for a person who is ready to quit using an addiction to love as a way to avoid intimacy will involve setting rules for love sobriety. They, with the help of a sponsor or therapist, need to set limits on their behavior. For example, they may decide that flirting is off limits, or sexual intimacy will not take place within the first 30 days of dating. Over time, they learn how to manage their obsessions and are better able to have a healthy relationship with another person.
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