When most people think of addiction, the topic that normally comes to mind is substance abuse, a dependence on alcohol or drugs. As modern psychiatry and psychology have made further inroads into the world of personality disorders, however, it has been discovered that some people can have an addiction to love. The syndrome can take on many faces, but in its most simple definition a love addiction involves a fixation or obsession with the feeling of being in love. A love addiction is more times than not related to insecurity, self esteem issues, codependency, or a host of similar afflictions. It is not uncommon for a love addiction to be coupled with an addiction to sex, but this is not always the case.
Love addicts can be classified in general categories of codependency, narcissism, and ambivalence. Under these three types, there are many sub-categories, and most people who suffer from a love addiction will exhibit a wide combination of behaviors. As a rule, a codependent person with a love addiction does not think highly of himself and possess low self-esteem. It is not unusual that he will form a relationship with a narcissist, who also suffers from low self-esteem but covers the problem via dominant and controlling behavior. An ambivalent love addict will enter a relationship fully believing that he will see it through, but will break off all contact and close bonds when faced with his partner’s desire for greater intimacy and commitment.
Some love addictions, once referred to as unrequited love, are actually psychological obsessions. Someone who is consumed with a past relationship may engage in behaviors destructive to himself or others. Stalking or harassing the object of one’s perceived affections is not unusual. Love addicts often idealize another person, placing him on a pedestal and forming unrealistic expectations. Some people might find such attention flattering, for a time, but will normally end the relationship when the addict’s actions transform into extreme attachment and a constant need for reassurance.
The person who suffers from a love addiction is rarely aware of how his actions are affecting others, and would not consider himself an addict in the least. He often believes he feels more deeply than others, and when he is rebuffed, may well slip into a long-term and very deep depression. At times, one who engages in a love addiction really does not care about the person whom he is with. In this case, the addict is fanatically attached to the idea or concept of a relationship in and of itself. Love addictions of all sorts can be helped via counseling, with the best results arising from 12-step programs modeled after organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA®).