Is it Love or Addiction?

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Bob Livingstone is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCS 11087) in private practice for 22 years in San Francisco, California. He holds a Masters Degree ...Read More

Is Love an addiction?

Love addiction is an unhealthy fixation on someone, often mistaking intense neediness for love. It differs from deep romantic feelings by its compulsive nature, leading to neglect of personal well-being for the sake of the relationship. Love addiction is about dependency and fear, while true love promotes mutual growth and respect.

The issue of determining if you are in love or intensely addicted to another is an issue that crosses all ethnic, racial, class and age lines. How love is experienced in a modern world that values materialism more than anything else? It is challenging to define love today. I believe love is mutual self-less giving that is based on a deep trust. The characteristics of addiction are craving of a person, severe mood swings if unable to feel secure in the relationship, inability to function normally, obsession of your partner and severe withdrawal symptoms if your lover leaves you.

Love Vs. Addiction

So, what is the difference between being in love from being addicted?


The characteristics of being addicted to someone else are:

  1. There is full time drama in your life which causes chaos and confusion. Other friends and family members are dragged into your emotional upheaval.
  2. You are always trying to please your partner by giving more of yourself than you should – until you reach the point where you have no self at all.
  3. After intense fighting, you are willing to take your partner back no matter how much he or she hurt you. The fight usually involves infidelity, lying, and other forms of cheating, but you take your partner back no matter how many times these offenses were committed.
  4. You are afraid to exist without your partner even though you have been very much alone during your time with him/her. You don’t recognize that he/she is bringing you down.
  5. Your partner crosses a boundary that should never be allowed. He/she physically assaults you, threatens your life and calls you stupid, the c word and the b word.
  6. You feel that it is your job to rescue him/her from the inner hell no matter how abusive he or she is towards you.

The characteristics of being in love with someone are:

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  1. There is no fear of bodily harm, emotional abuse or other boundary violations.
  2. You know you can trust your partner to do the right thing.
  3. There is a distinct absence of drama and chaos.
  4. When you have an argument, there is a respectful sharing of feelings.
  5. You forgive your partner because you want to, not because you have to.
  6. Your partner supports your need to be a strong, independent person and you support your partner’s need to be the same.

You now have the opportunity to choose between being driven by addiction or love in your relationships. For those of you who have been relating to others in an addictive manner, it will take lots of work and full time awareness to alter this course. However, it is possible to change and this will greatly improve the quality of your life.

The Impact of Love Addiction

The impact of love addiction extends deep into an individual’s psychological well-being, often fostering dependency and low self-esteem. Individuals caught in the cycle of love addiction may find themselves prioritizing the relationship over their own needs and identity, leading to a profound sense of emptiness and inadequacy when not in a relationship or when the relationship is going through turmoil. This dependency is not just emotional; it often translates into a tangible neglect of personal health, ambitions, and social connections.

Psychologically, love addiction can manifest through anxiety, depression, and a persistent fear of abandonment, which exacerbates the individual’s sense of dependency on their partner for emotional validation and self-worth. The addiction to the highs and lows of a relationship can also mimic substance dependency, where the person experiences withdrawal symptoms in the absence of their partner’s attention or affection.

In essence, love addiction not only disrupts personal development and self-esteem but also poses a serious challenge to one’s overall mental health and quality of life, highlighting the importance of recognizing and addressing it within therapeutic contexts.

Navigating Through Love Addiction

Navigating through love addiction and embarking on the journey toward recovery involves several critical steps, each marking progress in overcoming dependency and rebuilding self-esteem. 

Recognizing the Problem

The first, often most challenging step, is acknowledging the presence of love addiction. This recognition may come from self-reflection or feedback from trusted friends or family. Identifying the patterns that distinguish addiction from healthy love—such as obsessive thoughts, neglect of personal well-being, and staying in harmful relationships—is crucial.

Seeking Professional Help

Once the problem is acknowledged, the next step is to seek professional help. Therapists specializing in addiction and relationship issues can provide the necessary guidance and strategies for addressing love addiction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and other therapeutic approaches have proven effective in treating the underlying issues of dependency and self-esteem.

Incorporating self-help strategies alongside professional guidance—such as mindfulness practices, building a supportive network of friends and family, and engaging in activities that promote self-worth and independence—can further enhance recovery. Remember, overcoming love addiction is a process, one that requires patience, self-compassion, and commitment to personal growth.

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