Are You Addicted to Love?

Addictions often occur when there is an emotional void to be filled. It is not the substance itself that you are addicted to, but rather, the feeling it gives you. Alcohol can give you courage, a sense of calm and confidence. Love and romantic relationships can have a similar effect: you feel special, safe, relaxed, and calm. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can become addicted to a dramatic or even abusive relationship.

Love addiction often goes unnoticed because it is not a tangible substance- like food, drugs, drinking or even sex. You can’t see love and you can’t measure it. However, a love addiction can be just as destructive as any other dependency.
When you are involved in a relationship, your brain releases a special mix of chemicals, all producing various effects on your perception. For example, when you are first falling in love, your stress response kicks in, increasing your adrenaline levels. This activates the feeling of excitement and/or panic, which causes you to sweat, your heart to race, and your mouth to go dry.

Researchers have found that the “love struck” feeling at the start of a relationship, which feels like intense pleasure and happiness, is related to a neurotransmitter: dopamine. In fact, Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a biological anthropologist has studied the human brain in the early stages of a relationship and suggests that newer couples show signs of dopamine surges in their brains, such as increased energy and less need for sleep or food.

Finally, in the comfortable, stable and committed stage of a relationship, oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is also known as “the cuddle hormone,” as it deepens feeling of attachment. It is released during orgasm, so couples often feel closer after sex.

When you are in love, you enjoy the benefits of these chemicals, because they make you feel good. However, just like a drug, you can become addicted to the high that love brings you. This addiction can stem from earlier issues in your life, such as attachment issues within your parents. Trauma is also a common antecedent, which often sets up these addictive processes.

Are You Addicted to Love?

• Do you suffer from persistent loneliness when you are not in a relationship?
• Do you keep going back to a relationship that is not working and convincing yourself that “this time it will be different” or if it is not different, you “will deal with it?” However, you are hurt and disappointed again and again.
• Do you tend to forget the bad things about your partner, and make excuses for poor behaviour to keep the love alive? (ie. “He really does love me, he is just scared of commitment.”)
• Are you attracted to very intense relationships, which seem to give you a high?
• Do your friends often tell you that your relationship doesn’t make sense, or express their frustration that you are with that partner? In turn, do you avoid these friends because of their opinions on your relationship?
• Do you tend to idealize your partner; putting them on a pedestal, and denying flaws?
• Do you feel as if your partner is the only one who can bring you happiness?
• Do you lose your sense of self when you are in a relationship?
• When you are in a relationship, do all of your other problems seem to fade?

So what if your relationship ends? It’s all you can think about! Even if the break up was the best and right choice, your brain wants those feelings back. You are going through withdrawal, and like an addict, you may experience physical symptoms, such as inability to concentrate, shakiness, obsessive thoughts about the person, sleepless nights, irritability, depression and loss of appetite. These symptoms are normal after the loss of a relationship and part of the grieving process. However, if you notice that you are trapped in a pattern of short, intense relationships, and each breakup leaves you devastated, you may be addicted to love.

You might begin to think obsessively about seeing or talking to your ex. These thoughts can quickly turn to compulsions, as you can’t seem to stop yourself from “creeping” your ex online, texting and/or calling them, and strategically thinking of ways you can see them. However, this is engaging in risky behaviour. You are craving the love that you no longer have, but you need to treat it like an addiction.

If you were an alcoholic who became sober, you couldn’t just walk into a bar and watch others drinking. You have to quit cold turkey! The best thing is to cut off all communication with your ex, because you are just torturing yourself.

How to Overcome Love Addiction

The first step is to review the symptoms above. If you answered yes to 2 or more questions, you may be suffering from love addiction. You can overcome this issue; please review the following tips:

Talk to your friends. Sometimes our friends can guide us and see our unhealthy patterns that we do not notice. Ask your friends if they think you are addicted to love.

Maintain boundaries. Make a conscious effort not to lose yourself and keep up with those things that bring you pleasure and define your sense of self.

Practice self-care. Talk to a counselor as it is likely that you will recreate this pattern in your next relationship. Despite how this person makes you feel, think of ways you can create that feeling and not rely on another person.

Stop those thoughts! Try the thought stopping techniques listed on my May 19th blog post to stop your obsessive thoughts. Replace your obsessive thoughts with completely opposite, positive ones. For example, if you constantly thinking “I will never find anyone like him or her,” replace that thought with, “Even though I may be single for a while…I now know what I want and need in a relationship and I am that more closer to finding it.”

Quit cold turkey. If you are addicted to your ex, you must remove your ex from your Facebook Account and Instant Messaging Systems. Don’t respond to their emails, and stop checking in on whether he or she is at a local hangout.

The cycle of love addiction can be overcome by following these tips. We welcome your questions and comments, or if you or someone you know may be struggling with some of the above symptoms, feel free to call us for a free consultation at 416-619-0442.

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