Background/Theories as to why love addiction develops:
Love addiction starts to develop during childhood. According to John Bowlby’ s Attachment Theory – the earliest bonds are formed by children with their caregivers and the quality of this relationship has a tremendous impact that continues throughout life and affects adult relationships as well.
The central theme of attachment theory is that mothers who are available and responsive to their infant’s needs establish a sense of security in their children. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world.
Mary Ainsworth expanded on this theory and described three types of attachment: secure (where the mother is consistent with care), anxious ambivalent (where the mother was inconsistent and not often available for the infant’s needs thereby teaching the child that the world is not always going to meet their needs) and finally anxious avoidant (the result of abusive or neglectful caregivers/parents).
Generally love addiction will be more likely to occur in adults who experienced either an anxious-ambivalent or an anxious-avoidant childhood.
According to some theories the type of attachment alters the way the brain develops in infancy and this in turn can affect the receptors and hormones and can lead to deficiencies in brain chemistry which in turn can lead to a predisposition to love addiction. (The book “Why Love Matters” by Sue Gerhardt elaborates this theory if you want to know more).
The attachment bond is the term for our first interactive love relationship. The one we had with our primary caregivers as infants, usually our mothers. This mother and child attachment bond shapes an infant’s brain, profoundly influencing your self-esteem, your expectations of others, and your ability to attract and maintain successful relationships. So, the success or failure of your first attached relationship with your parent has a life-long effect on you and your relationships.
The media and the Hollywood version of love and romances perpetuates the myth. The idea that we should fall in love and it should be romantic and perfect doesn’t help the situation. People want to feel that all consuming love as it equates to happiness and high levels of dopamine. In reality, this doesn’t last anyhow and research has shown it lasts between 18-24 months (the high levels of dopamine and oxytocin).
Signs and Characteristics of Love Addiction:
- Lack of nurturing and attention when young
- Feeling isolated, detached from parents and family
- Compartmentalization of relationships from other areas of life
- Outer facade of “having it all together” to hide internal disintegration
- Mistake intensity for intimacy (drama driven relationships)
- Hidden Pain
- Seek to avoid rejection and abandonment at any cost
- Afraid to trust anyone in a relationship
- Inner rage over lack of nurturing, early abandonment
- Highly manipulative and controlling of others
- Perceive attraction, attachment, and sex as basic human needs, on a par with food and water
- Sense of worthlessness without a relationship or partner
- Feelings that a relationship makes one whole, or more of a man or woman
- Escalating tolerance for high-risk behavior
- Intense need to control self, others, circumstances
- Presence of other addictive or compulsive problems
- Insatiable appetite in area of difficulty (sex, love or attachment / need.)
- Using others, sex & relationships to alter mood or relieve emotional pain
- Continual questioning of values and lifestyle
- Driven, desperate, frantic personality
- Confusion of sexual attraction with love (“Love” at first sight.)
- Tendency to trade sexual activity for “love” or attachment
- Existence of a secret “double life”
- Refusal to acknowledge existence of problem
- Defining out-of-control behavior as normal
- Defining “wants” as “needs”
- Tendency to leave one relationship for another. (Inability to be without a relationship.)
- Attempts to replace lost relationships with a new one immediately
Types of love addiction
(courtesy of author Susan Peabody. Website: http://brightertomorrow.net)
“Love addiction often appears as a way to deal with fears of abandonment. The most common type of love addiction is the Codependent Love Addict: They generally suffer from low self esteem and have a certain predictable way of thinking, feeling and behaving. Due to their insecurities and low self esteem they try desperately to hold onto people by rescuing, caretaking, passive-aggressive controlling or by accepting neglect and abuse from a partner.
They will do anything to take care of their partners in the hopes that they will not leave them.
Other types of addicts: relationship addicts (will stay even if the relationship is making them unhappy), narcissistic love addicts (use dominance, seduction and withholding to control their partners) and ambivalent love addicts: : ALAs suffer fromavoidant personality disorder. They don’t have a hard time letting go, they have a hard time moving forward. They desperately crave love, but at the same time they are terrified of intimacy.
Torch Bearers are ALAs who obsess about someone who is unavailable. This can be done without acting out (suffering in silence) or by pursuing the person they are in love with. Some Torch Bearers are more addicted than others. This kind of addiction feeds on fantasies and illusions. It is also known as unrequited love.
Saboteurs are ALAs who destroy relationships when they start to get serious or at whatever point their fear of intimacy comes up. This can be anytime before the first date, after the first date, after sex, after the subject of commitment comes up”whenever.
Seductive Withholders are ALAs who always come on to you when they want sex or companionship. When they become frightened, or feel unsafe, they begin withholding companionship, sex, affection anything that makes them feel anxious. If they leave the relationship when they become frightened, they are just Saboteurs. If they keep repeating the pattern of being available/unavailable, they are seductive withholders.
Romance Addicts are ALAs whoare addicted to multiple partners. Romance addicts are often confused with sex addicts. However, unlike sex addicts, who are trying to avoid bonding altogether, romance addicts bond with each of their partners to one degree or another even if the romantic liaisons are short-lived or happening simultaneously. By romance mean sexual passion and pseudo-emotional intimacy. Please note that while romance addicts bond with each of their partners to a degree, their goal (besides getting high off of romance and drama) is to avoid commitment or bonding on a deeper level with one partner.
A Note about ALAs: Not all avoidants are love addicts. If you accept your fear of intimacy and social situations, and do not get hooked on unavailable people, or just keep your social circle small and unthreatening you are not necessarily an ALA.But if you eat your heart out over some unavailable person year after year, or sabotage one relationship after another, or have serial romantic affairs,or only feel close when you are with another avoidant, you may be an Ambivalent Love Addict.
Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals, including pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which act in a manner similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain’s pleasure center and leading to side effects such as increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement.
The problem here is that this state and those chemicals are extremely addictive. Once you’ve received a dose, you need to get more and more otherwise you face very heavy withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, depression and others. This is what very often leads to are bound-relationships by feeding your addiction a new dosage of the drug you avoid the withdrawal.
In extreme cases, this can lead to a succession of relationships each few days up to few weeks in length, until each of them runs out of love, fails to produce that chemical reaction any further. How exactly is this any different from alcohol, tobacco or heroin addiction? Extreme sports? Online gaming? They all share, to bigger or lesser extent, the search for repeat of a feeling and the search for the next high.
Let’s take a few steps back. Can such physical connection, such as lust lead to lasting relationships? A relationship is a two-way street where both parties have to have a mutual interest in it for it to work. So is this chemical reaction which we call “love” mutual? The one feeling it definitely wants it to be, believes it to be. How else could they? If they didn’t, if they accepted that the other person isn’t feeling that way, that would immediately lead to realization that they’ll never be able to completely acquire their target into their life, which in turn would instantly lead to withdrawal symptoms described above.
A rather typical addict behavior, to distort and change the reality, to see what they want to see, isn’t it? It’s much easier to believe that they feel the same; bask in their presence, turn into a pink macaroni for a while, close your eyes and float in the clouds. Even if it’s for a day, a week or a month.
So we’ve established that this chemical reaction is personal, only within your own brain and is one-way. We also know it’s addictive, it’s rather draining to be in that state for long time and that the other person does not feel that way. All in all, this means that any relationship built upon this is doomed from the get-go since it’s not a two-way street. The person ‘ under the spell’ will always be at a disadvantage, in fear of losing “their precious.”
Usual behavioral patterns for such a person in a relationship include being overly protective, paranoid, suspecting. Side-effects also often include nightmares involving their partner, usually themed around the target leaving them. This is clearly an unhealthy relationship and an unhealthy way to live.
In a rare chance where both parties would have the same chemical reaction, it would lead to a very high-energy, stormy and powerful relationship yet still filled with distrust, paranoia and suspicion because both parties would be experiencing intense emotions, but at the same time also consumed with fear of losing the other person.
Again, not healthy and in the long term very draining way to live.Notice how fear keeps coming up again and again?
So what would a normal relationship be like? A normal, healthy relationship would be built upon being comfortable around each other, trusting and relaxed; where all involved parties can be themselves without pretending or worrying what the other person might think about them. There are no ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling in such a relationship. There’s no fear either. It’s a relaxed co-existence.
Now, if you’re going to argue that that’s not love, you’re going to be right on the mark. Because you don’t want to have love in a relationship, at least not in the sense it’s usually understood as the addictive chemical imbalance in your brain. So we’re not going to call that love, we’re going to call this emotion comfort. That’s what you’re looking for.
So the last question remains. Can you go from the initial primal, physical, chemical attraction to a comfortable, relaxed co-existence? The answer is yes, however it requires that the object of the love recognizes that chemical imbalance in their partner and cares enough to help the love-sick person work out and through their problem.
Because we already know that you really don’t want your partner to become (or remain) distrustful, paranoid, fearful and suspicious.)
If we notice that, if we notice that our partner is deeply in love with us and is exhibiting those abnormal symptoms, we shouldn’t get angry at them, we shouldn’t yell at them; they really can’t help it.
Think back to when you were in that position, perhaps in an earlier relationship that didn’t last. Think what that person whom you were in love with should have done to build comfort with you, to calm your fears, to address your insecurities, to make you relaxed and then do those things to help your partner reach that balance, relaxed state of brain-chemistry.
Only then can the relationship become normal, healthy, relaxed when comfort has been reached.
Love is an addictive chemical reaction in your brain, emotionally sharing a lot of similarities with fear. It’s a drug, an unhealthy and addictive mental state; it is very difficult to build relationships upon that, impossible without a lot of mutual cooperation.
Recognize it in yourself and in others around you; conquer it in yourself, then help others do the same.
“Types of love addiction” courtesy of Susan Peabody.
To view the original article please go to: Website: http://brightertomorrow.net
Photo by marc falardeau