Everything You Need To Know About Love Addiction

Many skeptics out there are quick to dismiss "love addiction" as a bit of a stretch. Aren't all of us "addicted to love" in some capacity? After all, it is only human nature to desire romance, affection, and an intimate bond with that special someone. And during the beginning stages of a great new relationship, it can often be difficult to think about anything else but our new beau. Yet, while having a crush on someone is totally normal and healthy (via Psychology Today), it's when it becomes an all-consuming obsession that things go from perfectly acceptable to unhealthy.

Love addiction, otherwise known as limerence, is when your all-intrusive thoughts about the object of your affection start to take a massive toll on your everyday life. In fact, it's a "pattern of behavior characterized by a maladaptive, pervasive, and excessive interest towards one or more romantic partners, resulting in lack of control, the renounce of other interests and behavior, and other negative consequences" (via Psychology Today.) So, what are the other ways one can tell if they are simply in love or in a love-addicted state?

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Love addiction is more than just a crush

While developing a crush on someone can feel all-consuming, it is not the same thing as having a love addiction. Although it can seem similar, crushes are perfectly healthy, while those in a state of limerence can often neglect all the other important priorities in their lives such as friends, family, and work in order to hyper-focus on their object of affection (per Psych 2 Go). Worst of all, those who are in a state of limerence might hyper-focus on someone who doesn't return their feelings.

People in a state of limerence can fall deep into a downward spiral, where they feel as though the only person who can pull them out of that hole they've dug themselves into is their love interest. Unfortunately, though, their actions toward their love interest are very likely to pull them away rather than bring them closer. This can have ugly results where the more the object of their affection pulls away, the more the person with the addiction will feel as though they are in a state of withdrawal (per Frontiers in Psychology). 

People with love addiction tend to have abandonment issues

It's easy to dismiss people who might be suffering from a love addiction as clingy. But the sad truth is that those who deal with this form of addiction have often been dealt bad cards in life that have led to their current situation. Those who deal with love addiction might have experienced abandonment and neglect during their formative years by their caretaker. As a child, they became so used to having an emotionally unavailable parent or guardian that they naturally want to seek out the same dynamic in their romantic lives. 

Why? Because it's the form of connection that they are most familiar with. It is a tragic cycle in which people with this disorder feel the need to replicate the one-sided bond they shared with their caretakers in their youth. Because of this, they constantly seek out partners who, like their caregiver, barely give them the time of day. This is particularly the case when it comes to an absent mother, according to therapist Becky Whetsone. She told Insider, "We're figuring out now that almost all love addicts had a distant relationship with their mother. 100% of my love addicts had a distant, non-nurturing mother."

But when the opportunity arises for the person with limerence to receive genuine love and affection from a secure partner, it might potentially scare them away. This is because people who are dealing with love addiction are afraid of having a genuine connection with someone since this dynamic is so unfamiliar to them (per Psych Alive). 

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Love addicts are especially attracted to forbidden fruit

What's more, those with love addiction tend to find themselves especially drawn to people who are unavailable. This can manifest in a variety of different scenarios from falling for a person who is already married, swooning over someone who has expressed that they are not remotely interested, or even obsessing over a celebrity whom they've never actually met. But before you start diagnosing your Harry Styles-obsessed friend as a love addict, ask yourself some of the following questions. Do their thoughts about him take up her entire day? Is she genuinely under the impression that she is destined to be with him? Will she pack up all her stuff and move to a house that is near his just so she can happen to "bump" into him? If not, it's probably just an innocent crush.

But why is it that love addicts are so drawn to unavailable people as opposed to secure partners? According to Pia Mellody, author of "Facing Love Addiction," they are naturally drawn to "love avoidants" (per Psych Alive). They are drawn to a partner who cannot meet their needs because their childhood abandonment trauma makes them feel as though they are unworthy of having their needs met.

People with limerence don't like to be single

One of the most unfortunate aspects of people who are addicted to love is that they're willing to settle for abusive partners if it means getting to be in a romantic relationship. This is because one of the worst things someone with an addiction to love must endure is being alone. Although it is much healthier to be on your own than it is to be with a partner who is bad for you, love addicts simply don't see it this way. They need the euphoric feelings that come from being in a romantic relationship, no matter how seldom they come. A little affection from a toxic partner is better than no affection from anyone at all. "The limerent person is desperate to have the object no matter whether it is good for either of them and they may idealize them," therapist Cate MacKenzie tells Brides.

In the same way that alcoholics are addicted to drinking and drug addicts are addicted to drugs, people who have limerence need their fix just like any other person who is struggling with addiction issues (per Psychology Today). And just like most individuals who struggle with addiction, they are willing to do whatever it takes to get the euphoric high that comes from receiving returned "love." Unfortunately, they might sometimes mistake abusive behavior as their partner simply "caring" for them. This is when the person with limerence must seek out professional help.

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Love addicts can get bored with relationship stability

People with limerence are perfectly capable of having normal, healthy relationships if they are willing to do the work that it takes to become a stable partner. But unfortunately for love addicts who aren't willing to work on themselves, they might attempt to sabotage relationships that seem too good to be true. Those with love addiction crave the excitement and passion that comes from the early stages of a relationship or, at times, from toxic partners. An easy-going lover who prefers to be in a mature and secure relationship is unappealing to the love addict. But why is this the case? Psychosexual therapist Cate Mackenzie has a theory. "Deep down the limerent person may be afraid of genuine connection and may be more comfortable with distance," she explains to Brides. "There may be psychological reasons and fear why they prefer obsessing over connecting."

If someone has limerence, a night spent under the covers with their S.O. while binging Netflix and takeout seems like a total snooze fest. They need to feel a rush of emotions, with calmness being the last emotion they want to feel. Perhaps some of this can be pinned back to their childhood. If things were explosive and unpredictable for them at home while growing up, then they might feel bored with the idea of a smooth-sailing romance. Sometimes, it is possible for people who grew up in a chaotic environment to become addicted to chaos (per Psychology Today).

Love addicts may try to 'emulate' their object of affection

As previously mentioned, people with a love addiction will take any measures possible in order to get closer to the object of their affection. According to Dr. Van Kirk (per Refinery29), this includes the deep desire to emulate the person that they simply can't get off their mind. For example, if their love interest has a penchant for wearing black suits, the limerent person will purchase a whole closet full of them. 

Furthermore, people who are addicted to love are perfectly willing to alter their personal interests in order to imitate or impress their crush. For example, if their love interest is a huge anime buff and the limerent person never held much of an interest in the genre, the limerent individual will now dedicate hours of their lives watching every piece of anime to ever exist. They might even engage in cosplay, join fandoms, and stock up on anime plush toys for the sake of their love interest. It doesn't matter if they like it or not. All that matters is that they capture their partner's interest, even for the slightest moment in time because a little bit of attention for love addicts is so much better than none. Sadly, losing control of your own identity in order to please your partner is one of the worst things you can do for your mental state (per Psychology Today).

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Individuals with limerence will idealize their objects of affection to a fault

One problem that limerent individuals might have is that they will idealize their romantic interests to a problematic degree. While we all secretly want to be told that we're perfect in every single way, a healthy partner will see that we have flaws yet will accept them and still love us for them all the more. "With love, each person has the possibility to see the other's flaws and still like them and there is more safety and genuine reciprocity," says Psychosexual therapist Cate Mackenzie to Brides. "This involves the happiness hormones such as oxytocin and vasopressin. There is clear communication and reciprocity."

But when it comes to love addicts, they will see their romantic objects of affection as perfectly flawless. The person that they're crushing on will appear like a sparkly, airbrushed version of their actual selves, and they will be placed on the highest of pedestals (per Psych 2 Go). This becomes a problem for both the object of affection and the person in a state of limerence. When it comes to the object of affection, they won't be able to be seen as their true selves. Instead, they will only be regarded by the limerent individual as an idealized version of who they really are. It becomes a problem for the love addict as well because they might flat out ignore the toxic behaviors and potential red flags that their person of interest reveals.

They will push away their friends and family

Another tragic aspect of people who have an addiction to love is that they will often neglect or even abandon the other important relationships in their lives. Friends, family, and, in the worst cases, their own children will become secondary in comparison to their love interest. According to psychologist Suzanne B. Phillips, "The obsession and dramatic cycles that underscore addictive relating jeopardize connection with family and friends," she tells Psychology Today. "Frequently friends and family feel used for support and then pushed aside as activities are given up and responsibilities neglected in pursuit of the fix."

It doesn't matter how unavailable their object of affection is, or how unlikely the chances are that they will ever end up with this person. They will still brush everyone else aside for the sake of their dream partner. For example, if the limerent person's object of affection calls them up for a last-minute booty call while they're at their sister's wedding reception, can you guess what their next move will be? If you've guessed that they'll ditch their own flesh and blood's special day for the slightest bit of affection from their obsession, you've guessed right. It seems incredibly selfish, but as mentioned, several studies report that love addiction it is no different than any other addiction. "Love addiction is just as real as any other addiction, in terms of its behavior patterns and brain mechanisms," says TED speaker Helen Fisher (via Discover). "Besotted lovers express all four of the basic traits of addiction: craving, tolerance, withdrawal, and relapse."

They will suffer at work

A big symptom that someone with a love addiction might have is that their school work or career performance will drastically suffer (per Psych 2 Go). This is because, unsurprisingly, the limerent person will not be able to think about anything else but their object of affection. Who cares about studying history or basic algebra when they have that special someone to study instead? For example: What is his favorite genre of music? How can I best bump into her in the hallways without making it seem super obvious?

These are the thoughts that will constantly crowd their minds, so there's no time to focus on something as pointless and uninteresting as work or school. Of course, this can pose as a huge problem because the love addicts can either end up failing classes or lose their job altogether.

Fortunately, there is help out there for those who might be struggling with love addiction. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration offers a helpline that you can contact if the priorities in your life are slipping away due to obsessive thoughts.

Love addicts can engage in stalker-like behavior

When a love addict has found an object of affection to chase after, all of their morals tend to fly right out the window. They are willing to participate in illegal activities, such as stalking their crush by any means necessary. "A lot of these abusive men are love addicts with mental disorders," therapist Becky Whetstone tells Insider. "They stalk, they chase down, they threaten. They can be very dangerous."

Sometimes, this can be as seemingly harmless as scrolling through their social media pages for hours on end. Other times, the love addict will take more drastic measures, such as memorizing their love interest's daily routine so they can "happen" to bump into them. For example, if they know their crush goes to a specific gym at 6 p.m. every day, they might invade that person's privacy by getting a membership to that gym and working out at 6 p.m. every day. It doesn't matter if the fitness center is hours away from where the love addict lives. It doesn't matter if it interferes with their own schedule. They'll do whatever it takes just to be around their target. But instead of regarding this behavior as wrong or immoral, the love addict will assume they are just following their destiny to be with that person. Unfortunately, the reality is that they are not following their destiny; they are engaging in harmful behavior.

Addiction to love is similar to drug and alcohol addiction

Just like being hooked on alcohol or drugs, love addicts can't help the fact that they struggle with their addictions. They are often times "helpless" to it, lest they take the proper measures necessary in order to heal themselves and get better. But, like other addicts, the person with limerence will go through phases like "withdrawal," according to a study by Frontiers in Psychology, if they are without their person or "fix." Sometimes, this can lead to symptoms like anxiety or depression if they are not getting what they need in a romantic relationship, which is likely because their behavior might scare others away. "It's like exactly like needing a heroin fix," therapist Becky Whetstone tells Insider. "You'll moments where you go 'This heroin is bad for me, it's gonna kill me,' but as soon that craving comes back, it's all over. You're gonna go do the heroine again."

According to one study published by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, "scientists have begun to draw a number of parallels between the naturally rewarding phenomena associated with human love and the artificial stimulation afforded by the use of addictive substances such as alcohol, heroin, or cocaine." It is essential to understand that love addiction is just as serious as drug addiction or any other affliction.

People with love addiction want to find a great love

When it comes to those who are dealing with love addiction, there is a good chance they might regard their very one-sided obsession for a person as a great love for the ages. Their target, from the love addict's perspective, just doesn't know it yet. "People experiencing love addition generally subscribe to a belief that their love can overcome anything," psychotherapist Judi Cinéas, Ph.D., tells Reader's Digest. "They believe in the power of love to a degree that would allow the person to also believe that they can have their desired results with the other person. The person also experiences some joy in the process itself; they get a sense of pleasure in the contemplation of what could be."  

Cinéas adds, "Thinking about the other person is pleasing, although these emotional highs can lead to negative feelings or actions when they are reminded that the other person is not interested in taking that emotional journey with them."

Of course, the actual ingredients for an authentically great love include two people who are mutually consenting to be in a romantic relationship with one another. Furthermore, one of the best ways to maintain an authentically great love is to make sure you hold on to your sense of individuality within the relationship so that there is no potential risk of co-dependency or loss of identity. And the most surefire way to ruin a relationship is through co-dependency (per Psychology Today).

Is there help available for those who struggle with an addiction to love?

While things may at times seem hopeless for the person with limerence, there is no need to lose all hope. Individuals who are struggling with an addiction to love can absolutely get help for their disorder, no matter how severe it is or the length in which it has gone untreated. One of the best things someone with a love addiction can do is admit to the fact that they're unwell and seek help. 

This help can best be achieved by a professional therapist who specializes in topics related to love addiction. The Addiction Center offers several resources and contact information for online therapists. With hard work, dedication, and a loving support system, it is very possible to overcome an addiction to love and find the strength within to be on your own. Because before you can truly love anyone else, you must at first be willing to love yourself.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).