It is well established that when a person becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, they can experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Less is documented about the reality of physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms from love and sex addiction, yet they are no less real.
I see clients who are in withdrawal from love addiction and are struggling with symptoms indicative of a very real physical and emotional experience.
Symptoms can include insomnia and sleeplessness, flu-like symptoms, vomiting and other stomach ailments, as well as deep depression and grief states. These symptoms require a detoxification process much like drugs and alcohol do and working with a skilled therapist in addition to attending SLAA (Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous) 12-step meetings can be very helpful, if not crucial, for getting through this painful process.
Sometimes love addicts elect to go through this process when they reach the depth of despair about the state of their lives and addiction. This is a painful yet necessary step in the recovery process. Sometimes love addicts have to face withdrawal following the abandonment by a partner, often a love-avoidant one.
The love-avoidant person always has severe abandonment issues and desires unconditional positive regard from another adult, similar to what they received or did not receive in childhood from a parent. The problem with this is that no adult can provide the ongoing unconditional positive regard the love addict seeks. This can cause the love addict to cycle through a series of highs and lows that are quite intense and ultimately lead to incredible disappointment and devastation.
Love addicts often have a deep sense of discomfort and rarely experience a sense of peace or calm, due to the highs and lows of their intense relationships. Responsibilities relating to work, self-care and even parenting fall to the side in their pursuit of unhealthy relationships. Interestingly, while these relationships tend to be very intense, they seldom provide any real intimacy. What they do provide is a fantasy that does not reflect the reality of the object of their affections.
Some love addicts are in such extreme states of depression that they require antidepressant medication while they are working through core childhood issues with a therapist. Such medications can be helpful toward the love addict gaining some sense of stability while working through the pain that led to love addiction. Journaling, talking about childhood experiences, and grieving the initial abandonment by a parent in the family of origin under the care of a skilled therapist familiar with love addiction can be an important part of healing.
Love addicts have a deep need to bond with another person and become emotionally connected. Oftentimes, the choices they make in partnerships take them further away from getting the love they crave.