People develop addictions to shield themselves from intolerably painful feelings. An addiction always creates harmful, often ignored consequences. Only when the addiction becomes unmanageable will people do something about it.
Love addicts spend much time, effort on a person to whom they are addicted. Love addicts value this person above themselves, and their focus on the beloved other often is obsessive.
This behavior results in love addicts neglecting to care for themselves in a variety of ways, in essence abandoning important aspects of their lives and well-being to stay connected to the object of their affections.
Love addiction doesn’t necessarily pertain only to romantic or sexual relationships. It is possible for a person to relate as a love addict with their friends, children, sponsor, guru or religious figure, or even with a movie star, whom they have never met.
A love addict’s core fantasy is the expectation that someone else can solve their problems, provide unconditional positive regard at all times, and take care of them. When this unrealistic need isn’t met, love addicts may find themselves feeling resentful, and may create conflict in their relationships with others.
Some love addicts find that when not involved in a love-addicted relationship, they are able to care for themselves quite adequately. However, when they become involved, the love addict quickly finds that their self-care capacity steadily declines.
People generally become love addicts due to a past history of abandonment from their primary caregivers. Adult love addicts usually recognized as children that their most precious needs for validation, love and connection with one or both parents were not met. This affects their self-esteem dramatically in adult life. It results in a conscious fear of abandonment and an underlying subconscious fear of intimacy. To a love addict, intensity in a relationship is often mistaken for intimacy.
As with any addiction, recovery from love addiction is a process of self-discovery. It requires taking specific steps: breaking through denial and acknowledging the addiction; owning the harmful consequences of the addiction; and intervening to stop the addictive cycle from occurring.
Ultimately, love addicts must enter a grieving process to address the underlying emotional pain that is at the core of the addiction. In Pia Mellody’s book, Facing Love Addiction, the author gives journaling assignments that address each aspect of the recovery process, exploring the childhood experiences that may result in love addiction.
Additionally, the support of 12-step meetings such as S.L.A.A. (Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous) provide both a framework and community support for the addict to engage in the healing work of recovery.
Love addicts experience withdrawal symptoms. Working with a therapist can help guide the love addict through the process of talking about childhood experiences of abandonment, navigating through the feelings of pain, fear, anger and emptiness that may surface, and releasing old emotions that contribute to negative acting-out behaviors.
A solid relationship with a skilled therapist trained in love and sex addiction can help guide the love addict through this process.