In Episode #33 of the podcast (When You Lose Yourself in Relationships), I mentioned that when someone feels like they’re losing themselves in a relationship it could be a sign of love addiction.
Love addiction is a serious form of codependency where one person places such a high value on another person (partner, friend, family member, etc.) that the relationship becomes all consuming, and the primary focus of the love addict’s attention.
You can see why, if you’re struggling with love addiction, you would also have problems being true to your own reality, your wants, needs, and preferences—all of which are vital to the practice of good boundaries.
While love addiction is not an official mental health diagnosis, it is a debilitating condition that can be even more difficult to recover from than other addictions.
When you struggle with love addiction, you are preoccupied and distracted by persistent thoughts about the object of your love addiction. You may feel intense anxiety when you don’t know where the other person is or what they’re doing, or you can’t get in touch with her or him. Essentially, the other person becomes your Higher Power.
When love addiction is severe, the love-addicted person may monitor, follow, harass, or even stalk the object of their obsession. They may demand to know all of their partner’s thoughts and fantasies.
Most love addicts come from dysfunctional and/or addictive family systems where their emotional needs weren’t met. They usually experienced emotional neglect and abandonment by one or both parents.
This kind of abandonment in childhood creates intense anxiety in children because they depend on their caretakers for their very survival. The anxiety created by neglect and abandonment is carried forward into adulthood until intensive healing work is done.
The anxiety love addicts feel in adulthood mimics the kind of anxiety a very young child would feel if they were separated from a caregiver. This is one of the reasons love addicted individuals will often feel as though their survival is dependent on having or being with the object of their addiction.
Here are 10 questions to help you determine whether or not love addiction may be an issue for you:*
- Do you find yourself unable to stop seeing a specific person even though you know that the relationship is destructive to you?
- Have you ever believed that if a romantic relationship ended you wouldn’t be able to live without the other person?
- Have you had or do you have sex with your partner when you don’t want to?
- Do you find yourself obsessing about a specific person even though these thoughts bring pain, craving or discomfort?
- Do you feel desperate about your need for a partner or future mate?
- Do you believe that being in a relationship will make your life bearable?
- When you were growing up, did you often feel invisible or that your parents (or caregivers) didn’t truly know or “see” you?
- Do you find yourself in a relationship that you cannot leave?
- Are you unable to concentrate on other areas of your life because of thoughts or feelings you are having about another person?
- Do you feel that you would have no identity if you were not someone’s lover or partner?
If you answered “yes” to more than 5 of these questions you may be struggling with love addiction.
Because love addiction is a chronic, long-term issue, it’s important to educate yourself and seek treatment if the consequences you’re experiencing are severe.
Because love addiction is rooted in family of origin trauma, love addicts must do in-depth family of origin work. This work helps love addicts begin the process of resolving the original issues that led to their current relationship challenges.
Twelve-step groups such as Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) or Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA), can be helpful resources for anyone impacted by love addiction.
*Adapted from The Augustine Fellowship’s 40 Questions for Self-Diagnosis and Pia Mellody’s Love Addiction Memory Jogger.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2018)