Reading Time: < 10 Mins
Relationship addiction is the intense need for a romantic partner in order to function normally. A person who suffers from the disorder may love another person with an obsessive intensity, which negatively impacts not only the person at the center of the struggle, but the object of the addict’s obsession as well.
As with any other types of addiction, relationship addiction results from a complex interplay of different factors. The factors that affect relationship addiction include genetics, brain chemistry, and upbringing, among others.
A love addict tends to engage in self-destructive patterns. For instance, having brief romantic relationships and jumping from one relationship to another. If involved in a long-term relationship, a love addict may fail to recognize when it is unhealthy.
As a result, the person may be unable to break off the relationship even to the point that it already involves abuse. At times, an individual may also be aware that the relationship does more harm than good but keeps coming back to the same person over and over again.
Relationship addiction is an addictive disorder involving the continual feelings of longing and loss of control that are not in the best interest of both parties in the relationship.
It is characterized by the constant need to be in a relationship to feel complete and happy. This makes it easier for a relationship addict to not always end up with an ideal partner. However, a person suffering from the disorder may not care at all, as long as the relationship stays.
And yet, many people still ask, “Can you be addicted to a person?” However, an increasing number of experts support the existence of behavioral addictions and some argue that relationship addiction fits in this category.
At first, relationship addiction may appear similar to normal behavioral patterns in a relationship. The signs of relationship addiction are listed below.
Several contributing factors play a role in the development of the disorder. The causes of relationship addiction are listed below.
The essential first step in overcoming relationship addiction is admitting that the problem exists and that it needs to be addressed through a conscious effort. Individuals who are addicted to a person are often unaware of how addictive behaviors negatively affect someone.
Therefore, it is important for a person who suffers from relationship addiction to gain awareness of the impact of these behaviors to other people. However, awareness is usually not enough. A love addict also needs to learn new skills to help cope with the condition.
For instance, since romantic relationships are heavily influenced by early childhood experiences with caretakers, becoming fully aware of one’s past experiences in life may be helpful. After all, negative childhood experiences tend to pull people toward certain types of people who are as equally incapable of maintaining a healthy relationship.
It also helps to step back and take a break from relationships in the meantime. This way, one can have an alone time to explore the triggers for relationship addiction and identify any destructive patterns the person has repeatedly been in. Not being involved with a romantic partner also gives the person a chance to take notice of other strong relationships that are worthy of attention, including those with family and friends.
Relationship addiction is closely tied with low self-esteem. Low self-esteem increases an individual’s tendency to addiction.
In the case of relationship addiction, love addicts with poor self-esteem are constantly in need of external validation from a partner to overcome negative thoughts and feelings.
People who suffer from the disorder have a belief of not being worthy of self-respect and self-worth. Relationship addicts have a very pessimistic view of the future even to the point of becoming convinced that the life of addiction is the only way there is.
Low self-esteem keeps individuals trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction to people. Love addicts often cannot imagine life without a partner who has become a source of self-esteem. This makes it harder for an individual to develop the motivation needed to move past the addictive behaviors without professional help. Low self-esteem adds a significant burden on a relationship addict’s struggle.
A positive correlation exists between relationship addiction and depression in the sense that people who suffer from depression also often struggle with some kind of addiction. This is known as dual diagnosis.
According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.9 million Americans have dual diagnoses. A dual diagnosis is when someone suffers from both an addiction and a mental health condition such as depression.
Both disorders can affect one another. For instance, the volume of people struggling with depression get involved in romantic relationships as a way to cope with symptoms of depression. Similarly, any stress that comes from relationship addiction can also result in depression, poor work performance, and neglecting self-care.
Yes, relationship addiction can be treated in rehab. It can be addressed similarly to other forms of addiction. And although treatment for people addiction can be tricky because it is not a universally recognized form of mental health condition, diagnosis and treatment can still be done at a doctor or therapist’s discretion.
Several underlying causes can exist underneath relationship addiction. Because of this, treatment often involves looking at early childhood issues and how these experiences relate to the love addict’s current destructive behavior patterns. This way, the root of the problem can be addressed so that the individual in question can move forward to creating healthy and fulfilling relationships.
Depending on the person’s choice of relationship addiction rehab center, varying types of therapies can be used for treatment, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), experiential therapy, mindfulness practices, family therapy programs, and group therapy, among several others.
The symptoms of relationship addiction withdrawal can be physical and emotional. Someone who is addicted to relationships can come off a breakup and struggle with several relationship addiction withdrawal symptoms. Studies also suggest romantic love could trigger a withdrawal-like experience.
Physical symptoms include lack of energy and fatigue, insomnia, weight loss due to changes in appetite, tension, nausea, and other flu-like symptoms.
Emotional symptoms of relationship addiction withdrawal can include feelings of loneliness, anxiety, restlessness, intense feelings of grief or loss, frustration, worried thoughts, denial, irrational thoughts, feeling out of control, irritability, and other mood changes.
For love addicts, being rejected by an ex-partner sends a false message that exacerbates feelings of unworthiness. Unconsciously, one way love addicts cope with withdrawal symptoms is through denial. This involves obsessive behavior toward the other person or thinking that an ex-partner was not so bad at all.
Relationship addiction can affect one’s body physically, with both short- and long-term adverse effects. One example is its tremendous effect on the brain. The brain allows a person to interpret sensory impressions as well as one’s thoughts and emotions. Ultimately, these factors affect a love addict’s behavior.
People struggling with relationship addiction are often hooked on the high of falling in love. When these individuals are attracted to another person, the brain releases dopamine, serotonin levels increase, and oxytocin is produced. This process of releasing happy hormones causes a love addict to feel a surge of positive emotion. Becoming hooked to this familiar feeling or responding to powerful emotions means the love addict is also experiencing emotional addiction.
As a result, the person becomes dependent on the relationship and uses it to cope with negative feelings such as anxiety and depression.
Relationship addiction affects an individual’s life in general. Once the addiction takes hold of the person, it becomes a priority in one’s life. Focusing a tremendous energy on a romantic relationship means that the person would have less time for other activities or hobbies outside the relationship.
These people may also constantly talk about a partner even when around friends or loved ones. But it is also possible that love addicts stay away from family or friends to allot more attention on the relationship.
The condition also takes a toll on one’s work life. The attendance and work performance of a person engaging in addictive behaviors around relationships may suffer since not much attention is given anymore on anything else except for the individual’s partner.
Yes, there are support groups for people who suffer from relationship addiction. A support group refers to a group of people who share the same issues or experiences. Support groups meet regularly to provide each member with advice, comfort, and encouragement.
Some support groups for relationship addiction are listed below.
The difference between relationship addiction vs. obsession is relationship addiction is often rooted in a lack of satisfaction while obsession is rooted in fear. For instance, relationship addicts never feel satisfied unless a romantic partner is present to fill a void. The lack of satisfaction can stem from negative thought patterns, low self-esteem, or traumatic experiences from childhood.
On the other hand, people engaging in obsessive behaviors feel the need to perform a compulsive routine or else negative consequences will result. Fear of outcomes such as negative opinions from other people, loss of opportunity to experience something, or even death can lead to obsessive behavior.
An obsession can also turn into an addiction. For instance, when a person is obsessed with the rewarding feeling of having a romantic partner, the individual can become addicted to that familiar feeling.
This also explains why addictive relationships are characterized by obsessive attention that is given to a partner while an inadequate amount is only given to oneself.