Can we really be addicted to love? Absolutely. Although it’s our ideas of love that we are addicted to over real, sustainable love itself.
If we are addicted to love our unhealthy thoughts and behaviours around love and romance start to control us. The result is a life of secrecy and shame.
For more on what love addiction is and how it differs from healthy love, read our connected piece, “What is Love Addiction?“.
The different types of love addiction
‘Love addiction’ is an umbrella term applied to several categories of unhealthy behaviours.
There is general love addiction, but also romance addiction, people addiction, and sex addiction.
Note that you might fall under several categories of love addiction, or go through phases where you are more one type than the other. The categories simply exist as guidelines so that you and your mental health practitioner can understand and talk about your struggles.
If you are just generally a ‘love addict’, you will prioritise relationships and others’ attentions above all else. The addiction here is to the feeling of being engulfed with another. You will have a hidden belief that you are not whole as is, but need someone else to ‘complete’ you and make you feel happy.
Symptoms of love addiction can include:
For a clearer look at love addiction, refer to our article, “What is Love Addiction”.
Romance addiction can happen even if we are always single.
If you are a ‘romance addict’ you are consumed by ideas of epic, fairy tale love. It’s the sensation of being in love you are hooked on. At the root here can be victimhood and a desire to be saved.
Romance addiction can lead to being increasingly out of touch with real life. You might think someone likes you and create an entire romantic scenario you tell others, even if the other person only said hi to you once or twice. At worst, you might even start to stalk someone.
Symptoms of romance addiction can include:
- jeopardising your job by being distracted by romantic fantasies, secretly reading online stories, etc
- saying no to social events to stay in and read romantic books/watch romantic films
- never having real relationships as you are waiting for your Prince/Princess
- entirely misreading signs from others, reading into tiny actions like a smile etc
- developing romantic fantasies about coworkers/strangers based on such signs
- obsessing over someone, such as non stop research, social media stalking, following them, going where you hope they will be
- overinflated ideas of any real interactions (i.e., after two dates you think you are in a relationship).
- lack of discernment when it comes to romantic involvement leading to unhealthy involvements such as affairs with married people, or workplace affairs that could put your career at risk.
People addiction goes far beyond love and romance. We think we “need” a person in our life, no matter what, and are willing to suffer to have it be so. The addiction here can actually be to the pain itself.
At its worst, people addiction can lead to stalking someone, being arrested for harassment, or actually harming or assaulting the object of your affection.
Symptoms of people addiction can include:
- thinking about the other person all the time
- denying your own needs to be around a person
- terrified of losing touch of the person
- staying with someone who is abusive
- believing the other person is your ‘fate’, that you will be ‘lost’ or ‘nothing’ without them
- out of control texting/calling/social media stalking
- wanting to know where to other person is all the time
- extreme jealousy and paranoia when he/she talks to or engages with others
- engaging in crazy behaviours to get the other person’s attention or keep tabs on them, such as creating false social media profiles, breaking into their emails, waiting outside their house, hanging out where they go, etc.
Sex addiction involves obsessively thinking about sex and seeking sexual gratification in ways that have negative consequences for you and those you love.
At its root is a need to escape, whether that is escaping a life you hate, deep-rooted shame from past events, low self-esteem, loneliness, or repressed anger.
The idea that a sex addict is only someone out there having many wild affairs is just a cliché. Many sex addicts have very little if any ‘real’ sex, but are hooked into a cycle of self-pleasuring, using porn sites, etc.
Symptoms of sex addiction can include:
- thinking about sex all the time, to the point you are always distracted and underperforming in career, family life etc.
- having many sexual behaviours/thoughts that are secret
- feeling ‘high’ when you engage in these sexual thoughts/behaviours then ‘low’ and full of shame soon after
- risky sexual behaviour such as unprotected sex, sex with inappropriate people like your boss/friend’s partner, sex in public places, etc.
- always looking for sexual opportunity/ seeing others as a conquest
- risky workplace behaviour such as looking at inappropriate material online, masturbating in toilets, sexual innuendo with colleagues
- saying no to social events to stay at home and watch porn/read erotica/ self pleasure, etc.
- sabotaging real connections and relationships because of your need for sexual risk, such as cheating on partners, lying to them about your sexual habits, or sleeping with friends partners.
Is it really a big deal if I recognise I might be a type of love addict?
What all these forms of love addiction have in common is dependence on love (or romance, or a person, or sex) to make you feel okay. This means that you not only deny your own needs, you can lose sight of who you are and what is important to you.
Over the long-term these addictions can lead to the same kind of outcomes as drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, any sort of addiction. Addictions control you, you don’t control them, and they distract you to the point you might lose your job, lose your friends, and sabotage your family relationships.
Is this ‘worst case scenario’? Perhaps.
But even the best case scenario of love addiction involves crippling patterns of feeling trapped by your own behaviours. And of course there is the loneliness, self-hatred, and shame that addiction brings.
So it is essential, if you recognise you have a problem, to seek support. This might start by reaching out to a good friend you are sure you can trust. You might also want to read some books on the subject, or join forums where you can learn to talk honestly about your behaviours but retain your privacy.You might want to try a twelve steps group such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) who hold groups worldwide.
Professional support is highly recommended when overcoming addictions. This might look like a support group led by a trained counsellor, or one-on-one work with a psychotherapist who has experience working with love and romance addiction.
Harley Therapy connects you with highly experienced love and romance addiction therapists in several London locations. Not in London? Our new site puts you in touch with Skype therapists who work with you wherever you might be.
Still have a question about the types of love addiction? Post in our public comment box below.