Yes, you really can be addicted to love. And yes, it is something you’re gonna have to face, just as Robert Palmer suggested many moons ago.
Love addiction, also known as pathological love, essentially describes an unhealthy level of infatuation.
When you’re a love addict, you will be obsessed with the object of your affections and truly desperate to be adored in return.
You will sacrifice other needs and interests in the pursuit of a romantic relationship, whether that means calling in sick to work just to talk to someone you fancy or letting self-care fall off the radar because you’re too head-over-heels to think about anything else.
Love and sex addiction often go hand in hand, but you can absolutely experience one without the other – and each can have seriously negative effects.
‘While all romantic relationships may exhibit some of the these signs at least occasionally, with love addiction there is a consistent pattern of one or more (usually more) of the signs, and that pattern results in ongoing and eventually escalating negative life consequences,’ says Martin Preston, founder of Delamere Health.
‘Much like sex addicts, love addicts are searching for something outside of themselves – a person, relationship, or experience – to provide them with the emotional and life stability they lack… ‘In other words, love addicts use their intensely stimulating romantic experiences to (temporarily) fix themselves and feel emotionally stable.’
But how can you tell the difference between that first flush of a fling and an unhealthy approach to relationships? And how can you overcome a tendency for love addiction?
Ahead, Martin breaks down eight signs that you might be experiencing an addiction to love.
You fantasise about a relationship that doesn’t exist
Having a crush is normal, but when you’re a love addict, you can become completely obsessed with a fantasy, projecting all sorts of imagined things on to someone who has no clue what’s happening.
‘Love addiction always involves another person – even if that other person doesn’t know they are involved,’ says Martin. ‘This can be a form of fantasy where someone with a love addiction will build a fictional relationship in their head where it does not exist in reality.
‘Those with love addiction can become obsessed with making an impression on the person they are infatuated with – changing their personalities, looks, clothes and even daily schedules to bump into that person in order to “secure” the person they are fantasising about.’
You’re addicted to the feeling of being in love
Is the first bit of a romance your favourite thing? Will you jump from relationship to relationship just to get that rush?
Those with love addiction will be terrified of being alone. As a result, they’ll always need to be hooked on someone, and will dive into new relationships with little consideration for whether this person is actually the right one.
You’re obsessive and needy
Martin notes: ‘A love addict will often show obsessive and needy behaviour when in a relationship.
‘They can find themselves bombarding their lover with gifts and tokens of affection or extravagant gifts that they cannot afford.’
You make impulsive – and sometimes dangerous – decisions
If you would do stupid or risky things just to impress someone you’re attracted to, you might have a love addiction.
That might mean getting absolutely wasted, doing a party trick that makes you feel awful, or going along with something that you wouldn’t normally want to do.
Rationality goes out of the window, and you’ll make unhealthy decisions just to ‘win over’ the person you like.
‘A love addict may find that they make impulsive and sometimes dangerous decisions without thinking about the consequences,’ says Martin.
‘Many stay in toxic and even abusive relationships for fear of being alone.’
You struggle with deeper intimacy
You might be so obsessed with the initial stages of love – the excitement, the rush, the romance – that you can never actually settle into a longer-term fulfilling relationship.
‘People with love addiction never feel loved enough so can quickly become tired of a relationship when it has gone past the honeymoon stage,’ Martin explains.
‘This can stop them from forming a healthy relationship as they are constantly looking for a ‘perfect relationship’ that will solve all of their issues.
This can also mean they end up in unhealthy relationships with other people that can be intense from the very beginning, often using sex as a way to keep their partner “hooked in”.’
You’re prone to codependency
Another sign of love addiction is a tendency to become completely codependent with a partner, or obsessively infatuated with someone.
You can lose your sense of self, believing you genuinely can’t exist without this person, and can also become extremely possessive.
Your relationships with friends and family are strained
‘Those with love addiction may find themselves becoming resentful of friends and family in happy relationships as this is something they will be constantly seeking,’ says Martin. ‘They may withdraw from a friendship circle or family events.
‘It is easy for family and friends to become resentful themselves as someone with a love addiction may start to only use their friends and family as an outlet for their problems and drama that is being caused by their addiction.’
You use manipulation
When your need for love and affection becomes all-consuming, you’ll do anything to make them happen.
That can include doing things and treating people in ways you’re not proud of.
Martin says: ‘A love addict can find they often manipulate people they are in relationships with, by causing drama and harvesting deep resentment through their obsessive impulses.
‘This can cause issues with their partner, friends and family as people can struggle to deal with the drama that surrounds this person.
‘Some love addicts can even become aggressive in their manipulation, inflicting both mental and physical pain on loved ones when their expectations are not met.’
If you’re worried you’re struggling with love addiction, the best thing to do is reach out to a professional. Talk with your GP or book a session with a therapist to look at potential triggers and work out treatment options.