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- Love addiction is a desperate need to find someone to love that’s fueled by the irrational fear of being alone or being rejected.
- Love addicts typically exhibit signs of co-dependency on their partner and at times lose touch with reality.
- Therapist Becky Whetstone said that love addiction often stems from childhood trauma, especially unhealthy relationships between a child and their mother.
- Here are 7 signs you might have an addiction to love, according to Whetstone.
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Netflix’s “You,” a series following Joe Goldberg, a man obsessed with love to a dangerous degree, has the internet abuzz trying to diagnose the psychiatric conditions presumably causing his extreme behavior.
Goldberg’s unhealthy fixation on those he loves might be attributable to a condition called love addiction. It’s a desperate need to find someone to love that’s fueled by the irrational fear of being alone or being rejected, according to The Ranch Treatment Centers.
It’s surprisingly common, with 3 to 10% of the population grappling with some form of pathological love, according to Psychology Today.
According to Dr. Becky Whetstone, a therapist specializing in love addiction, love addicts typically exhibit signs of co-dependency on their partner and at times lose touch with reality.
Here are 7 signs you might have an addiction to love.
You’re always anxious your partner is going to leave you.
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All love addicts fear being abandoned by their partner and left alone. Whetstone said that even when a love addict is in a relationship with the person they are obsessed with, they are never secure in their trust for the partner.
“They are going to seem very insecure and anxious and needy,” Whetstone said.
If you’re an avoidant love addict, you steer away from emotional intimacy at all costs.
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Love addiction can manifest in one of two ways: obsession or avoidance.
According to Whetstone, avoidant love addicts and obsessive love addicts tend to date each other and exist in a toxic symbiotic relationship. The obsessive pursues the avoidant and the avoidant keeps the obsessive at arm’s length. But rather than letting the obsessive go, the avoidant seduces them into the relationship again, and the cycle between continues.
“It’s a never-ending pattern of pursuit and distancing,” Whetstone said.
While the avoidant’s outward behavior makes them seem aloof and uninterested, they are just as love addicted as the obsessive.
“On the conscious level, they get overwhelmed by intimacy and closeness, but the underneath layer of it is they’re terrified of being abandoned,” Whetstone said.
You can’t stop thinking about the other person — to an obsessive degree.
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When love addiction is portrayed on TV shows like “You” and “Love,” it oftentimes takes the form of the obsessive love addict. Love addicts who act out their addiction in obsession will fixate on the person they are addicted to, which can manifest in some dangerous behavior
“A lot of these abusive men are love addicts with mental disorders,” Whetstone said. “They stalk, they chase down, they threaten. They can be very dangerous.”
Your partner is the only thing that makes you feel good in life.
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When someone is love-addicted, all of their self-esteem, feelings of positivity, and even purpose in life lie with the person they are addicted to.
“They put all of their good feelings about themselves and base it on being in this relationship,” Whetstone said.
This stems from co-dependency – what Whetstone calls the necessary precursor to love addiction. Co-dependent relationships occur when one person isn’t able to be self-sufficient or fend for themselves, becoming partially or entirely reliant on their partner, according to WebMD.
While not all co-dependents are love addicts, Whetstone said that all love addicts are co-dependent to an extreme degree.
You have unresolved childhood trauma about your relationship with your mother.
One of the primary external causes of love addiction, according to Whetstone, is something called “mother hunger” – a desire for an unconditionally-loving mother that was absent in childhood.
“We’re figuring out now that almost all love addicts had a distant relationship with their mother,” Whetstone said. “100% of my love addicts had a distant, non-nurturing mother.”
Love addicts may act on this mother hunger by trying to fill the gap with loving, or becoming addicted to, someone.
You feel like your partner is the only thing worth living for.
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Because one of the pillars of love addiction is a dependency on your partner, breaking up with a partner can feel impossible, regardless of whether or not the relationship is toxic.
Whetstone said this dependence on a partner can be similar to a drug addict’s need for their drug of choice. A person may know their partner is bad for them but they can’t stop themselves from coming back.
“It’s like exactly like needing a heroin fix. You’ll moments where you go ‘This heroin is bad for me, it’s gonna kill me,’ but as soon that craving comes back, it’s all over. You’re gonna go do the heroine again,” Whetstone said. “This is a compulsion.”
The desire for their partner’s unconditional love is so great that when a love addict is broken away from them, life may feel purposeless and not worth living.
This is a pattern of behavior in your relationships, not an exception.
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Whetstone said that love addiction relies on a pattern of behavior, so even if love addicts break up with the person they were initially addicted to, they typically move on very quickly to their next partner.
“Becoming aware of the pattern is going to be the first step to stop the pattern,” Whetstone said. “You’re just going to move on and get addicted to another person.”