Talking about being addicted to love probably brings to mind that 1985 Robert Palmer song, but love addiction is a serious issue that doesn’t get the attention it needs. What is love addiction, how is it treated and who is most at risk?
People get addicted to a variety of different drugs and behaviors — alcohol, gambling, sex, the internet and even love.
Falling in love causes your brain to release dopamine and serotonin, the same neurochemicals that are released as a reward when you do something that causes pleasure. Exercise, for example, causes these chemicals to flood your brain, making you feel good after a workout. These same chemicals play a role in drug and alcohol addiction. When your brain is flooded with dopamine and serotonin as you fall in love, you can become addicted to that sensation too.
Individuals who become addicted to love present a pattern of lost relationships, broken marriages and a variety of strong emotions like desperation and fear of rejection.
It’s not a diagnosis you’ll find in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” which psychologists use to diagnose their patients. That doesn’t make it any less real, though. There are multiple types of love addiction, and each requires a specific diagnosis and course of treatment.
Like many other addictions and mental illnesses, there are resources online if you suspect you’re suffering from love addiction. These tests are not a replacement for an official diagnosis, but they can be a great tool to offer answers to your questions and provide a talking point to help you start a conversation with your doctor.
As with any addiction, the symptoms of love addiction will vary from patient to patient, but common symptoms could include:
This is similar to sex addiction in many ways, except with love addiction the individual doesn’t necessarily require a sexual relationship. They’re not addicted to the sexual aspect of the relationship, but to the rush that happens when you fall in love.
Treatment for love addiction closely resembles the treatment for sex addiction. These treatment options include:
The best option for you will depend on your individual diagnosis, so make sure you discuss all the options with your doctor.
There isn’t a whole lot of information available about the kind of person who is affected by love addiction, namely because it isn’t an official diagnosis. It is categorized as a process addiction, meaning the individual is affected by mood-altering processes or events rather than mood-altering drugs.
Studies that have been completed concerning love and sex addiction found that anywhere between 11 and 25 percent of college-aged adults reported some degree of love addiction. This addiction seems to disproportionally affect millennial-aged women, born between 1982 and 2004.
This declaration is primarily anecdotal, since the few studies that have been conducted targeted college-aged students instead of the entire generation. Millennials are often the target of snide comments and stereotypes in the news, but since finding a partner has become so much easier in the last 10-15 years with the advent of dating sites and apps, it becomes easier to become addicted to love because it’s just easier to find.
About 30 years ago, you had to go to a bar or take out a personals ad in the paper — now all you need is a smartphone. Love is different for millennials than it is for boomers, and it will continue to change as the young generation comes into their own.
As with any other addiction, anyone of any age or generation can be affected by love addiction. One researcher found that lesbians are more at risk to suffer from love addiction than men or women in heterosexual relationships.
Love addiction can be just as dangerous and destructive as drug or alcohol addictions — jumping from one relationship to another to get that rush of dopamine can be detrimental to careers, other relationships, and even to the physical and mental health of the individual. If you suspect you’re addicted to love, or that you’re presenting the symptoms of love addiction, start by looking into online resources. The information that you can garner from those resources, while not a diagnosis in and of itself, can make it easier to talk to your doctor if you decide to seek treatment.
Don’t disregard love addiction as something that’s just in your head or something that should be disregarded because it’s not as dangerous as drugs or gambling. If you need help, ask for it — you’re not alone.