Love addiction, also known as relationship addiction and romance addiction, is a problematic preoccupation with falling and/or being “in love.” Love addiction is not officially listed as a disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but several other therapeutic professional organisations, notably the American Society for Addiction Medicine, are more accepting of behavioural addictions, including love addiction. There are no statistics indicating how common love/relationship addiction might be.
Love addicts’ lives are almost entirely focused on the “rush” of new romance, when everything about the other person seems new and exciting, and the ways in which that individual talks, walks, eats, sleeps and breathes is endlessly fascinating and stimulating. This intensity creates a surge in chemicals in the brain – primarily the neurotransmitter dopamine (which is linked to pleasure and reward) but also adrenaline, oxytocin, serotonin and various endorphins. This feeling is similar to the rush brought on by sexual addiction and also by drugs of abuse like cocaine and heroin. This is the “high” of love addiction. Love addicts believe they’re searching for real, lasting love, but in truth they perpetually chase the excitement of new romance without fully realising that this early stage in a relationship is fleeting and not indicative of healthy, mature intimacy. When the intensity of a new romance inevitably wanes, love addicts discard the relationship to once again seek the rush of someone new.
If you’re concerned that you or someone you care about may have a problem with love addiction, it’s time to talk to certified sex/love addiction treatment specialist who can evaluate symptoms and make a diagnosis, and/or check out 12-step love addiction recovery groups. Whether you’ve just noticed the problem or you’ve seen it get worse over a long period of time, it’s important to know that there are a variety of treatment options and resources available that can help.