Love addiction: when people love too much
Love addiction is a confusing term, as love is what all healthy relationships should be built on. However, love addiction is very real and very damaging to those that suffer with it, where the distinct lack of self-worth holds sufferers in potentially abusive relationships.
When people love too much
Is it possible to love too much? One would think not. However, a growing number of people seek help with what is termed 'love addiction'. While the term ‘love addiction’ is yet to be formally recognised by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fellowship groups for Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) exist globally, based on similar principles to the 12-Step Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
The Danish film director, Pernille Rose Groenkjaer, sheds light on the topic in her American Documentary, ‘Love Addict’. The documentary tells the story of seven love addicts who, despite displaying different symptoms, all share the impulse to fall in love and lose themselves in relationships. The documentary features 28 year old Eliza, who reveals her scrapbook of pictures of a handsome young man that she is so in love with that everything else in her life is neglected. The only issue is that he does not know, because they have never met. While each of the seven case studies of the documentary tells a unique story, the common denominator is each character’s search for something to fill a void within.
Love addiction has little to do with love
Some psychologists might argue that the term ‘love addiction’ is misleading. In their view, love addiction has little to do with love. Love addicts fall in love with an illusion of the notion of the 'one and only' - the soulmate that will fulfil them. Who this person is, is of less importance than the fantasy that is build around the person. Because love addiction has little to do with love, some refer to the phenomenon as 'relationship addiction', which points to the core of the issue, namely the intense feeling of loneliness sought to be relieved in relationships.
There are no exact records of the number of love addicts that exist in the UK, and for many, the symptoms of love addiction may seem all too familiar. As a teenager, creating a fantasy love story around an idol or a love interest that we have barely talked to is common and even natural. However, for those that have experienced healthy relationships growing up and felt loved and valued, this infantile fantasy soon becomes substituted with real relationships built on respect, love and intimacy.
Love addicts may be viewed as not able to love and respect themselves, possibly as a result of not having been shown much interest as a child. This lack of self-worth/esteem compels the love addict to stay in abusive relationships, and to mistake the unwavering commitment for love, all while not paying attention to their own needs. Consequently, the repercussions of love/relationship addiction can be devastating. With no boundaries and a poor sense of worth, this relational style can affect a person’s health, children, job and wellbeing. Love addiction yields very well to treatment, much like other addictions. By exploring the issue within a caring and supportive environment, love addiction can be overcome.