Katy Therapists Define What It Is, How It’s Caused and How Its Healed
KATY MAGAZINE I NOVEMBER, 2017
By Tonya Ellis
Your eyes meet and you imagine “I dos.” Time together trumps outings with family and friends. Two months later, it ends in heartbreak. But the tears are gone the next week, when you meet “The One” after work. If this sounds familiar, you may have a serious condition called love addiction.
Out-of-control romances Though it’s not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), love addiction is definitely a real problem for people, say Katy Area therapists. Love addicts have similar symptoms to those hooked on substances: obsession with relationships, and drama-filled lives caused by their out-of-control romances.
Fear of abandonment
“This person may insist on being with the other person for an inordinate amount of time and make the partner feel smothered,” says David Dotson, MMFT, a licensed professional counselor of Full Life Counseling. “A partner may go to extremes to avoid real or imagined fears of being abandoned, such as threatening to harm themselves if their partner leaves them alone for the evening.”
“There is an emotional cycle they are attracted to,” adds Mark D. Howell, a licensed professional counselor with the Houston Center for Christian Counseling. “A love addict turns to a close relationship believing that the other person should soothe their internal pain. Just like an alcoholic goes back to drink, love addicts go back to love.”
The natural high It’s not surprising that people become addicted to love, say the experts, because falling in love itself is like a natural high. “Dopamine and phenethylamine, or PEA, are brain chemicals that are released when falling in love and during initial phases of attraction,” explains Dotson. “These chemicals create the feeling of a rush or a high. As with any addiction, it takes more and more of a substance over time to feel the same effect as you did at first.”
“If you’re looking for your partner to meet all your needs, you’re actually elevating them to the position of God, which is what love addicts are doing,” adds Howell. “They are looking for another person to meet all of their physical and emotional needs.”
Emotionally wounded Causes of love addiction vary, say the experts. “It really comes from the family of origin,” says David B. Martin, MA, a licensed professional counselor and supervisor at Martin Counseling . “If you have parents and their style is to be very protective and overly controlling, then you think that is the way to relate to other people.”
“They typically have low self-esteem and emotional wounds from childhood,” agrees Howell. “It could be they suffered abandonment when they were younger.”
“We get these notions from fairy tales and media and TV about what love is, and somebody can be everything for us and make us happy,” adds Laurel E. Tate, a Katy Area licensed clinical social worker.
You come first The key to getting over love addiction is to love yourself, first. There are Houston-area sex and love addicts anonymous programs, similar to alcoholics anonymous, to help, as well as personal therapy.
“Commit to six months to be relationship-free,” advises Tate. “Take time to know what is important to you and what you truly need. Love is harmonious. There are boundaries in love. There is calmness in true love.”
Signs of Love Addiction
According to www.loveaddicts.org, if you answer yes to more than a few of the following questions, you are probably a love addict. Remember that love addiction comes in many forms, so even if you don’t answer yes to all of the questions you may still be a love addict.
You are very needy when it comes to relationships.
You fall in love very easily and too quickly.
When you fall in love, you can’t stop fantasizing—even to do important things. You can’t help yourself.
Sometimes, when you are lonely and looking for companionship, you lower your standards and settle for less than you want or deserve.
When you are in a relationship, you tend to smother your partner.
More than once, you have gotten involved with someone who is unable to commit—hoping he or she will change.
Once you have bonded with someone, you can’t let go.
When you are attracted to someone, you will ignore all the warning signs that this person is not good for you.
Initial attraction is more important to you than anything else when it comes to falling in love and choosing a partner. Falling in love over time does not appeal to you and is not an option.
When you are in love, you trust people who are not trustworthy. The rest of the time you have a hard time trusting people.
When a relationship ends, you feel your life is over and more than once you have thought about suicide because of a failed relationship.
You take on more than your share of responsibility for the survival of a relationship.
Love and relationships are the only things that interest you.
In some of your relationships you were the only one in love.
You are overwhelmed with loneliness when you are not in love or in a relationship.
You cannot stand being alone. You do not enjoy your own company.
More than once, you have gotten involved with the wrong person to avoid being lonely.
You are terrified of never finding someone to love.
You feel inadequate if you are not in a relationship.
You cannot say no when you are in love or if your partner threatens to leave you.
You try very hard to be who your partner wants you to be. You will do anything to please him or her—even abandon yourself (sacrifice what you want, need and value).
When you are in love, you only see what you want to see. You distort reality to quell anxiety and feed your fantasies.
You have a high tolerance for suffering in relationships. You are willing to suffer neglect, depression, loneliness, dishonesty—even abuse—to avoid the pain of separation anxiety (what you feel when you are not with someone you have bonded with).
More than once, you have carried a torch for someone and it was agonizing.
You love romance. You have had more than one romantic interest at a time even when it involved dishonesty.
You have stayed with an abusive person.
Fantasies about someone you love, even if he or she is unavailable, are more important to you than meeting someone who is available.
You are terrified of being abandoned. Even the slightest rejection feels like abandonment and it makes you feel horrible.
You chase after people who have rejected you and try desperately to change their minds.
When you are in love, you are overly possessive and jealous.
More than once, you have neglected family or friends because of your relationship.
You have no impulse control when you are in love.
You feel an overwhelming need to check up on someone you are in love with.
More than once, you have spied on someone you are in love with.
You pursue someone you are in love with even if he or she is with another person.
If you are part of a love triangle (three people), you believe all is fair in love and war. You do not walk away.
Love is the most important thing in the world to you.
Even if you are not in a relationship, you still fantasize about love all the time— either someone you once loved or the perfect person who is going to come into your life someday.
As far back as you can remember, you have been preoccupied with love and romantic fantasies.
You feel powerless when you fall in love—as if you are in some kind of trance or under a spell. You lose your ability to make wise choices.
TONYA ELLIS enjoys writing feature articles and spending time with her family.
MORE RELATIONSHIP RESOURCES
Aftertheaisle.net – A relationship blog by Katy counselor Mark D. Howell
Book: The Truth About Love: The Highs the Lows and How You Can Make It Last Forever by Pat Love
Book: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud, John Townsend, John Sims Townsend.