Most everyone has experienced that punch drunk, falling-in-love feeling at some point. And it’s undeniably delicious. But what happens when you grow so dependent on maintaining that rush that it literally takes over your life?
This is one way love addiction presents itself, as a physical and emotional dependency on those intense feelings and a complete shutdown once they end or even subtly shift.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Lauren, a licensed psychologist and author of Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things go Wrong, on Girl Boner Radio. She writes and speaks about these issues both as an experienced professional and as someone who’s endured them and found significant healing.
To learn more about Dr. Lauren’s journey, love addiction, attachment styles and unique challenges being lesbian or queer-identifying can add to the mix, stream the Girl Boner Radio episode on iHeartRadio, Spotify, iTunes or below! With Dr. Megan Fleming‘s help, we also weighed in for a listener who wants to learn to better vocalize her sexual desires.
Read on to learn about five potential signs of love addiction, featuring quotes and takeaways from the episode.
5 Major Signs You’re Addicted to Love
1 You keep going back to the wrong partner, believing they’ll change.
Looking back, Dr. Lauren considers this one of her biggest signs of love addiction. After a relationship with someone she considers one of her great loves ended yet again, she noticed a pattern.
“I went back to her something like 10 times…and each time she would break up with me and then she’d come back and say it would be different this time and ‘You’re the love of my life,'” she recalled. “Then the same thing would happen again… I was in this mode of, ‘Why are these kind of people picking me?’ And then eventually, she did it for the last time, and I realized the pattern was me… I was the common denominator.”
While she could continue to analyze that relationship, she knew that doing so wouldn’t help address the underlying issues. Her then therapist didn’t believe in love addiction, however, and it would take another tumultuous relationship for her to finally seek healing.
2 When a love interest seems emotionally unavailable, you lose it and grow obsessed.
Attachment styles can play a major role in love addiction, according to Dr. Lauren and many other experts in the field. (I found this portion of our chat fascinating, by the way.) In some cases, your attachment style draws you to emotionally unavailable partners. And once that unavailability reveals itself, it can send you spiraling.
Dr. Lauren experienced this amid a relationship with a girlfriend she’d been interested in years. “It was by far probably the most painful relationship of my entire life,” she said. “And I fell really hard. I was all in. I gave my heart on a platter… There are all the signs that she was available and we were both available in the same way. That changed at about the year mark, I would say, when she moved in. Suddenly, she wasn’t available… I went into a tailspin where I was obsessed with, ‘What is going on? Why isn’t she available?’ It consumed my every thought.”
3 When the newness of a relationship wears off, you start flipping out.
A partner doesn’t have to be emotionally unavailable to have a dramatic impact on your psyche when you’re a love addict. It could simply involve the shift from that intoxicating “OMG, YOU ARE MY EVERYTHING” phase to deeper feelings that aren’t as 24/7 exhilarating, even though that shift is natural and healthy. Sensing the change can make you feel devastated or frantic.
“At this point, when I was in the addiction piece, it was like a rupture,” Dr. Lauren said of these effects. “There was this anxious kind of feeling inside. I would start to demand more, like, ‘Why aren’t you paying more attention to me? Or why don’t you want to have sex?’ And then that would push the person more away.”
4 Rather than learn from relationship problems, you repeat them.
When I asked Dr. Lauren if that was the difference between love addiction and the goofy things most of us do as we start dating or seeking relationships—obsessing and repeating the same behaviors versus learning and moving on—she said yes.
“I was not learning along the way,” she added. “In other words, I kept repeating the same things. I kept falling into the same patterns. I kept doing my same behaviors and that was definitely an addiction to the falling-in-love process. I loved falling in because there was a high. There’s an actual chemical high going on—all these chemicals being dumped into our brain. I think it’s way better than heroine and all of these things that are super addicting.”
5 Your relationship bumps and breakups feel catastrophic.
Relationship rockiness and breakups are rough, no matter the specifics. But if you’re a love addict, these issues won’t pass or improve until you start finding worthy healing. The effects worsen, potentially to life threatening degrees. Left unaddressed, love addiction can fuel low self-esteem, chronic shame, anxiety, depression, breakups and divorce, intense fear of abandonment, sexual dysfunction and more.
(To learn about the possible suicidal effects of sex and love addiction, check out my chat with filmmaker Charlene deGuzman here.)
Dr. Lauren found her own healing by committing to zero romantic relationships and intense self-care for a solid year, something many people with love addiction benefit from. It was more difficult than becoming sober from drugs or alcohol, she said, but 100 percent worthwhile.
“Slowly, not only did I start to feel better, but I started to feel more empowered and more myself,” she said. “I definitely practiced a lot of self-love and incorporated self-care in a way I’d never done before, began dealing with feelings I felt around putting myself first and came out of it feeling amazing. Probably the best I’ve ever felt.”
To learn more about Dr. Lauren’s work, visit www.drlaurencostine.com.
Sign up for A League of Extraordinary Couples, the free series Dr. Megan Fleming is participating in (with her husband, Dave!), click here.