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Love Addiction: Myth vs. Reality
By Caroline Becker, LISAC, LAC
Therapist, The Meadows Outpatient Center
Pia Mellody defines love addiction as: “A condition in which
individuals…are attracted to somebody who will neglect the
relationship.” This creates a co-dependent love dance that is unhealthy,
frustrating and debilitating to the love addict, yet they remain
entrenched in a fantasy of what was or what might be.
Because concerned others around the love addicted person see things
differently than s/he sees them, they may offer opinions and advice
about ending a dysfunctional, highly stressful relationship. It seems
simple to a friend, co-worker or relative who cares about the love addict
and wants their difficult feelings (anger, fear, grief, shame) and
obsession (repetitive thinking, talking and actions involving the object of
their addiction) to go away.
At the height of withdrawal, the love addict will have difficulty working,
taking care of family responsibilities, maintaining a social life or
hobbies, or connecting with others. Isolation, depression, anxiety seep
into his/her existence and, just as with chemical addiction, denial is the
primary obstacle to finding help. People believe they should be able to
fix their problem alone.
Following are myths commonly associated with love addiction:
Myth: Love Addiction happens to people who are too sensitive or who
read too many romance novels.
Reality: Love Addiction is a feature of something much deeper than
“having one’s head in the clouds,” or getting caught up in romance. The
love addict’s behavior comes from an unconscious place of pain due to
trauma from abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual) and/or neglect that
occurred early in life. By focusing on someone else, the pain of trauma
and/or neglect is avoided, remaining unconscious.
Myth: Love addiction is something a person should snap out of or grow
Reality: Love addiction develops when reality is too painful for the
conscious mind to manage and so a fantasy version of a loved one and of
life with that person develops.
Myth: If I love him/her enough (or if I explain myself in the right way,
or if I’m smarter, better looking, more generous or strict, funnier or have
more money), I will be loved in the same way I love him/her and our
lives will be perfect.
Reality: Those suffering from Love Addiction are attracted to people
who will not meet their needs. Realistic thinking is skewed and the
above myth illustrates a split from reality and an escape into fantasy.
Myth: Talking about the problem or finding an intellectual solution to
change another person will fix the problem.
Reality: The way out of Love Addiction usually comes when withdrawal
sets in, pain becomes unbearable, denial and fantasy become less
entrenched and, with lowered defenses (particularly denial), the fantasy
bubble bursts and the individual becomes open to receiving help.
Awareness is the first step of change.
If you or someone you know is experiencing love addiction, it is
important to seek the help of a mental health professional, especially if
conversation or behavior becomes erratic or dangerous.
If the situation is not acute, you can find more information about love
addiction and how to break the cycle by reading Facing Love
Addiction…Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love (by
Pia Mellody, Andrea Wells Miller and J. Keith Miller).
Content Source Love Addiction: Myth vs. Reality