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  • Why Love Addiction is not the same as True Love

    Is it true love, or is it emotional addiction? How can we tell the difference? – We can’t, at least not at first. No tangible clues could separate the “pseudo” from “genuine”. There’s only elation. No matter how hard we try, there’s no quieting the heart. It wants what it wants. The heart rate goes up, our pupils dilate in utter astonishment, and a kaleidoscope of butterflies (fun fact: a group of butterflies is officially recognized as a kaleidoscope) takes the chemistry reins. All wonderful madness breaks loose. Oh, to love and to be loved in return. But is it true? Or is our emotional dysfunctionality peaking without our consent? Innately, the concept of love is superior to all things corporeal or metaphysical; that’s why it’s hard to discern the nature of any romantic relationship. This is why love addiction is not the same as true love.

    Codependency and emotional addiction

    The two thrive in symbiosis. So, how do we define codependency? It is most commonly described as an unhealthy attachment where an individual is overly reliant on another person. More often than not, the codependent individual will disregard their own needs (although unconsciously), and there’s an evident absence of creating and maintaining healthy boundaries. It is also almost always embodied in different forms of self-overextending, such as people-pleasing, caretaking, and enabling and encouraging the other person’s potential dysfunctions.

    Codependency symptoms include:

    low self-esteem

    low self-worth


    the need for control


    non-transparent communication


    Although opulent in tangible proof, a dysfunctional romantic couple often finds it impossible to end the relationship. Love addiction is one of the codependency’s most loyal vessels, as the impenetrable cycle becomes a continuum norm. It’s just love, right? It’s supposed to hurt. And the worst part? – The love addiction dynamic is an all-encompassing malaise that could involve and affect romantic partners, family members, and friends.

    It’s not the same

    Should we even call it “love addiction”? Psychologically speaking, this type of emotional enslavement, when dissected, revolves around nothing but the mere idea of love; the involuntary fixation is abstract and intangible at its core. We are never truly addicted to love because love implies a single, pure emotion. (and the most potent one) Addiction feeds on exhilaration, anticipation, fantasy, potency or intensity, control, and denial. And there’s really nothing ethereal or magical about it; it’s primarily unresolved childhood trauma. Individuals who engage in romantic relationships through the lens of addiction tend to bond not over a healthy narrative but through trauma wounds. And, it is safe to conclude that addiction-fueled relationships are merely a projection of one’s childhood trauma revolving around fantasies and indulging in familiar dynamics scenarios.

    It’s important to note love addiction differs significantly from other seemingly related disorders, such as erotomania or sex addiction.

     Is love addiction a disorder?

    We are still to define diagnostic criteria for this type of addiction, as it proves to be more than elusive; consequently, we cannot conclude where it falls on the disorder spectrum. However, there are solid speculations.

    Some believe it may be defined as an impulse-control disorder. In contrast, others think love addiction leans more on the mood disorder palette, as individuals experience extreme mood swings and exaggerated states (such as elation or hypomania – a milder form of mania lasting a shorter period of time). Additionally, there are tangible ties to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Just like people with hygiene obsession, individuals with love addiction replace the “object” of their obsession with the subject of “unconditional love” (i.e., partner).

    Aer research suggests that it might be best comprehended through the biaxial continuum – with the horizontal axis illustrating impulsivity and reward-seeking and the vertical indicating attachment behavior. For example, high impulsivity and reward-seeking would co-exist with an attachment deficit, which could result in high sexual interest and indulging in multiple sexual partners. In contrast, the same behavior co-existing with high attachment levels could result in dependency and an obsessive love narrative.

    A healthy kind of love

    So, what does a healthy, loving relationship look like? When you’re in a secure relationship, you will feel unconditionally supported and emotionally and mentally stable, with an air of inexplicable calmness. It just feels right. It is a nurturing, reassuring space. The kind that doesn’t scar you for life. Healthy love isn’t inherent. It is indeed learned and developed over time. There are no abrupt highs or lows; the pace is steady and linear.

    Furthermore, a healthy relationship will provide and take pride in independence and each partner’s personal freedom. – How do we achieve that? By cultivating trust. Additionally, people with healthy attachments know when to leave a toxic relationship. Marriages fail, and people part ways – when you’re love-addiction-free, an ending does not incite fatalism but relief. You sign the papers and start thinking about renting storage during your divorce; “Okay, on to a new chapter. In the meantime, a unit can be helpful for all my personal belongings.” No, to lament; yes, to acceptance. Life goes on.

    Growing beyond it

    Often imperceptible, love addiction can significantly impact and hinder one’s emotional and mental well-being. The goal is to accept, embrace, and overcome obstacles. – How do we start? By embracing the power of vulnerability. Are we soap bubbles prone to dispersing, or are we cerebral beings with untapped potential for transformation and healing?

    Make an appointment with your therapist at 
    901-248-6001 to: 

    address your insecure attachment style (anxious, avoidant, disorganized) by facing childhood trauma

    learn to cultivate your self-worth; become your parent, forgive and appreciate yourself through self-care

    set healthy boundaries, turn away from people-pleasing

    practice unambiguous communication

    get in touch with your needs (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual)

    buy yourself flowers


    Although love addiction is not the same as true love, we can easily fall victim to its firm and intoxicating grip. We’re only human, no? If you can’t seem to break the vicious cycle, seeking professional help is paramount. A trusted therapist can help you process unresolved childhood trauma and lead you toward healing and adopting a secure attachment style.

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    Love addiction is not the same as true love. – Is there a difference? How do we heal it? Read on for more information.

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