Can You Get Addicted to a Love Interest? An Expert Weighs In.
Turns out falling in love can make you feen for more, and spur compulsive behavior. Here's how to avoid the love drug.
Look back at any time in your life where you’ve met someone you’re really into, only to realize that you can’t stop thinking about that person 24/7. Could you have been addicted to them?
According to studies, about three percent of the population has had a serious problem with love addiction over a given year. While that may seem like a small amount, chances are, it happened to you and you didn’t even know it.
Even celebs like Alanis Morrisette and TV host Rachel Uchitel (who appeared on Vh-1’s Celebrity Rehab because of it) have admitted to being addicted to love.
“Although we don’t think of love as addictive, falling in love has many of the hallmark signs of addiction,” explains Cortney S. Warren, PhD, a board certified clinical psychologist and author of Letting Go Of Your Ex (New Harbinger, 2023).
“These include cravings, obsessively thinking about them, tolerance, i.e. wanting to be with them more and more over time, withdrawal symptoms when we aren’t around them, and hyper-focusing on them at the expense of other parts of your life,” explains Dr. Warren.
The problem with this, says Dr. Warren, is that falling in love releases all those feel-good hormones that make us feel like we’re walking on air; not ever actually realizing, that it’s bad for us. Analogous to the high one gets from a drug. But when you do eventually come down, the crash is hard.
“Much like using drugs or engaging in other addictive behaviors, falling in love can make you fixated on your lover at the expense of everything else in your love,” affirms Dr. Warren.
Is it simple biology?
The phenomenon of falling in love boils down to simple biology. “Many scholars believe that falling in love is evolutionary-based, and that intense and euphoric, emotional, physical, and psychological response stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain associated with survival,” Dr. Warren explains. “Biologically, your body is encouraging you to have sex, make babies, and feel driven to be with a mate long enough to ensure the survival of any offspring.”
What are the signs you could be addicted to your love interest?
Dr. Warren pinpoints five somewhat easy-to-spot signs you could be addicted to your lover. These include:
- Ruminating and obsessively thinking about that person, even when you don’t want to.
- Craving contact with them in a way that disrupts your life.
- Feeling easily emotionally reactive and distressed due to their role in your life.
- Acting in unhealthy ways to feel closer to them and get their attention.
- Distracting yourself from any relationship discord in unhealthy ways, such as drinking too much, hurting yourself, or acting impulsively.
What can happen when you become addicted?
In short, you could be headed for heartbreak.
“It can be heartbreaking if you do eventually break up, or realize you’re in an unhealthy relationship and want to stop being so focused on your mate,” says Dr. Warren. “This can further cause negative consequences in a person’s life.”
How do you free yourself from love addiction?
If you do feel like you may be addicted, breaking free can be incredibly difficult — but Dr. Warren shares that it is possible to let go, if you take the right steps.
“If you’re at the point where you’re finally trying to heal after a breakup and still feel stuck, this might make you want to contact them,” says Dr. Warren. “Instead, pause, and don’t act impulsively. Notice your feelings, and acknowledge them.”
What Dr. Warren advises against, is something you may be all-too tempted to do. “Looking at their social media or so-called “stalking,” or texting them in the long run will just make it harder for you to move on and break your addiction to them.” If it means hitting that block button, so be it.
Self-care and social support is also important, says Dr. Warren. “Get enough healthy food and sleep, and surround yourself with trusted friends and family you can lean on,” she suggests. “A good therapist can also be helpful.” This can help you to focus on yourself and figure out what’s inside of you that caused you to get addicted in the first place.
And finally — and this is a biggie — even if you’re lonely and it seems like a good idea at the time, DO NOT HAVE SEX WITH YOUR EX.
“Sex is a very complicated topic when it comes to breakups,” says Dr. Warren. “It’s generally connected with some emotion and the expression of love for another person. But for many people, it has nothing to do with love. It has to do with pleasure, feeling powerful or being desired. Sleeping with them will definitely make it harder to let go.”
Like the classic hit song from the ’80s says, gonna have to face it you’re addicted to love.