Love is considered an addiction when the person persists with the unhealthy behavior despite negative consequences socially, emotionally, physically or financially. Love addicts frequently enter addictive relationships or become overly attached to their partner because of their need for validation. Often this need for validation comes from a constant struggle with self- esteem or self-worth resulting from early childhood abandonment or childhood attachment issues. Love becomes an addiction because the person experiences a euphoric rush from the excitement of being "in love" and wants to hold onto that high at any cost.
The addict may find themselves in abusive relationships unable to leave. Generally these people are aware of the warning signs and red flags in a relationship but they want to hold onto their partner at any cost. Sometimes the abuse happens gradually and the person habituates to it. It becomes hard for the addict to get out of the relationship because they don't know anything different from emotional or physical pain. As a result of this low self-esteem many love addicts have a high tolerance for neglect and abuse. For them, it is better to be in a relationship than to be alone. Some addicts will sacrifice their physical or emotional safety in order to maintain the relationship. Physical and emotional abuse become normal and any attention from their partner is good attention.
Love addicts often smother their partner or act overly possessive. Some compulsively pursue people that are unavailable, which is known as a love avoidant. Addictive relationships form when two people a love addict and love avoidant enter a relationship together. They are functioning on different levels of relationship meaning there is miscommunication, about the level of involvement, commitment, ect. The love addict will often isolate with their drug, their partner, and withdraw socially, so they can spend all their time with their partner. Like all addictions, isolation inevitably becomes a part of love addiction and often has negative social consequences. Jobs and other relationships often suffer because the addict is preoccupied with their partner or with pursuing a partner. This isolation and over attachment usually leads the partner, or love avoidant, to withdraw from the relationship and eventually end it.
When a love addict is out of a relationship, life seems to lose meaning. The addict experiences a withdrawal and may suffer from depression, feelings of shame, loneliness, and self harm. The world seems to spin out of control without the other person to keep them stabilized and validate them. Without someone to validate their emotions and raise their self-esteem, however temporary, some love addicts turn to other addictions for that sense of comfort.
Treatment for love addiction can be therapy or a 12-Step group dealing with love and sex. Programs such as SLAA (sex and love addicts anonymous) deal with this issue and act as a fellowship of men and woman trying to solve their common problem. The specific goals for recovery may vary but many love addicts will learn how to deal with the obsession of being in love and how to have healthy relationships. Usually this starts by focusing on the self, and learning how to have a happy and healthy relationship with themselves before bringing another person into it.