Relationship Addiction Defined
Relationship addiction is characterized by craving and a loss of control when it comes to being in a relationship with a specific person. Like love addicts, people with relationship addiction seek feelings of euphoria and gain intense chemical reactions and releases while in pursuit of or in a relationship.
While it is normal to feel longing and as if you cannot deny the love of your life, relationship addiction is characterized by needing a relationship to be happy. This person cannot be alone, and can jump in and out of different relationships, regardless of its impact on them. Or, they can stay in the same unstable and complicated relationship full of drama, make-up-to-break-up patterns, arguments, and betrayal as opposed to being alone. Oftentimes, these traumas begin in childhood, or can occur from one’s unhealed relationship history, and relationship addiction is a means to solve them. Healthy relationships can be challenging to form and maintain.
Signs of Relationship Addiction
Initially relationship addiction can mimic normal relationship behavioral patterns. Becoming infatuated with a partner, craving closeness, craving frequent sex, and feeling like you’re out of control emotionally are also normal. Like love and sex addiction, relationship addiction has defining characteristics that include but are not limited to:
- Major cycles in short timeframes (Make up and break up, seeing other people and getting back together).
- A dependence on sex to fix the rough elements of the relationship.
- Not having a life outside of the relationship.
- Depending on the relationship for a sense of wellbeing or identity.
- Justifying emotional, sexual, mental or physical abuse.
- Unable to leave the relationship despite red flags.
- Committing too quickly.
- Being too needy (cannot be independent in the relationship).
- Inability to see the partner’s dysfunction and instead blaming themselves.
- Allowing the partner to return after fights or poor behavior.
- Feeling exhausted by the frequent highs and lows of your relationship.
- Relationship obsessiveness.
- Feeling unloved, resentful, or undesired due to your relationship.
- Not spending time with loved ones and friends to be in the relationship.
- Changing one’s self to be in the relationship.
- Changing one’s habits or behaviors because of the relationship.
- Feelings of anxiety or depression due to the relationship.
- Feeling more tired, confused, irritable, or insecure than usual.
- Using substances to cope with relationship challenges.
- Binge eating, gambling, or acting compulsively due to relationship challenges.
- Symptoms of codependency.
In addition to the above traits, someone can experience other addictive qualities that are similar to love addiction and codependency.
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Chemicals and Relationship Addiction
People facing relationship addiction are often dependent on the high of falling in love. Elements like hope and wishful thinking combined with the thrill of the chase or a release of dopamine may become addictive for some. Cuddling and touching releases the bonding hormone known as oxytocin, which can keep people connected to relationships.
With both of these chemicals released as someone enters into a relationship with sexual attraction and chemistry it can be very difficult for someone with this to avoid. He or she may appear dependent on the relationship, using it to cope with stress, depression, or to fill a void. Similar to codependency and love addiction, relationships can function to provide someone with self-esteem and allegedly relieve abandonment issues and attain self-love. As a result of this need for love, individuals can stay in toxic relationships, maintain relationships with people who abuse substances (playing the enabler), and become emotionally distressed.
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Relationship Addiction And Low Self-Esteem
Addictions are usually never simple; oftentimes there are hidden factors as to why someone struggles with them. For example, codependency, sometimes called the need to please, is characterized by enabling and putting other’s needs before their own. As a result, the individual attempts to find self-worth and self-esteem through these relationships. Furthermore, he or she may be afraid of being alone, believing there is something wrong with them if they’re not partnered up. In addition, they may be attracted to people with addictions or people who are abusive in nature, desperately trying to please them. They may end up cheating if they’re in a relationship that doesn’t provide their needs to avoid breaking up and being alone.
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Relationships and Depression
Once someone has become addicted or depends on something to feel good or to feel normal, he or she can experience withdrawal like symptoms or even depression. In the case of love addiction, someone who is off and on with someone may feel extremely lonely or depressed. The lack of chemicals produced from the highs and lows when apart from their significant other can cause someone to crave them even more. Constantly feeling disappointed or resentful can easily create low moods and impact someone’s self-esteem. In response, someone can develop negative relationship beliefs, or increase substance abuse to try and numb the pain.
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Ready To Get Help?
If you or a loved one goes from one unhealthy relationship to another and has exhibited one or more of the traits listed above, know you can get help. Facing any addiction is challenging, but can be done with the right support and medications. Since other problems can exist underneath relationship addiction, it is important to get to the root so he or she can form healthy bonds. Additionally, combining harmful substances with unhealthy relationship patterns will only wreak havoc on someone’s mental and emotional health.
Don’t do it alone. Contact a dedicated and informative treatment provider to inquire about treatment methods, counseling services available on-site, healthy relationships one can form in support groups, and around-the-clock care.