Teens can be intense about friendships and opposite-sex relationships. Parents might deem this behavior a normal part of growing up, but — unchecked — the pattern can darken into love addiction. It sounds more cute than damaging, but this disease can cover a deep well of trouble.
Watch for signs of compulsion to be in a relationship. It often masks the desire to be another person, escaping intolerable pains or pressures.
Love addiction springs from painful pasts
A person who struggles with love addiction often has very serious pain in their past. Perhaps they were neglected as a child, maybe mom and dad were absentee parents or were struggling so much between themselves that neither was able to focus on their offspring. However it happened, the child was not nurtured.
Broken peer relationships can also spark a love addition. Friendships that go south can leave a child feeling used and somehow inadequate. In one way or another, the child has felt isolated and abandoned, and grows up with lots of inner pain and rejection.
Why love addicts try to fill unmet needs
With fluctuating hormone levels, it’s easy for adolescent passing fancies to blossom into romantic preoccupation. Crushes and infatuations are normal. But love addiction is not just the fantasy of teen romance; it’s an unhealthy attachment because the person feels so empty. Love addicts attempt to meet needs that went unmet in childhood through a deep friendship or, most often, a romantic relationship in the present.
The love addict desperately wants things to be stable and secure. They have a truckload of insecurity in their own skin, so they attach themselves to another person to gain a stable identity vicariously. Sometimes homosexual attraction forms because it is far easier to identify with a person who is the same sex. Whether it is a heterosexual or homosexual romantic relationship, the partnership is destined for trouble because the love addict’s own need is so intense.
Common symptoms of love addiction
- A fear of being abandoned, meaning there can never be trust in a relationship
- Obsession, jealousy, anxiety and a constant demand for more
- Carrying deep anger over emotional deprivation in childhood
- Depression, which frequently accompanies love addiction
- High-risk activities
- Multiple compulsions
- Habitually challenges established value systems
- Refusal to acknowledge obvious problems
- Inability to discern between a need and a want
- As soon as one relationship ends, jumping into another
Love addicts vs. substance use addicts
With love, addicts treat relationships the same way that a substance user behaves towards drugs or alcohol. Having it becomes a necessity and losing it brings the unbearable pain of withdrawal. The other person makes them feel rooted and secure, but the lack of boundaries and the unreasonable demands usually lead to a quick break-up. Of course, this leaves the teen feeling hurt and, once again, abandoned. The fears of rejection are realized and the pain of being alone is nearly suffocating.
Healing from love addiction
Parents who recognize what is going on need to take some time to talk with their teen about relationships, sexuality and personal identity. Professional counseling will be needed, but the good news is that with some help the teen will be ready in the future to engage in healthy relationships and achieve their own full potential.