How to Overcome a Love Addiction

Love addiction, or pathological love, is a controversial term for when a person becomes unhealthily attached to romantic love. Love addiction is associated with codependency or insecure attachment. While not an "official" diagnosis, it may be considered part of a larger addictive behavioral pattern. 

This article discusses the signs and symptoms of love addiction, accessible ways to start treatment, and some self-soothing and coping strategies.

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Love Addiction Meaning

Love addiction is characterized by obsession, compulsive behaviors, anxiety, and negative life consequences as a result of romantic interest. Love addiction is a form of dysfunctional love. Although it was first discussed in the 1970s, it has not been well studied.

Unofficial Classification

Love addiction can be seen from a narrow or broad view. These are both unofficial classifications.

  • Narrow view: Classifies love addiction as only the most extreme, harmful forms of love or love-related behaviors as being potentially addictive in nature.
  • Broad view: Classifies love addiction as anything, even basic attachment, on a spectrum of addiction that resembles other types of addictions.

Related but Different Conditions

Love addiction is not a formal diagnosis. It is related to other clinical diagnoses under the spectrum of behavioral addictions, impulse control disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and mood disorders. Disorders that love addiction is related to include:

Researchers explain love addiction is related to these other disorders because they have similar cycles of emotional highs and lows, longing, and the extreme behaviors that can come as a result.

Love Addiction Traits and Symptoms

Criteria for love addiction were defined in 2018 and include:

  • Compulsive and uncontrollable desire to keep yourself from contacting your romantic interest
  • Much time spent thinking about them and your future
  • Strong desire to stay connected, even if the other person does not feel that way
  • Romantic pursuits causing problems because you’re distracted by the person or withdrawn from regular scheduling to spend time with them or thinking about them 
  • Staying in a relationship despite toxic traits
  • Efforts to avoid real or perceived abandonment and efforts to regain early love feelings by breaking up, getting back together, or pushing forward despite problems (such as getting engaged or moving in together to save the relationship)
  • Seeking the person out for a “fix” when you feel low, anxious, worried, or need reassurance

Risk Factors

The following have all been suggested as potential risk factors in the development of love addiction. They are all risk factors for other forms of addiction.

Child-Parent Relationships

The child-parent relationship is the foundation for how a child learns what love is, including how to receive and give love in healthy ways. If this core bond is unhealthy, it may set the tone for the child to model unhealthy love too. Unhealthy parent-child relationships can include insecure attachment, neglect, or anything else that may make the child feel unsafe.


Trauma, such as physical or sexual assault, is a risk factor for love addiction in the sense that trauma is a risk factor for any addiction. More than 70% of patients treated for substance abuse disorder have had a history of trauma.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Conditions 

Substance abuse and mental health disorders may also be considered risk factors for addictions like love addiction. These conditions are associated with disconnection and loneliness, much like love addiction. Substance use disorder and mental health conditions are said to alter the way the brain functions, which can have an impact on a person’s desires, healthy coping abilities, and recognizing a need for lifestyle change or additional support.

Benefits of Therapy

Psychotherapy or talk therapy is often the first treatment for love addiction, but its efficacy has not been adequately investigated.

The potential benefits of therapy include:

  • Strengthening communication skills
  • Increasing feelings of personal empowerment and life satisfaction outside a romantic relationship 
  • Improving relationships with yourself and others
  • Developing a toolkit of skills for coping with life that does not include unhealthy love addictions

Accessible Ways to Start Therapy 

There are several types of therapy and ways of accessing therapy. You may wish to consider speaking with a mental health professional who is able to help you develop a plan for reducing the impact of love addiction on your life. This professional may or may not be covered under insurance.

Accessible ways to start therapy may include:

  • Talking to your employer about its assistance program (EAP) and what it covers when it comes to therapy coverage (such as how many sessions)
  • Searching for healthcare providers who are covered by your insurance network
  • Asking about sliding-scale options for therapeutic services
  • Entering the conversation with the mental healthcare provider with an open mind but a goal to guide the sessions (such as healing from love addiction or becoming comfortable being single)
  • Trying virtual therapy sessions to access more types of professionals from a wider network (this is particularly valuable in small-city settings where you may be uncomfortable accessing therapy from your local provider)

Self-Soothing and Coping Strategies

If you experience symptoms of love addiction, you can try the following self-soothing and coping strategies. These activities increase feel-good hormones in healthy ways, giving you what you may be searching for from your love addiction. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with love addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.


Love addiction is when someone has an unhealthy attachment to love. This means they may behave in unhealthy ways to get and keep love and may stay in toxic relationships. These behaviors, like those associated with addictions in general, only serve to prolong problems. To heal from love addiction, you may seek the support of a healthcare provider or therapist and start practicing self-soothing and coping strategies. 

A Word From Verywell

Putting the terminology aside, if you're experiencing love addiction, you may want to consider speaking to a mental health professional. We all deserve healthy love and attachment, and seeking the right support may help you end the cycle of love addiction once and for all. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you overcome love addiction?

    Yes. Love addiction isn’t a clinical addiction or disorder but a behavioral pattern that can be changed. By acknowledging the need for change, seeking therapy, and practicing self-soothing and coping skills, a person with love addiction can transform their behaviors for the healthier. 

  • How does our childhood affect adult relationships?

    Learning how to give and receive healthy love begins in childhood. The way parenting adults show love, talk about love, and demonstrate it between each other matters to this learning process. If we grow up in an insecure attachment, we may carry this into adulthood and reproduce similar cycles without really being aware of it until problems keep repeating. 

  • What’s a good first step to end a codependent relationship?

    You need to see the signs of codependency, accept that you are in a codependent relationship, and begin working on ways to change or shift your relationship. The support of others is helpful, so long as those relationships are not codependent. This is why professional help can be necessary.

  • What can you do outside of therapy to heal from a love addiction?

    Outside of therapy, you can practice healthy ways of boosting your feel-good hormones. This includes exercising, listening to music, getting a massage, and joining support groups. You may wish to look into Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous for more support on how to heal outside of therapy.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind.