Craving connection? The signs and symptoms of love addiction

"By nature, we are all addicted to love… meaning we want it, seek it and have a hard time not thinking about it. We need attachment to survive, and we instinctively seek connection, especially romantic connection. But, there is nothing dysfunctional about wanting love." – Smith, quoted in Berry (2013). 


As with any strong emotion, love is complex and powerful; it can bring joy, fulfilment, and meaning to our lives. But too much of a good thing can have a profound impact when we allow it to consume the entirety of us, which can lead to unhealthy patterns of behaviour. 

So, what is 'love addiction'? 

I have had many clients experience a loss in their sense of self and direction as they are consumed by the love they have for their partner (or ex-love interest) whilst making them the centre of their world. 

Love addiction is defined as a condition that causes a person to develop an overwhelming and compulsive desire to be in romantic relationships where they exhibit unhealthy and obsessive fixations towards a love interest. 

Now, it is important to note there is no clinical diagnosis of love addiction, but this preoccupation with the feeling of being in love can cause someone to seek out love in a way that ultimately, does not serve them. 

Some argue that 'emotional reliance' is a more correct term to use than 'love addiction'. Addiction is complex, especially with substance abuse that can be life-threatening, and still carries the weight of stigma. Using such a word should be carefully considered so the true meaning of the word 'addiction' is not diluted. 

This 'emotional reliance' or 'love addiction' can encompass a wider range of emotional attachments and dependencies, not necessarily limited to romantic relationships. It acknowledges that people can be emotionally reliant on many types of relationships, including friendships, family connections, or even some professional relationships. 

Perhaps you have been there, are there or have witnessed someone there. Completely lost in the love they feel for another and no longer nurturing the other aspects that make up a person's life and self. They struggle to operate independently and tailor every part of their life to accommodate the love they are addicted to which manifests in a multitude of ways.  

Signs and symptoms of love addiction

Although not officially recognised as a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR), love addiction has been a topic of interest and discussion amongst many psychologists and mental health professionals. 

Obsessive and intrusive thoughts 

It is normal to find your mind preoccupied with a love interest during the early days or "honeymoon phase" when you first meet someone but, these thoughts are usually not at the detriment of our daily lives and commitments. However, those addicted to love seek out the attention, intimacy, or presence of their love interest to secure momentary feelings of pleasure or to relieve obsessive thought patterns. However, this happens to such an extent that these thoughts interfere with their daily life and activities. 

If this behaviour is a threat to their safety, mental or physical health, it can be at the level of addiction (Sussman, 2010). Similarly, this can be used as a tool for avoidance to avoid painful or unwanted thoughts and feelings; it is a way to avoid negative emotions by filling it with overwhelming thoughts of and prioritising another. 

Compulsive behaviour 

Those experiencing love addiction may engage in compulsive behaviours to gain the attention or validation of their romantic partners. 

This is where the needs of others are put above their own, which may feel suffocating for their romantic interest, resulting in them leaving or distancing themselves, in turn reaffirming their fears and causing them to be more compulsive in their next connection. A cycle that can feel hard to break but is very much possible.

Fear of abandonment and separation anxiety 

Missing a partner when they are away from you is common, but if feelings of unbearable distress are felt when they are not around this is another sign of love addiction. 

This extreme fear or anxiety can lead people to cling to relationships to the detriment of themselves, even if these relationships are unhealthy and do not align with their values or beliefs. They might find themselves skipping work, cancelling plans with friends, and avoiding following through on any commitments that will take them away from their partner. 

It is important to remember that learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all and there is support available to help you on that journey. 

Revolving door relationships 

You might find yourself moving quickly from one relationship to another, seeking the emotional high of new connections. The love addicted move from relationship to relationship, not in fear of being alone, but for the overwhelming need and desire to feel loved.

Physiological effects 

Being in love or infatuated also has physiological effects on our bodies such as heightened levels of arousal and the activation of our dopamine reward system. Dopamine is a hormone associated with the brain’s reward system, which is activated in the presence of our romantic interest. This release of dopamine causes us to experience feelings of pleasure and motivation, leaving us wanting more of that trigger (in this case, love).

How can attachment play a part in this?

Research shows that past relationships, particularly those formed during childhood, can set a template for our attachment patterns with others. According to the attachment theory, some attachment types are more inclined to experience love addiction.

Anxious-insecure attachment types often feel insecure, have low self-esteem, and seek contact, reassurance, and closeness in their relationships. They might show love addiction tendencies because they are excessively preoccupied with the fear and thoughts of being abandoned. This need for constant reassurance and fear of rejection can result in a cycle of intense emotional highs and lows. 

Role of hypnotherapy in treating love addiction

Hypnotherapy could help those who are struggling with any of the symptoms above or those related to them.

In hypnotherapy, we help our clients explore their unconscious beliefs and thoughts that are contributing to their love addiction and driving unhelpful behaviours. These feelings of low self-esteem, fear of abandonment or needing external validation are linked to beliefs a person holds about themselves from past experiences. 

Together, we can identify them and address these beliefs, reframing how you feel and think about yourself which in turn, changes your behaviour. 

By identifying and modifying unhealthy patterns of behaviour, hypnotherapy can help you cultivate and develop healthier coping mechanisms and responses to the triggers that are causing you to engage in compulsive or unhelpful behaviours. 

More importantly, hypnotherapy can help you feel empowered again. One of the main areas I work with clients on is self-empowerment and discovery. Building a stronger sense of self and self-worth can help you develop a more confident and self-assured mindset, reducing the amount of external validation you look for. In turn, this helps to develop healthier relationship dynamics and be able to make choices that truly serve you. 

By strengthening a range of skills, such as communication, and reinforcing healthy boundaries, you can begin to establish and maintain relationships based on mutual respect, balance, and growth. 

It is important to remember that learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all and there is support available to help you on that journey. 


  • Berry S. Addicted to love. Sydney Morning Herald. 2013 Apr 2; Accessed at:
  • Sussman S. Love addiction: definition, etiology, treatment. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention. 2010;17(1):31–45.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Written by Aleena Ullah, Cognitive Hypnotherapist BSc, QTS, Dip.C.Hyp, HPD, NLPP
London W1W & Ilford IG6

Hi, I'm Aleena, a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Coach. My mission? To guide you to change, grow and be the version of you that you want. Let's take it one session at a time. Text or email me to book a free, no-obligation discovery call now.

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