Sex and Love Addiction is a behavioural addiction, which is an addiction like any other but to something you do rather than a substance you take.
We all know the rush of a new relationship — that heady feeling of being so caught up in a new love affair or a sexual attraction that you feel you can’t live without that person. Almost everyone can identify with this early honeymoon stage in a relationship, when your feelings can be terribly exciting to the point of distraction and near obsession. This is a natural neurochemical reaction that occurs to make sure that two people stay together long enough for a deeper connection to be made.
Most people, though, learn to accept that this first flush is a temporary stage that will eventually give way to more nuanced and steady feelings. But it is this initial rush of romance that love and sex addicts feel they cannot be without, and they want to live permanently in this state of surging brain chemicals, it is their substance of choice. They develop an unhealthy dependency on that first rush or physical contact and on being in a relationship, however unsuitable.
Most addicts, whether of substances or behaviours, have experienced some form of difficulty in their early life, which has led to disordered attachment. And sex and love addicts have learned, in their adolescence or early adulthood, that they can “self-medicate” or “smooth out” painful emotions such as shame, fear, depression and anxiety by escaping into the intense rush of sex, love or romantic fantasy. So, in adult life, a sex and love addict focuses on their hot new love interest or chasing a sexual encounter as a way of avoiding the fact that life can be difficult and numbing the emotional pain caused by problems that they need to face up to and deal with.
So sex and love addiction is actually not really about physical intimacy or romance but is all about finding a way to control painful and difficult emotions. And, as with any kind of addict, the most common symptom, is denial. A sex and love addict will deny that their behaviour is a problem to themselves or to others. They will deny that their addiction is affecting any other aspect of their life and causing problems at work or home. Instead, again like any other addict, they may put the blame on others — the failure of any relationship, for example, is always the fault of the partner rather than anything to do with their own behaviours. And all this denial adds up to avoidance and prevents them both from recognising that they have a problem or doing anything about it.
How do you know if you have Love and Sex Addiction?
If you say yes to three or more of the points below there is a high possibility that you have Sex and Love Addiction.
- You feel desperate and alone when not in a relationship
- You constantly fantasise about a former partner or meeting someone new and falling in love
- You have at times sought out sex or a relationship just to not feel alone
- You have a tendency to fall head over heels at first sight or very quickly
- You mistake sexual or romantic intensity for love and genuine intimacy
- The head-turning initial attraction is the most important thing to you and you disregard any signs that he or she might not be good for you
- Your love knows no boundaries and you pursue even if they (or you) are in a relationship with someone else
- Once you start a relationship you cannot let go
- Your fantasies about your love can be so distracting you cannot function normally
- Your former partners have told you that you can be very needy and smothering in a relationship
- You have stayed in a relationship that was harmful to you
- You find it hard to refuse your partner whatever they are asking of you for fear of losing them and can deny your own needs in favour of theirs
- You have missed arrangements with friends or family because you were in, or searching for, a relationship
- If a relationship finishes you feel as though the world has stopped turning and you cannot carry on
How can you support yourself or a friend with Sex and Love Addiction?
Never Look Back
You have to develop a strong belief in your ability to recover so if you slip back into your old behaviours, which you most likely will at some point, you don’t think, “Oh I am an addict again!” but instead you think, “Oops that was a slip-up now back to recovery!” Have good distractions to hand —such as plans with friends, an exercise program, or a book to read — pick yourself up and go back to trying to change your behaviours.
Learn everything you can about your addiction and why you might have it. By doing this you will get a stronger sense of self, who you are, and who you want to be and be able to better resist the temptations of a hook-up or a new romance.
If you do have your attention grabbed by a romantic or sexual possibility try not to make it your highest priority. Make sure you fulfil all your work, social and family commitments first and lead your life as fully as you were before this person came along.
Try not to turn to romantic partners or others to give you validation – that needs to come from you. The more you can believe in yourself and value yourself, the more others will admire and respect you.
Channel Edith Piaf — no regrets!
It is easy to churn over the mistakes you have made and any regrets you have, but try not to dwell on these things from the past. What is done is done and you have to accept that you can’t change that. Instead, you have to take responsibility for the decisions you made, accept that there was a reason for that and learn to forgive yourself, so that you can focus on the here and now.
If you think you might have Sex and Love Addiction or in recovery from it talking to an experienced practitioner could really. Call 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected] and our team of receptionists will be able to help you find you the right therapist for you.