Adolescence is a time when hormonal
levels spike and infatuations can easily develop. However, at times these infatuations can turn
into what is termed a “love addiction,” and it doesn’t just happen to adults.
Love addiction is being in an un-healthy relationship as a way for a
troubled teen to cope with feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem,
neglect, abandonment, and a way to fulfill un-met needs from an earlier developmental
This particular adolescent can be vulnerable due to the havoc of a parent’s divorce and the feeling
of being invisible at home. However, this is also
a time when adolescents are breaking away from their families of origin and
developing autonomy, individuality, and social skills. However, not having the safety and security
of a home environment can leave an adolescent feeling lost and susceptible to
peer pressure, promiscuity, drug or alcohol addiction, co-dependency, and a
harmful addiction to a relationship.
The relationship can serve as a way to numb out and to help cope with all of the adolescent’s un-resolved issues. It is an
attempt to find something on the outside to fix the un-bearable emotional pain and
discomfort of growing up in an un-healthy family or feeling ostracized from
their peers. By grabbing onto a very intense relationship they begin to feel whole and
fulfilled, and it is un-bearable to imagine life without this other person. It is as if this other person represents the
fix and euphoria drugs bring to the addict.
It has also been shown that there are chemical changes in the brain of a
love addict. These fused relationships
are a way to satisfy a thirst for security and a sense of belonging and losing
this love object is seen as excruciating.
Unlike a healthy relationship
where there are boundaries, trust, and a feeling of security and safety, the
love addict’s relationship is filled with obsession, jealousy, possessiveness,
intense anxiety, and a feeling of always wanting more and never having enough
of their love object’s attention. The
adrenalin rush of these relationships causes intense withdrawal symptoms when
the relationship ends just like the dope fiend who needs his drugs. They are in continuous search for that next
high replacing healthy intimacy with an un-healthy need for another
relationship to make them feel whole.
This leaves a love addict vulnerable to
staying in relationships at any costs even if it is abusive and can jeopardize their
safety and security. If an adolescents falls prey to these types
of harmful relationships this can lead to a pattern of needy and clingy attachments in their adult relationships. In addition, they may not
only continue to be love addicts, but may use other anesthetizing behaviors such as drug and alcohol addictions,
eating disorders, self-mutilation, and/or other risky sexual behavior to avoid
the discomfort they feel in their own skin.
It is imperative parents
communicate with their teens about these
issues, as well as values and beliefs related to sexuality, healthy/un-healthy
relationships, boundaries, be good role models, and seek professional help if necessary. Parents need to be aware of the warning signs of an adolescent suffering from
a love addiction and place close attention to their behaviors and if anything seems to be out of
the ordinary, not to go into denial, but to face the problem head on.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Recovery and Life coach and the author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery.” Sherry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about her psychotherapy and life/recovery coaching, up-coming teleseminars, speaking engagements, workshops, and conferences. Sherry’s new 7 lesson instant down load “How to Attract Positive Energy for a Purposeful Recovery” is available at: