Addicted to Love

By Irene Bernard | Dec 1, 2020

by Irene Bernard, Dmin, LADACII, CAADC, EMDR, CPRS, QCS

I’m not sure if Robert Palmer had this in mind when he performed the song, but Love Addiction is real. In my practice as an Addiction Specialist, I’ve had to help address a variety of addictions and behaviors. Research and experience confirm that addiction is a term that applies to more than chemical substances alone. There are a group of addictions that fall under the category of “Process” or “Behavioral” addictions that disable the lives of those haunted by them in the same manner as drugs and alcohol. Anyone that uses caffeine and sugary foods to gain a boost of energy or ice cream or chocolate to relieve stress understands how easy it is to become addicted to a nonchemical substance. Think about the other stuff that activates our reward system, work, exercise, attention, praise, and yes, even anger.

“The reward system is a brain circuit that causes feelings of pleasure when it’s “turned on” by something we enjoy, like eating good food or being in love. Whenever this reward circuit is activated, our brains note that something important is happening that’s worth remembering and repeating.” [i]

According to Pia Mellody, there are three distinguishable characteristics of a Love Addict.[ii]

1) Love Addicts assign an unbalanced amount of time, attention, and value above themselves towards the object of their addiction.

2) They exhibit unrealistic expectations for unconditional positive regard when in a relationship with others and

3) They neglect to care for or value themselves while in a relationship.

The opening lines to Palmer’s song and the title of this blog, gracefully describe symptoms of Love Addiction. [iii]

Your lights are on, but you’re not home. Your mind is not your own.

Your heart sweats, your body shakes…Another kiss is what it takes.

You can’t sleep, you can’t eat. There’s no doubt, you’re in deep.

Your throat is tight, you can’t breathe. Another kiss is all you need.


Merriam-Webster  defines addiction as “ a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence…” The lyrics from the song typifies this definition.

Love Addiction can be tricky as it involves both an unconscious as well as a conscious fear. These very real fears are a fear of abandonment and a fear intimacy. It is ironic and somewhat contradictory but the fear of being left alone can accommodate and possibly drive the fear of intimacy. Susan Anderson coins the term Abandoholism in describing some of the fears associated with Love Addiction. [iv] In her book she details the stages of grief experienced at the loss of love and connectedness.

Imagine the agony of remaining in an unfulfilling or disastrous relationship due to a fear of abandonment or Abandoholism.  The person or object of your addiction leaves and now one of your greatest fears is realized. You’ll do anything to avoid being alone, so you scramble towards establishing another relationship while still in the process of grieving the loss of one. Fear and desperation lead you to what society calls a “rebound relationship,” which becomes more devastating due to your fear of intimacy. You cope with this tangled web of emotions with an unconscious, unintentional, self-defeating plot to destroy each new relationship from the onset.

Confusing? It doesn’t have to be. If this sounds like a cycle that you’ve been in, know that this condition is real and treatable. Contact me or another specialist in your area and begin the journey towards healthy relationships as you approach the new year.

“…you like to think that you’re immune to the stuff, oh yeah. It’s closer to the truth to say you can’t get enough. You know you’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to love. Might as well face it, you’re addicted to love.”


[ii] Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love, Pia Mellody w/Andrea Wells Miller & J. Keith Miller, (New York, N.Y: HarperOne Publications, 2003)

[iii] Source: LyricFind, Songwriters: Robert Allan Palmer, (Addicted to Love lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.)

[iv] The Journey from Abandonment to Healing, Susan Anderson, (New York: Berkley Books, 2000)


Irene Bernard

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