"What is Love"...Addiction?

By Fahamisha Williams | Apr 7, 2023

The 90’s jam “What is Love” by Haddaway has been bopping between my ears for the last month. Although we’re solidly out of the the commercial month of love (I see you February and Hallmark), the song’s lyrics and overall message won’t leave my analytical therapist noggin.


What is love?/Oh baby, don’t hurt me/ Don’t hurt me/No more

Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me/No more

What is love? /Yeah

[Verse 1]

No, I don’t know why you’re not fair

I give you my love, but you don’t care

So what is right and what is wrong?

Gimme a sign


What is love? /Oh baby, don’t hurt me /Don’t hurt me /No more

What is love?

Oh baby, don’t hurt me /Don’t hurt me /No more

[Post Chorus]

Whoa, whoa, oh /Whoa, whoa, oh

[Verse 2]

Oh, I don’t know, what can I do?

What else can I say? It’s up to you

I know we’re one, just me and you

I can’t go on…

Songwriters: Dee Dee Halligan / Junior Torello
What Is Love lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Royalty Network, Songtrust Ave, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

At some point or another, most adults will experience some sort of unrequited love. Such experiences aren’t pleasant. If possible most of us will attempt to lessen the hurt and potential embarrassment of love lost… or never actually attained. In the vast majority of situations, individuals regroup and move on to live and love another day.

Yet, some of us find ourselves habitually in pursuit of partners who aren’t interested or available. We can be stuck in cycles of “cat and mouse” relationships for years. Some consider such patterns “Love Addiction”.

In The Love Addiction Workbook, Dr. Samuel C. Howard, describes Love Addiction as having 5 Steps:

  1. The Inciting Event (A strong attraction…think, “magnetic/chemistry/ feel like I’ve know them all my life).

  2. Craving the dopamine/ oxytocin hit (Butterflies when you see the person, distracted by attempts to see or connect with them).

  3. Setting up repeated doeses (changing your schedule to see them. Every possibility and interaction is so exciting…you want things to stay this way forever :).

  4. Painting all red flags green. (ex: ummm I’m ok with them staying in touch with their ex’s, I love that they’re so friendly. They’re not ready to commit, I respect that… labels aren’t everything.)

  5. The End (It’s about to go down…Yes you did see them out with someone else when they were too tired to hang. They only see you when when sex is on the table and that’s still on their terms.).

(Samuels & Yackira, Love Addiction Workbook 2021)


We’re not quitters…The greater the rejection, the more we pursue.

We may work really hard to appear successful and attractive. We can win them over… they wanted us once… they can want us again. Maybe we go hard and get the promotion, get our physique just right. We may start “feeling” better. Yet, even our most glowing efforts and wins are rooted in a deep desire to be validated by “them”. We try and fight and wait and pray and manipulate just so someone will finally make us enough…

Annnnndddd when all the tap dancing, contorting, and sacrificing the remnants of our authentic selves doesn’t result in the fantasy fairytale we deserve….our identities may feel decimated.

How we deal with the ashes can look like:

  1. Some of us feel utterly hopeless and sink into a dark pit. We can barely function. We cry, sleep, try to eat, repeat. Our career and other relationships may suffer, because we simply can’t …

  2.  Other comrades are pisssssed. Like big Mad! Someone is going to get this smoke. How could the object of our affection lead us on? Why would they give us just enough attention to keep us hopeful? They need to KNOW! They F’d around and now they are going to find out.
  3. Or maybe we just can’t let go… we plead and beg for another chance. We can be what they need. We CAN DO IT. We can explain ourselves just right with one more call, text, or better yet, let’s talk in person. If they promise not to leave us, we can find away to make it work. Who needs dignity when the object of our deepest affection loves us??? We can handle a poly lifestyle… right???? (Please note, I have nothing against poly relationships… I do have concerns about people acquiescing to situations they wouldn’t otherwise partake in out of fear of abandonment).
  4. We could also “Look at GAWD”. It’s time to lean on our Higher Power. We pray, get readings, meditate, and just know Gawd would not want us to give up so easy! The Most High wouldn’t want us to waste alllll this time. Love is kind and patient RIGHT?!?! The Lordt and our Ancestors would not want us to give up on Luv… especially “black luv”.
  5. By chance we remix all the above. We try it all till we are utterly exhausted.


Hallmarks of Addiction:

-Cravings - In ability to stop or reduce behaviors/ compulsion - continuation despite negative consequences - interuptions in daily functioning - relapse -diminishing returns….But Love Addiction is Not and Official Diagnosis….

According to the *DSM-5 -TR, love, sex, romantic relationship, shopping, internet gaming, etc. are not mental disorders.

*The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision

Long story short, insurance is not reimbursing for the explicit treatment of the fore mentioned addictions…even if they are reeking havoc in one’s life….(ahhhh good ol’ medical model of mental and behavioral health care. That’s another blog for another day.)

(I have a complicated opinion of the DSM-5, but I digress….)

I agree with Dr. Alexis Briggie, PhD and Dr. Clifford Briggie PsyD when they say:

“Genuine love expresses itself through empathy, caring, and nurturing emotions and behavior. Its energy is affirming and compassionate. Healthy love cannot be an addiction, just as an addiction cannot be healthy love…”

“In search of a more accurate term, we looked closely at exactly what it is that is craved by individuals who are in romantic relationships and who self- identify as love addicts…”

“We now use the term romantic relationship addiction, defined as the maladaptive craving for and pursuit of, romantic relationships to experience a euphoric high or powerful sense of security and worth that will tranquilize one’s loneliness and related effective distress. Craving and pursuit continues despite causing harm and negative consequences. Loss of control, tolerance, and withdrawal also develop. Two subtypes-attraction phase and attachment phase refer to the phase of the relationship the patient [person] most craves.”

(Ascher et al., 2015 pp 154)

Drs. Briggie go on to establish the efficacy of properly identifying and treating romantic relationship addiction. Their work humanizes individuals struggling with addictions that are often dismissed as dramatic and or immature.

Individuals who haven’t been provided the safety and security in their formative years may be more prone to struggle with forming healthy relationships and attachments. When a person doesn’t feel capable or comfortable in their own being, perceived rejection may feel unbearable. Singleness for a romantic relationship addict can be terrifying. It can reinforce feelings of deep inadequacy. Loneliness can feel like punishment for not being “enough”.

With or without the validation of the DSM 5 TR, Wellness Providers are out here supporting those with romantic relationship addiction. Professionals are helping people become aware of tendencies toward DPD (dependent personality disorder). They are committed to helping folks learn to regulate their nervous systems and learn face traumas with compassion. Mental health professionals are creating safe spaces everyday because people deserve healing and healthy relationships with themselves and others.

I know first hand (personally and as a provider) it is possible to embody healthy and affirming love. Now the ish ain’t easy. It’s just not.(FULL STOP…let it marinate).

BUT IT IS POSSIBLE AND SO VERY REWARDING! Hell, are unhealthy relationships easy? Or are they just more comfortable than the immediate alternative?

For the next several weeks, I’ll be exploring how traumas, emotional distress, lack of healthy guidance, and maladaptive coping mechanism can result in self abandonment. ANNNNND MORE IMPORTANTLY – I’ll also be sharing tools and resources aid in the journey to personal freedom, authentic love and liberation.

Can’t wait to share this journey with yall!


Ascher, M. S., Levounis, P., Briggie , A., & Briggie, C. (2015). Love Addiction: What’s Love Got To Do With It? In The behavioral addictions (pp. 153–173). essay, American Psychiatric Publishing.

Buser, S., & Cruz, L. (2022). Dsm-5-Tr insanely simplified: Unlocking the spectrums within Dsm-5-Tr & Icd 10. IQ, innerQuest.

Ciccarelli, S. K., & White, J. N. (2014). Psychology: Dsm 5. Pearson.

Samuels, D. H. C. (2021). Love Addiction Workbook . (A. Yackira, Ed.). Rockridge Press.


Fahamisha Williams

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