Luisa Tam
SCMP Columnist
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam

Love addiction: the symptoms, why such strong desire is bad for us when it’s one-way, and how to get over it

  • Intense feelings bordering on obsession, the constant need to be with someone – these are normal symptoms of being newly in love
  • If the feelings persist, they can lead to love addiction and serious consequences. Luckily there are ways to fix this

Many of us have heard the phrase “addicted to love” – maybe you’ve heard English rock singer Robert Palmer’s take on the said addiction blasting across the airwaves at some point.

But what you may not have heard is the term “limerence”. This describes an obsessive state of mind in which one experiences intense desire – be it romantic or non-romantic – for another person. It goes beyond love, and is a biochemical process likened to drug addiction.

In some cases, it can have serious consequences if the addict’s feelings are not reciprocated by the object of their desire.

Valentina Tudose, relationship expert and certified hypnotherapist, explains by first exploring the symptoms of love addiction.

Valentina Tudose is a dating coach and relationship expert.

“One of the fundamental aspects of romantic love is the desire to share a strong connection with someone. When we are in love, we are thinking about them all the time, needing to see them, hear them and be in their presence as much as possible.

“But when we can’t get our ‘fix’ we feel sad, lonely, and sometimes desperate to reconnect with them. These are all common symptoms of addiction, as we keep seeking the pleasure induced by the object of our desire and the strong need to have more and more of them.”

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The good news is these feelings are normal and usually temporary when starting a new relationship.

But, she warns, when love is not reciprocated, it can sometimes become an obsession, one characterised by emotional imbalance. “If one partner moves on and no longer wishes to be in a relationship, but the other is not ready to let go, they can fall into an addictive cycle of pleasure and pain, which often requires external help to break.”

Tudose examines the many ways that love addiction is bad for us. “Unrequited love impacts the way we feel about ourselves and can severely impair our ability to feel happy,” she says.

Cut off all contact. Block and delete them from your social media. Delete photos ... and conversations that you may be tempted to use to recall the ‘good times’
Valentina Tudose, relationship expert and certified hypnotherapist

“When we feel a deep attachment to someone, we depend on their presence, affection, and validation. When we no longer get this, it’s as if a drug we had constant access to has just been denied to us.”

She points out that a telltale sign of love addiction is the tendency to focus on the good parts of the partner and the relationship, while ignoring all the negative aspects.

“And when these harsh realities come to light, it triggers a new wave of depression and the cycle starts again.”

People newly in love show symptoms of love addiction, but the more extreme feelings pass with time. Photo: Shutterstock

The good news is there are ways to break the habit. “The easy way is to think about this whole process as if it’s a cut on your skin. When it first happens, we experience pain and bleeding. After cleaning the wound and bandaging it to prevent infection, you need to give it time to heal. The end of a relationship is a lot like this, as it needs to be treated, and then given time to heal.”

Tudose sets out some steps to make self-healing easier. First, she says, is to acknowledge the end. “The other person no longer wishes to be with us. This is a fact. Just as we can’t uncut ourselves, we cannot turn back time. One way to do it is to write down the real story of your relationship – just facts and none of the fantasy.

“Then you need to clear the air by telling the partner everything you feel. This can be in a face-to-face conversation or by text. If that’s not possible, write a ‘tell-all’ letter. You don’t actually need to send this letter; it is a cathartic exercise.”

Getting over love addiction isn’t easy; it’s a biochemical process similar to drug addiction. Photo: Shutterstock

The next step is detachment. “Cut off all contact. Block and delete them from your social media. Delete photos from your phone and all conversations that you may be tempted to use to recall the ‘good times’. This is hard, but it’s the only way to stop you reopening old wounds,” Tudose says.

And once you have bandaged the “wound”, Tudose advises to put a system in place to prevent you from falling back into old patterns of reminiscing about their image, name or voice.

“Stop yourself instantly before you allow the ‘feel good’ chemicals of love and happy memories to fire up in your brain. Replace that image with a happy time that has nothing to do with your ex. “By doing this over and over again, your brain will stop wanting to relive the ‘happy memories’ related to this person.”

Finally, you can learn to visualise healing. “Tell yourself you look forward to the day when you wake up and notice you have not even thought of them for days. Look for evidence each day that they are less and less important. The memories will eventually fade until they are just someone you used to know.”

Luisa Tam is a Post correspondent who also hosts video tutorials on Cantonese language that are now part of Cathay Pacific’s in-flight entertainment programme