It sounds crazy, but you can get hooked on love – and 90% of sufferers are women just like you

Most of us suffer heartbreak at some point, but did you know that a painful break-up could be harmful to your health? Suffers of love addiction can’t get over it simply by nursing revenge fantasies involving a pair of scissors and the guy’s favorite suit, and stocking up on Haagen-Dazs. For them, a break-up is a lot more serious, and can trigger physical withdrawal symptoms such as depression, weight loss and tremors.

Description: “Falling in love releases the same hormones in the brain as cocaine – and can be just as addictive”

“Falling in love releases the same hormones in the brain as cocaine – and can be just as addictive”

We’ve all heard of celebs explaining away infidelity by citing “sex addiction.” But while love addiction might sound like a convenient excuse for a wallow, it’s increasingly being recognized as an illness, with diagnoses on the rise. And for sufferers like Louise Edmonson, 25, it’s all too real: “From the moment I started dating at 16, something in me changed,” explains Louise, a recruitment consultant from Oxford. “I was obsessed with falling in love. If a date went well, I’d start wondering what our wedding would be like. The buzz of falling for someone was incredibly addictive, and I began to go from relationship to relationship”

And when that initial high began to fade, Louise would search for the next one. “I’d look for someone new who could shower me with attention, even though the consultant highs and lows of dating were exhausting,” she says. “By the time I hit 23, my friends were fed up with my obsession. My work suffered too, as I was more interested in pleasing the man in my life than my boss. Dating was a full-time job.”

Louise only realized she had a problem when she started losing weight and went to see her GP. “I thought I might have something physically wrong with me, but after he questioned me about what had been going on in my life, I was shocked when he told me I was a love addict – I’d never even heard of such a syndrome. I was referred to a therapist and, gradually, we worked through my issues. I still attend weekly sex and love-addiction meetings, but I’m a different person now, and feel ready for a healthy, happy relationship.”

A chemical reaction

Research suggests falling in love releases the same hormones in the brain as cocaine – and can be just as addictive – which is why many believe love is the drug that is fast becoming the biggest addiction problem in Britain. “There are more people addicted to love and sex than to alcohol and drugs in the UK”, says Dr James Brooke of the St Nicholas Health Centre in Hertfordshire, who refers at least one patient a week to a love-addiction therapist. Sex and relationship psychotherapist Paula Hall says the illness is often part of a coping, mechanism. “It’s about being loved – love addicts don’t care who the person is. But dependency on love is anaesthetizing behavior; sufferers are often numbing out other parts of their lives.” Men in the grip of the same kind of compulsion tend to be addicted to sex rather than love, because they crave power instead of intimacy. And nine out of 10 love addicts are professional woman aged between 18 and 35 – women, in short, like you. While some will relationship hop, searching out a love buzz, others will return to the same unsuitable partner over and over again, hoping a doomed romance will finally work.

Description: “There are more people addicted to love and sex than to alcohol and drugs in the UK”

“There are more people addicted to love and sex than to alcohol and drugs in the UK”

Symptoms include:

·         Constantly craving male attention

·         Falling in love easily

·         Changing partners frequently

·         Deep feelings of worthlessness when a relationship fails

Of course, everyone likes falling in love, and everyone has a hard time when they go through a bad break-up. So what makes a love addict different?

“The tendency to be a love addict often comes from feeling abandoned as a child, causing sufferers to crave attention and love as an adult,” explains Don Serratt of the Life Works therapy centre. “Many are unaware they have a problem, and sometimes show no signs until the condition is triggered.”

A medically broken heart

An obsession with another person that increases, rather the decreases, over time is a form of love addiction called “limerence”. It can lead to heart palpitations, shortness of breath and chest pains – all of which Samara O’Shea, 31, experienced after a bad break-up.

“I did everything right to try to move on – I stopped calling him, and started dating other people,” Samara explains. “But I still thought about him constantly. I’d cry at work three or four times a day, and he was the first thing I thought of when I woke up.

“Then, when I found out eight months later that he was engaged, I became physically ill. I’d wake up dry-heaving, had severe chest pains and couldn’t eat or sleep. Finally, I visited a therapist. I worried I’d be laughed at – but instead, I found out my symptoms fit the description of limerence.

“It was such a relief to find out what was wrong with me. I was given cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants to help adjust my thinking patterns, which made a huge difference. At the moment, there’s no cure for limerence, but I’ve started dating again and I’m off medication. I’m hopeful that a positive romantic future lies ahead of me”

So if you just can’t seem to get over him, and it’s affecting your health, it might be time to slap on some waterproof mascara and see your GP.

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